The season is May and it is the last night of the student trip. The lights-out hour is long past.
In a separated room at the back of the
the teachers have gathered for a meeting.
Teachers Hoshi and Matsushita are playing shogi chess as they watch for students trying to sneak out of the inn.
The following set of complex events are about to take place simultaneously in an interwoven plot development.
Hoshi and a female teacher names Takako are lovers, but Hoshi continues to show a lack of commitment to their relationship.
One of the inn’s guests, a man named Noguchi, comes out shouting that someone has drowned in the men’s bath. It turns out to be a replica of the sculptor Kotaro Takamura Figure of a Girl that someone apparently broken off its stand while trying to climb up to peek into the women’s bath.
A teacher named Sasaki was Hoshi’s tutor during high school and also helped him along when he started out in his job as a teacher. Sasaki asks Hoshi if his noncommittal attitude toward Takako isn’t the result of a sense of distrust toward all women due to the fact that his mother had been unfaithful in her marriage. Hoshi admits that that it probably true. Sasaki tell him that he should forget his mother and live his own life, and he encourages him to propose to Takako before this trip is over.
Nanae Kariba is foreign returnee student who experienced 9.11 when her family was living in New York. Most of her father’s fellow workers were killed in the attack and, perhaps as a result, she has trouble sleeping at night and wakes up from nightmares constantly. She can’t forgive the terrorists or America and she hates herself for using her English and acting like a know-it-all.
Noguchi belongs to an Esperanto club and he offers to teach Kariba because it is a language that doesn’t belong to any country. He reads Kenji Miyazawa’s Esperanto poem
that happens to be posted on the counter nearby and translates it in his own interpretation as a poem about desperate hopelessness. “These children are wearing fine clothes and speaking with arrogance. The sun hides itself and the river’s frozen over? I may be twisted too, but this road ahead looks frozen,” he recites.
Hoshi has heard a rumor that Sasaki used to have a lover who often came to the Nebuta Festival and asks him if he isn’t the one who his mother had her first affair with. “I did go to the festival with her, but I wasn’t the first one,” answers Sasaki. Sasaki goes on to say, “What is it, hope you are looking for? Even if you get married and have children, you can never guarantee how a person’s life will turn out. You have to accept that fact.”
Hoshi gets up his courage and proposes to Takako.
Sasaki is retiring this year and his family is cold and loveless. He talks with the madam of the inn, who was a high school classmate of his. He tells her that after he retires he wouldn’t mind coming to help out at the inn. Seeing as the madam is divorced with a single daughter, this could be taken as a proposal. But in the end he is turned down.
Having heard Hoshi’s proposal to Takako, Sasaki admits, “I envy you. At least the road ahead of you isn’t frozen.”
Having figured out that the person guilty of trying to peek in on the women’s bath is the tour guide Kurokawa, Noguchi asks Sasaki if he wouldn’t like to become a tour guide after he retires. He also hints that he has some connections if Sasaki is interested.