This stream-of-consciousness novel about a man seeking evidence of his own existence through recollection has been praised by critics in Japan for its unique style.
One evening, while standing on a bridge waiting for a friend, the narrator looks at his overcoat and recalls Gogol's The Overcoat. Then he remembers himself 20 years earlier, when he came to Tokyo for the first time, wearing an old military overcoat his mother had given him. He starts to wonder where that coat might be now, and he decides to look for it. One day not long after that, in the hope of finding the garment, he visits the boarding house where he lived as a student, which leads him to the pawnbroker from whom he used to take out loans. While wandering around all day searching for his old coat, his mind turns to the various events of his life?early childhood in Japanese-occupied Korea, returning to rural Japan, his student days, and so on. Walking by a movie theater, he thinks back on the time when he was a student and used to dress up as a soldier to do part-time propaganda work for the theater. Then old military songs spring to mind, then wartime defeat in Korea, then a high-school friend and the prostitute the friend introduced him to. That reminds him of his student days when he would visit the red-light district in old-town Tokyo, and so on and so forth, his mind digressing from digressions, and then digressing further.
Ultimately, despite all his wandering around, the narrator never learns the whereabouts of his overcoat, and the story ends with him waiting on the same bridge he stood on earlier?waiting this time for a friend who has nothing to do with either the coat or life in rural Japan or anything else in the narrator's past.