My professors, it seemed, did not share my enthusiasm for my thesis. Nevertheless, I did receive passing marks. On graduation day, I pulled my musty old winter clothes from the trunk and put them on. As we lined up in the hall, all the faces showed signs of swelter. My body, sealed tight under thick wool, roasted intolerably. After a short while standing there, the handkerchief in my hand was sopped.
As soon as the ceremony ended, I returned to my room and stripped down. I opened the second floor window and surveyed the world through my diploma, which was rolled up tight like a spyglass. Then I tossed it onto my desk and sprawled myself out in the middle of the room. Lying there, I thought about my past. Then I imagined my future. That diploma, which stood like a sentinel between past and future, struck me as an odd piece of paper, in some ways profound and in some ways meaningless.
Sensei had invited me to dinner that night. We'd had a long-standing agreement that I would dine with him on the day of my graduation.
As promised, a table had been laid out in the parlor, near the veranda. A thick, embroidered tablecloth, stiffly starched, beautifully reflected the light of electric lamps. Whenever one dined at Sensei's, the dishes and utensils were set over white linen, the kind one finds in a Western-style restaurant. The linen was always freshly laundered, spotless, and pure white.
"Just like collars and cuffs. If you can't keep them clean, then don't choose white in the first place. White must be white."
This reminded me how fastidious Sensei was. His study, too, was always neatly arranged. As a careless man myself, I was often struck by the sharp contrast between us.