In class, we talked about the general "feeling" of the stories of Ogawa. We came to the conclusion that they had no real moral or "meaning," but instead gave the reader a sort of dreamy sensation. This tone or mood was also called ephemeral, "lasting a very short time; transient." This is especially true of the woman's odd encounter in "The Cafeteria in the Evening and a Pool in the Rain." This calls to mind a poem in A Long Rainy Season by the wonderful Chieko Yamanaka:
Watching the cherry blossoms shimmer,
break through the sunshine;
I was born to be human
in this dark,
We are all most likely aware that cherry blossom viewing time is very much transient and emphemeral. However, it is odd that such a beautiful event makes the speaker of the poem think of rather melancholy, dark thinfgs.
What do cherry blossoms symbolize? In Japan, they are symbolic of life--inevitably ending, but lovely (perhaps because of its impending cessation).
In the "Cafeteria" story, the woman enjoys watching the fog. It is described as a very delicate and lovely fog--not oppressive in any way. These two sentences in the beginning of the story really mesh well with the above tanka:
"But for now I just wanted to watch the fog. There was no need to hurry, and I was determined to take full advantage of these last three weeks of my single life."
The shortness of the time before marriage--maybe even before the loss of virginity--is beautiful, is sweet for the main character. This spills over into symbolism of the fog that she seems to enjoy so much.