Sensitive Kenji Kuro, son of a vulgar Japanese officer is cowed into going to military school. Here he meets a young boy whose has been educated in the arts of Haiku and in the study of the traditional Japanese garden. The boys meet a priest whose influence greatly changes Kenji's life.
While searching for sacred stones, Kenji meets a master gardener who apprentices Kenji to work in the design of gardens. After questioning Kenji about leaving home and school, the master discovers that Kenji still hates his father. He is discharged from his work for the reason that anyone with hatred cannot work in creating a sacred garden.
Kenji returns to military school after his father is severly wounded, where he succeeds in his role as a military man but fails when Kenji consideres his being untrue to his true feelings.
Kenji Kuro was at age 16, an already accomplished young man. He spoke, read and wrote in Chinese, English and French, as well as his native Japanese. He had read many of the classic writers: was conversant with up to date politics in the four countries and in addition, a neophyte poet. He was interested in the arts and in particular the arts of his country, Japan. Of friends, he had few, always preferring to study alone or to pass time with his mother.
In appearance he was very deceptive for he was quite short in stature than most boys his age and he was quite thin, all of which made him appear younger than he was. His jet black hair he wore in bangs as though a bowl had been placed on his head with the hair cut the same length all around, his complexion was almost porcelain like, with eyes ,a shiny black that pierced the person he was talking to. They were eyes that seemed not to question the interlocutor but instead, seemed to absorb all that was being said to him.
His family dressed him like quite a little gentleman and he presented himself as always neat and ordered. He was obedient and never answered his parents in a negative way even when he was not pleased when asked to do something he inwardly opposed. He enjoyed talking and discussing various subjects, with his mother, Michiko: especially art, of which she was an accomplished performer on the Shamisen, a 3 stringed, plucked lute.
Michiko Kuro was the only daughter of a prosperous business man whose antecedents included Samurai’s attached to a powerful family in the 1400’s. Michiko’s family, having long been involved with business wanted to renew their ties to the Samurai aristocracy of those ancient times. Thus Ichiro Kuro was elected to be Michiko’s husband having as ancestors Samurai warriors. As an only child, Michiko was thoroughly educated and far exceeded the intelligence and culture of her husband Ichiro. Ichiro’s awareness of the disparity between them caused him to resort to a dominance and a verbal abuse to try to show his superiority and masculinity so as to assuage his own shortcomings. Colonel Ichiro Kuro was a hard man. He was intolerant of any of his inferiors and demanded utter perfection and obedience from anyone under his command.
When Colonel Ichiro bellowed or roared his commands, Michiko, would bend in suppliance so as not to increase her husband’s anger. How often had Kenji heard his father shout and berate her for not having a man for a son but instead a sensitive boy. “You gave me a daughter for a child, not a son. Look at him, always with a book in his hand and what is he reading? Poetry! He should be reading books on weapons of war or on war tactics”.
With each display of anger from his father towards his mother, Kenji would feel a hatred for his father and a sorrow and a pity for his mother. He would sit, cowed waiting for the anger to fall upon himself as was so often the case. The anger and brutality increased the boy’s love for his mother and the hatred for his father. He often thought,” when I can make a living, I’m going to leave this house with my mother and live a life away from my father”.