The story opens with a young man and a young woman walking through the rain. The girl, Masako, is crying incessantly. The boy, Akio, has recently broken off their relationship while they were having tea. Akio had pursued the relationship only in order to break up with her. Once he did so, however, Masako began to cry. She cried soundlessly, with the tears gushing forth in a continuous flow. Akio assumed that the tears would stop, but when they didn’t, Akio felt self-conscious under the curious stares of the tea room’s other patrons. Abruptly, Akio stood up to leave, but Masako followed him because she had no umbrella. Now the pair find themselves wandering through the streets.
Akio decides to head toward a public garden that has three fountains. He thinks that by bringing Masako’s tears and the fountains together, she will stop crying. He thinks that Masako will surely see that her tears—which all go to waste—cannot compete with the fountain, and this will make her stop crying. Akio feels elated by his decision.
The pair walk in silence through the empty streets. Akio thinks that Masako is waiting for him to say something about their relationship. Out of pride, he will not speak.
When they reach the garden, they are alone. Akio and Masako sit down, but Akio becomes angry, though he does not know why. He is no longer amused or happy. In his anger, Akio runs toward the fountains. Masako follows him. She asks where he is going. Akio replies by telling her to look at the fountains and points out that her tears are no match for them. The pair turns to look at the fountains, but it is Akio who becomes entranced by them. Fascinated, he intently watches the jets of water rushing upward into the sky. He thinks about the futility of the column of water to reach the sky, though it seems to be trying hard to do so. He raises his gaze to the sky and gets rain in his eye.
Immediately, the image of the fountains is gone from his mind. Suddenly, the fountains represent only endless, pointless repetition. He forgets his former elation and also his former anger. He starts walking.
Masako falls into step beside him and asks where he is going. He tells her that it is his business. “I told you quite plainly,” he says, but she asks what it was that he thinks he told her. He looks at her in horror and repeats what he had said about breaking up. In a completely normal tone of voice, she responds that she had not heard him. In shock, he asks her why she started crying if she had not heard what he said. She says that there was no reason, that the tears just came. Akio gets furious and wants to shout at her. He opens his mouth but sneezes instead. He thinks that if he is not careful, he will get a cold.
Jennifer Smith – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 12, Yukio Mishima, Published by Gale Group, 2001.