The opening scene is set in Japan in the year 2000. Sakamoto is now a photographer for a weekly magazine chasing stories based on gossip about religious cults and politicians.
The scene shifts to Pakistan in 1991. The three students Sakamoto, Goto and Aizawa, who have gone to Pakistan for a canoe trip are kidnapped by a band of thieves and are kept captive in a hideout in the woods. Aizawa has been sent to the Japanese embassy as a messenger of the kidnappers’ demands and the remaining hostages Sakamoto and Goto are talking about their dreams for the future in an attempt to relieve their anxiety.
The scene returns to the year 2000 where Sakamoto is on a stake-out trying to take some incriminating photos that will give the weekly magazine he works for a scandalous scoop article. A colleague named Iikura at the magazine’s editorial desk asks Sakamoto why he became a photographer for a weekly magazine if he says that the bashing he received from the media was harder on him than the period of captivity in Pakistan.
The scene shifts to 1991 in the woods in Pakistan. Sakamoto is talking with a Pakistani man who has also been taken captive by the thieves. They talk about “God” and the things they believe in. The man tells Sakamoto that he is a soldier. In an attempt to cheer up the despondent Sakamoto, the man gives him a harmonica he had intended as a present for his daughter and tells him, “Make yourself happy.”
Several days after being moved to a new hideout, Sakamoto and Goto are released by their captors. It was the end of 44 days in captivity. However, in the airplane on their way back to Japan a reporter from the Asahi Newspaper tells them that in Japan they were being ridiculed in an article in a weekly magazine as having embarked on a “reckless adventure” they should never have been allowed to indulge in to begin with. Awaiting them when they arrived in Japan was an army of photographers and a storm of telephone calls and letters criticizing their actions.
The setting shifts again to 2000 and the office of the publishing company Sakamoto works for. He is photographing a female staff writer named Kawase who has dressed herself up like a woman doctor. It is for an article about the sex industry, which she also writes without affectation, saying that everything she writes is merely training toward her eventual goal of writing novels.
The scene returns to 1991 and a coffee shop after Sakamoto and Goto’s return to Japan. Accompanied by an employee of the Pakistan Embassy in Tokyo who believes that some of the blame also lies with the Japanese Embassy for not being sufficiently informed about the dangers of the area the two had traveled through. They have come to confront an editor named Sakawa and a reporter/writer named Yada responsible for their weekly magazine’s article criticizing the students for embarking on what the article describes as a reckless and irresponsible canoe trip.
When confronted, the editor and writer try to push the responsibility on each other, with Yada saying that he was only interviewed by Sakawa and didn’t write the story, while Sakawa counters that he only wrote down what Yada had said in the interview. Sakamoto is deeply disappointed to hear Sakawa argue that his policy is to leave the interpretation of what is written in a article up to the readers.
Again the setting is the office of the publishing company Sakamoto works for in the year 2000. He is photographing the staff writer Kawase dressed up this time as a female tour bus guide. When asked by Kawase about the article concerning the Waseda University student kidnapping incident in Pakistan, Sakamoto replies that as someone who knew the pain of being hurt by the media’s coverage he decided to become a photographer so that he could use photographs to try to help improve media coverage. But, in Sakamoto’s bag is a photo showing a glimpse of the underwear of a runner from a women’s marathon race he recently covered. Finding the photo, Kawase asks Sakamoto accusingly if, as “someone who knows the pain” of being misused by the media, he now intends to do the same thing to someone else.
It is 1991 in the woods in Pakistan. The soldier who had befriended Sakamoto tells him that he is going to be released and leaves him with words of encouragement and a strong handshake.
It is 2000 at the office of the publishing company. The editor Iikura announces that he is going to use the revealing photograph of the marathon runner in the magazine’s next issue. Sakamoto goes down on his knees in order to stop the publication of the photo and bargains with the editor, saying that he will quit his job there as well.
The scene is the platform at a train station. Kawase tells Sakamoto that she was the one who put the photo(s) on Iikura’s desk. She admits that she did it in a moment of irritation because she saw something of herself in the compromised state Sakamoto’s of life.
Sakamoto tells Kawase about the Pakistani soldier who befriended him in captivity and was probably taken off to be killed, rather than being released as he had said. He then tells her that he may have taken the wrong road out of the woods but he had no regrets about the journey he has made. When he adds that he won’t use his camera as a weapon to kill people anymore we can feel that he has begun to shed the chains that have bound him to his past.