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As Toshiko rides home alone in a taxi, she sorrowfully contemplates the details of ‘‘the incident.’’ The nurse she and her husband had hired to take care of their son has given birth to an illegitimate baby in their house, revealing nothing of her pregnancy until the moment of delivery. Toshiko is saddened by the attenuation of moral values in modern Japanese society as she contemplates the nurse’s situation and her husband’s blithe treatment of the event.

Unlike his wife, Toshiko’s husband, a handsome, popular actor, is seemingly undismayed by ‘‘the incident’’ and freely chatters about it to his friends as if it were nothing more than fodder for entertainment. Toshiko feels alienated from her husband not only for his inability to share her concern for the nurse’s apparent loss of moral values in modern society, but also for his own lighthearted, non-reflective participation in modern, ‘‘western’’ influenced life. Toshiko’s husband’s acceptance of and participation in modern western culture is also expressed through the American style clothing he wears and the ‘‘western’’ style, parquet- floored house he chooses to live in. Observing the scenery on the ride home, Toshiko also notes the damage modernization has wrought on the landscape of Japan. Parting from her husband, she notices the fake, paper cherry blossoms that decorate an entertainment district theater and compares them to the real cherry blossoms ‘‘in all their purity’’ lining the park adjacent to the Imperial Palace, which stands against a background of glittering office buildings. In contrast to the solemn, looming figure of the Imperial Palace, the surrounding park is littered with empty bottles and waste paper, and populated by vagrants.

Another contrast that Toshiko ponders on is the immense rift between a young boy born in material privilege, like her own son, and one born in poverty and shame, such as the nurse’s baby. She accepts that these two babies can only live in mutually exclusive...
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