The story takes place just before the Japanese invasion of China to annex Manchuria to Japan. In a small fishing village on Japan's west coast, a family decides to escape the imminent invasion and cruelty of the Japanese army. Only one member of the family decides to remain to look after the properties. Despite the coaxing that his remaining will bring him hardship and even death, the young man stays.
His needs, following the paths of the Buddhist priesthood are very meager and he likens his existence to the way of the birds and wildlife who toil all day so that they might live. He disdains the need for surplus and instead seeks only the food he needs for the day.
Alone, unlike his fellow villagers, he is suddenly confronted with the finding of a recently born child left outside his hovel.
The child, a female, assumes the living style of the poor farmer but wonders about the world outside the village of Niigata.
Lured by the promises of showing her the larger cities, she goes off with ta peddler who in exchange for her upkeep, uses her as a prostitute.
After some years she discovers that life outside of the simple had no values and returns to Niigata.