Fear of radioactive fallout leads retired couple Shunsuke and Mayuko Seto to move from Tokyo to a mountain village in Kochi on the southwestern Japanese island of Shikoku. Before retirement Shunsuke was an art teacher and pottery enthusiast; he is particularly excited about the move because of the quality of the clay he can find in the area. After the two have settled into their newly constructed log house, he builds a kiln and sets to work on his craft, while Mayuko blogs about his activities and their life in the country. Everything is off to a good start.
As it happens, the village is governed by some unique traditions involving a local folk deity known as Kuchinui?“Mouth Stitcher”?who is said to come and sew people’s mouths shut if they say anything disparaging. The location where Shunsuke has built his kiln blocks a path connecting the Kuchinui Shrine atop the mountain to the Kama Shrine at its foot?a path that villagers also use in their day-to-day comings and goings. Some older members of the community complain, but since it’s not the only path available, Shunsuke brushes them off.
Things start to happen?the couple’s water pipe is severed, and a dead cat is strung up in their yard?causing Mayuko to become paranoid. When some herbs she has been growing wither up and die, she claims their water has been poisoned, and when she starts vomiting after a hot-pot meal, they race to the hospital. Then their pet dog suddenly dies, and she’s convinced that was poison, too. They set up surveillance cameras to monitor the area around the house, but they fail to show anything even though disturbing events continue to occur. Finally one day, Shunsuke sees some shadowy figures and sets off in pursuit. It is the old folks. It then comes out that the harassment has been the handiwork of villagers who are jealous of the Setos’ lifestyle. Three of the old men threaten the couple with hunting rifles, but another boldly steps in to save them. Then, in her agitation and confusion, Mayuko pushes the man who saved them over a cliff to his death, and even turns on Shunsuke, stabbing him to death . . .
Afterwards, the villagers speak nary a word about the incident and return to their normal lives as if nothing had happened?silenced, it seems, by Kuchinui.
Incorporating elements of horror based on folk beliefs, author Masako Bando adds layers and depth to her suspenseful tale of an urban husband and wife moving to a tight-knit mountain community where they slowly yet surely come apart.