Because his parents got divorced shortly after he was born, the narrator, now 26, grew up without ever knowing his father, looking instead to his maternal uncle, Hisashi, as a male role model. Financed with money he obtained by secretly selling off some guitars in Hisashi’s collection, he goes off on an open-ended journey through Thailand and India. When he returns to Japan, he learns that his uncle has died at the age of 55. In accordance with Hisashi’s will, the narrator’s mother instructs him to go to his uncle’s home in a remote coastal village to handle the disposition of his effects. As he undertakes the task, he reflects on his uncle’s life and his interactions with him over the years.
Hisashi’s advice to the narrator had been to live his life “however the spirit moves.” Practicing what he preached, his own life had been one of many ups and downs.
Unable to get along with his father and his sober nose-to-the-grindstone mentality, Hisashi had left home at 15 and found work as a sort of apprentice yakuza. While manning a food cart, he gets into a fight with a customer, who turns out to be connected with a rival syndicate. He’s forced to flee to the Philippines, where he gets involved in smuggling handguns into Japan. After a suitable interval he returns to Japan and takes up a job in sales, but in his free time he teaches himself to play guitar and compose songs, and subsequently parlays a menial job at an upscale nightclub into an opportunity to play with the band. Soon he is composing one hit song after another. When a song that speaks affirmatively of adultery makes the charts, a stranger who thinks Hisashi has cuckolded him stabs him with a kitchen knife. Following this brush with death, he withdraws from the world of popular music, and moves to a dilapidated country house with a view of the sea, where he receives visits or spends time with a motley group of offbeat friends?a pro-wrestler who played the heel in wrestling matches, a man who has lost his memory and lives without any clothes in a nearby cave, and so forth.
Author Akito Inui has delivered a remarkably appealing portrait of a man who lives free and easy without ever holding a steady job, quietly offering that this is as good a way to live as any. The volume contains two short stories in addition to the mid-length title work.