Throughout this film, moreover, the father, living as a widower (we never know the cause of his wife’s death) willingly embraces the pre-World War II Japanese moral values, even going so far as determining that he is no longer worthy of his position when, a senior class trip he oversees ends in the accidental death of one of his pupils by drowning. The students who took the outlawed boat excursion had been told of the dangers of the waters, and had sneaked away from the general group to take their deadly voyage; yet Shuhei still blames himself, quitting his position as teacher as he attempts to sort out his life in his hometown if Ueda, where he decides to enroll his son in a Junior High School, while he travels to the distant Tokyo in order to find work in order to support his son’s education.
The day before he reveals this change to his son, the two go on a fishing trip, where the two are shown, as critic Tony Rayns describes it, “casting their lines in unison and then the boy standing stock-still as his father casts again. The effect of that momentary refusal to act in sync is indescribably poignant,” which is reitereated in the dinner-time discussions between father and son when Shuehi reveals to Ryohei his plans. When the boy breaks down in tears, the father utters the horrible cliché that all males have been forced to hear from time immemorial: men don’t cry.