1. Spring Snow
Autumn of 1913. The scene is a garden party at the mansion of the Marquis Matsugae. The 18-year-old son of the Marquis, Kiyoaki and his school friend Shigekuni Honda are talking about happiness and death as they stroll in the garden. Kiyoaki’s childhood friend, the daughter of Marquis Ayakura, Satoko is escorted in, but Kiyoaki treats Satoko coldly.
2. The Decay of the Angel
The 76-year-old Honda and his friend Keiko are on a trip, and when they visit a lighthouse, Honda is surprised when he sees that a 16-year-old orphan who is working there named Toru Yasunaga has exactly the same mole on the side of his torso as Kiyoaki had.
3. Spring Snow
Ten days after the garden party at the Matsugae Mansion. The Marquis tells Kiyoaki and Honda that the two princes of the King of Siam will be attending their school, and they are told that Satoko has turned down an arranged marriage offer. Disturbed by Satoko’s behavior, Kiyoaki writes a letter to her, fabricating a lie that his heart has changed since he started seeing women in the red-light district.
4. The Decay of the Angel
Honda adopts the orphan Toru. Keiko, indignant at the insolent behavior of Toru, Honda talks with her about Kiyoaki, who had died at the age of 20.
5. Spring Snow
Kiyoaki and Honda welcome the two princes of Siam. When the princes show them pictures of their fiancés, Kiyoaki has a change of heart and tells his driver to see that the letter he has sent to Satoko is disposed of without being read before Satoko can see it. He also has the driver tell Satoko to come see a play with him on the coming weekend.
6. Spring Snow
Kiyoaki, Honda and the two princes are at the Imperial Theatre. Kiyoaki introduces Satoko to the princes. Satoko is very glad to find herself being treated as Kiyoaki’s fiancé.
7. The Decay of the Angel
Honda is insistent that Toru acquire proper knowledge and manners, but Toru looks on such things with contempt. To the disgust Keiko shows for Toru, Honda says it is his calling in life to safe the young man who he believes to be the reincarnation of the tragic Kiyoaki who died so young.
8. Runaway Horses
The 38-year-old Honda, who is now a judge, is attending a dedicatory Kendo swordsmanship match at the Omiwa Shrine in Nara. One of the competitors, a Kokugakuin University student named Isao Iinuma is the son of a former live-in student and apprentice of the Matsugae family. Isao asks for the opportunity to meet Honda.
9. Spring Snow
The morning after attending the play at the Imperial Theatre, Kiyoaki and Honda meet on the school grounds. Kiyoaki says he feels as if his fate has begun to become manifest. Honda responds by denouncing Kiyoaki for living only in the world of his own emotions, although he can’t help but feel envious of Kiyoaki at the same time.
10. Runaway Horses
When Isao meets Honda, he gives him a book written by a patriot of the Meiji Era and says that he is ready to dedicate his life to the nationalist cause. Honda is surprised to discover that Isao has the same mole on his left side as Kiyoaki had, which makes him try to discourage Isao from pursuing the path of an activist.
11. Spring Snow
In the dawn hour of a day in the New Year, Kiyoaki and Satoko are having the same dream. While trying to dig up his own grave, Kiyoaki finds himself being stopped by dead soldiers in uniform. Distraught and unable to restrain herself, Satoko orders her servant Tateshina to call a coach to take her to the Matsugae Mansion.
12. Spring Snow
Seeing the distraught Satoko unable to suppress her emotions, Kiyoaki kisses her for the first time.
13. Spring Snow
In the afternoon of that day, Honda pays a visit to check on Kiyoaki, who had taken the day off from school. The Marquis Matsugae appears to report that the Imperial Household had given their permission for a marriage between Satoko and a member of the Imperial Family, and that Satoko had indeed read Kiyoaki’s false letter. His pride hurt, Kiyoaki responds to the Marquis question of whether Kiyoaki still has no objection to the wedding, he blurts out, “It is not a concern of mine.” Then he tears up and throws away a letter that had just arrived from Satoko.
14. Runaway Horses/Spring Snow
Honda writes a letter to Isao pleading with him not rush to his own death [through extremism], but the plea falls on deaf ears. Meanwhile, after hearing from Honda that approval has been given for Satoko’s marriage to a member of the Imperial family, Kiyoaki declares, “Now that Satoko is absolutely beyond my reach, I love her even more.”
15. The Decay of the Angel
Toru has reached the age of 20. It is the year 1974 and Honda is now 80 years old. Now a student of the elite Tokyo University, Toru has become rebellious, sometimes bringing home women in the middle of the night. Honda asks himself if Toru is really the reincarnation of Kiyoaki.
