As the film begins, Takao (Akira Terao) and Michiko (Kanako Higuchi) have already pulled up their Tokyo roots and moved to a village that is Takao's ancestral home. They visit a thatched cottage that serves as a memorial shrine (amidado) for the village dead and chat with the attendant, the spry 96-year-old Oume (Tanie Kitabayashi). Together they admire the view -- from an inspiring distance. Oume, it turns out, is a kind of sage, whose thoughts and observations are a popular feature in a column in a local newsletter. Her amanuensis is a mute, sweetly smiling young woman named Sayuri (Manami Konishi), who is as devoted to Oume as Oume is to the souls of her beloved dead.