Bank employee Tetsuji Suga, 39, is on a doctor-recommended leave of absence after falling into depression from overwork. There has also been growing friction at home with his higher-earning wife. When he discovers that she has been having an affair, he decides to spend the summer at the home where his late mother had lived, on the coast far from Tokyo. Once there he gets to know a cheerful, plain-spoken woman his own age named Kimiko. She is a longtime resident of this coastal town, but now spends most of the year away, supporting herself with her skills as a hairdresser as she travels from place to place. She returns only at this time of year, each summer.
Tetsuji asks Kimiko to help him sort through his mother’s belongings. When he offers payment, she asks instead that he play music for her from his mother’s extensive collection of classical CDs and LPs, giving him lists of titles, composers, and performers she wishes to hear. We learn that Kimiko lost both her son and her husband in quick succession, and the lists she brings are in fact those of her son’s favorite music. Before drowning seven years before at the age of 12, the boy had commuted long distances to piano lessons in another city, with his sights set on becoming a classical piano player. Having never known anything about classical music herself, Kimiko says she wants to better understand the music her son so loved. It is in fact to remember her son that she returns to this town each summer around the anniversary of his death.
The two wounded souls find themselves gradually growing closer. Around the time they both realize they might be falling in love, Tetsuji’s wife Rika suddenly shows up. It happens to be on the day after a typhoon, which had forced Kimiko to spend the night, so she finds them together. After showering them with vitriol, she returns to Tokyo. Tetsuji realizes there’s no longer any chance of patching things up with Rika, and wants more than ever to be with Kimiko. At his invitation, she travels with him to Tokyo to see an opera, but the morning after the performance, she disappears. She has chosen to remove herself from Tetsuji’s life because a photo of his family she had seen at the house on the coast persuaded her that their budding relationship can be nothing more than a passing summer interlude. Back at home in Tokyo, Tetsuji discusses the circumstances with his daughter and decides to file for a divorce from Rika.
When Tetsuji goes back to the coastal town the following summer, he learns that Kimiko has set a new course for her life. He tells her of his feelings for her as well as of his divorce, and asks her to come to the long-distance bus stop before the last Tokyo-bound bus of the day leaves. When she fails to show up, he watches the bus pull away and continues to wait. But soon the toll-road service plaza where the bus stop is located closes down for the night, and he must leave. As he trudges through the darkness, he sees a figure coming from the other direction. It is Kimiko . . .