Natsuko and her older brother, Riichi, are the children of an English mother and a Japanese father, Frances and Kazuo Akazawa. Living in Japan, Frances still finds the totally different structure of society from her own background almost impossible to accept. She has tried, but now after some years she closes her mind to it all. Kazuo has been patient, but with Frances on verge of a nervous breakdown the situation becomes impossible. Into the household comes Hiroko, the slatternly maid, free with her favours and soon after she arrives Frances leaves for England for medical treatment, hoping some time away will heal her.
It does not take Hiroko long to start and affair with the long-suffering Kazuo. But he is not careful enough for not only is the precocious Riichi aware of this but also Natsuko. He is able to understand its implications far better than his young sister, a child suddenly flung into the adult world, into a web of desolation and loneliness, without the secure relationship of her mother and with a father who does not understand her. The novel has an unusual and evocative setting, a growing tension that builds up towards a dramatic climax.