16. Spring Snow
Using a love letter he received from Satoko as proof of her love for him, Kiyoaki begs her servant Tateshina to arrange a date between him and Satoko.
17. Runaway Horses
When Isao fails in an attempt to murder a prominent public figure, Honda quits his position as a judge and turns to the legal defense of Isao.
18. Runaway Horses
At Isao’s trial, Honda’s defense of him as a young man who had acted out of concern for the country wins Isao a verdict of not guilty, but Isao is left tormented by a feeling of emptiness.
19. Spring Snow
At the Matsugae family’s vacation home in Kamakura, the princes of Siam are having fun enjoying the summer seashore. Kiyoaki and Honda join them and they begin to talk about previous lives and reincarnation. Kiyoaki asks Honda to help arrange a date with Satoko for him. Knowing that it is an act that could lead him to destruction, Honda agrees.
20. Runaway Horses/Spring Snow
Isao commits suicide. There is a fantasy-like overlaying scene of Kiyoaki and Satoko consummating their love.
21. Spring Snow
Kiyoaki and Satoko are on the beach looking at the stars. Kiyoaki asks Satoko when they can meet again, but in a state of realization, Satoko rejects his request, saying this is the last time they will meet.
22. The Temple of Dawn
Keiko reads the dream diary that Kiyoaki had kept. To Keiko, who has doubts about the existence of reincarnation, Honda speaks about the princess of Thailand, Ying Chan that he had met at a party Keiko had held 22 years earlier. Ying Chan is the daughter of one of the princes that he and Kiyoaki had befriended in their school days, and she had the same mole on her left side that Kiyoaki had.
23. Spring Snow
Late autumn at Matsugae Mansion. Having heard no word from Satoko, Kiyoaki is wasting away. With a grave expression, the Marquis comes in and announces that Tateshina had committed suicide and had left behind a suicide note apologizing for having failed in her effort to conceal Satoko’s pregnancy. The Marquis goes into a frenzy when Kiyoaki admits that it was his child, and he announces that Kiyoaki is confined to the house, and also that Satoko must have an abortion.
24. The Temple of Dawn
Honda has feelings for Ying Chan, and Keiko tells him that she will leave Ying Chan’s room unlocked that night.
25. Spring Snow
During his confinement, Kiyoaki has contracted pneumonia and Honda comes to pay him a visit. With her engagement not annulled, Satoko has gone to Gesshuji Temple in Nara where her grand aunt is now the head priest. Despite his weakened condition, Kiyoaki entreats Honda to take him to Gesshuji. Although he senses that the trip could be fatal for Kiyoaki, Honda decides to help him.
26. The Temple of Dawn
Honda visits Ying Chan’s room at night only to find Ying Chan and Keiko in a love embrace on the bed. He secretly spies on their lovemaking and begins to masturbate. As the dawn begins to break, Honda savors the fact that he is aging.
27. The Decay of the Angel
Having now come of age, Toru criticizes the aged Honda of being “unclean” and negates is common sense of values and the education that he tried to force on him. Honda’s words that allowing Toru to live not as one of society’s chosen ones but to allow him to live an ordinary life is the way to save Toru have not been heard. Keiko tells Toru about the fateful relationship between Honda and Kiyoaki and suggests that Toru would be unable of ending his life at his moment of greatest beauty as Kiyoaki had done.
28. Spring Snow/The Decay of the Angel
Kiyoaki visits Gesshuji with Honda. Satoko has decided to shave her head and become a nun, and she refuses to see Kiyoaki. When the ailing Kiyoaki makes another futile visit to Gesshuji in the snow, he gives his dream diary to Honda and draws his last breath there in his arms.
Keiko gives Kiyoaki’s dream diary to Toru and challenges him to prove that he is a chosen one who will die when he is 20 as Kiyoaki had. When left alone, Toru swallows a weed-killer chemical.
29. The Decay of the Angel
A waterfall that flows like a realm of life. Keiko pushes a wheelchair carrying Toru, who now has gauze wrapped around his eyes. Keiko leaves Toru with Honda and leaves. Toru says he burned the dream diary, and for the first time, Honda feels compassion for Toru, and once again his thought run to the beautiful miracle that was Kiyoaki.
30. The Decay of the Angel / Spring Snow
Honda visits Gesshuji for the first time in 60 years and meets Satoko, who has now become the head priest. When Honda begins to speak of Kiyoaki, Satoko replies that she has never heard that name before. Was it all a dream…? A vision of Kiyoaki and Honda strolling in the garden talking of happiness and death in the spring of their 18th year appears and disappears just as quickly. The curtain closes with Honda standing alone.