Shinkichi lived in Tokyo, and he seldom visited his grandfather’s house. Three years before, he had returned to the Ariake sea for the obon festival of the dead. During the day, an elder cousin taught him how to swim in the glimmering Yatsushiro sea, and at night they took him out fishing. He could not believe how much fun he had every day.
When he looked out from the beach, the torches from the squid-catching boats looked like a bridge of fire. On the night of the Feast of Lanterns, his grandmother and kinsmen lit lanterns and from their boats set them afloat into the sea.
All around them the candle-lit lanterns floated in the water.
‘Your grandpa has become a fish and lives in this sea,’ his grandmother told Shinkichi with a serious face. ‘This sea is the world where we live after we die. When your grandma dies one day, I’ll have them cast my body into this sea, and I’ll become a fish and be able to see your grandpa again.’
His grandmother seemed to believe everything she told him. When Shinkichi asked his cousin, ‘Is that true?’ the elder boy with a sober look answered, ‘Of course it’s true. That’s what everyone in this village believes. My sister died when she was in elementary school, but she’s a fish now, and swims around at the bottom of this sea.’
–Shusaku Endo, Deep River