Bridge for Passing

Bridge for Passing by Pearl S. Buck

Book: Bridge for Passing by Pearl S. Buck Read Free Book Online
Authors: Pearl S. Buck
to hold me at home and I welcomed the thought of work and Japan.

    T HE ATMOSPHERE INTO WHICH I descended once more from the jet on the airfield near Tokyo was one of welcome and quiet unspoken sympathy. The deeper the feelings, the Japanese believe, the less should be spoken. We Americans find it necessary to speak, to send letters and cards of condolence. Hundreds of letters had poured into my office before I left home and I had read them all because it was good to know in what esteem he was held and in so many places in the world. And people, friends or strangers, had stopped me on streets and country roads to tell me. “I am so sorry to hear—”
    In Tokyo nothing was said, yet everything was conveyed. Consideration was delicate but complete. My room in the hotel was bright with flowers and baskets of fruit. The little maids were ever present and solicitous. I understood, for in Japan even love is not to be expressed in words. There are no such words as “I love you” in the Japanese language.
    “How do you tell your husband that you love him?” I once asked a Japanese friend.
    She looked slightly shocked. “An emotion as deep as love between husband and wife cannot be put into words. It must be expressed in attitude and act.”
    Nor are there Japanese equivalents of our love words—sweetheart, darling, dear, and all the rest. Certain young Japanese are beginning to use the English words, but even they not seriously, perhaps. But perhaps again no one uses these words seriously any more. I hear American directors scattering them carelessly and casually upon the loved and the unloved alike, in the fashion of Hollywood and Broadway, and I always remonstrate. To a writer all words are significant and valuable, individual words as well as words in association, each to be used only in its fitting place, like jewels. The English language is peculiarly rich in the words of love, their roots deep in ancient Anglo-Saxon soil. To hear a man call a secretary or an actress or perhaps only a girl whose name he does not remember by the precious words of love always makes me—well, angry! It is a desecration of true feeling, the deepest in the human heart. For me nothing in life equals or even resembles in value and treasure true love between man and woman, with all it implies. The words we have used for centuries to express this love are not to be tarnished, for they belong to all of us. If they are tarnished by careless misuse, how shall we express true love? We are robbed of something that cannot be replaced. Any woman who has heard the man she loves call her his sweetheart, his darling, his love, can only be profoundly angered when these words are destroyed.
    “How can you misuse these words?” I demanded of an American.
    He laughed, uncomprehending. “It makes the girls feel good,” he said lightly. “It’s informal—like—you know—friendly.”
    The Japanese girls did not feel “good” about it, nor did they consider it friendly. Those few who did were problems. They thought that love words meant love, and they became serious and consequently troublesome. The others, who were not looking for love from American men, with consequent benefits, considered such an American unduly interested in sex and therefore insulting. It took explanations before they could be placated. They were usually too polite to complain in his presence but behind his back what scorn!
    “I’ll sue him if he says it again,” a young actress exclaimed, her black eyes bright with fury … And sue him she did. Yes, we had our problems.
    Our locations were set, although I had not yet seen them except on film; the next task was to find our cast. Since the story of The Big Wave is altogether Japanese, the cast was to be Japanese, and we had already engaged a Japanese crew and cameraman. For the first time an American film company was making a picture in Japan, co-produced by a Japanese film company, the largest and in some ways the best, and

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