Kuroi Ame (Black Rain)1 marks a new dimension in "A-bomb literature." A portrayal of the intrusion of the atomic bomb into the ordinary rhythms of a small farming village, its special blend of "the usual" and "the unprecedented" enables it to transmute that experience into significant artistic form. The violence and conflict surrounding the bomb are illuminated by means of a leisurely chronicle of seemingly inconsequential everyday events, in the manner (as one critic put it) of "an oldfashioned family novel."
The story was in fact originally entitled Marriage of a Niece (Mei no Keikon), and its first three sentences more or less sum up its plot:
For several years past, Shigematsu Shizuma of the village of Kobatake had been aware of his niece, Yasuko, as a burden on his mind. Especially troubling was his sense that the burden was going to remain with him, unspeakably oppressive, for still more years to come. It was like having a double, or even triple, responsibility for a debt.
Shigematsu's immediate "burden" (or pressing responsibility) is arranging a marriage for his niece, but it is part of the larger--indeed limitless--burden imposed upon both by the atomic bomb. This "limitless burden" is elaborated through an interweaving of present-day occur