Set in the mid-1700s, this novel depicts more than 30 years in the history of a family living in Fukagawa, part of the old town on the eastern edge of Edo (today's Tokyo) and home to numerous temples and shrines. Eikichi, a physically hulking but humble man, just 25 years old, travels to Fukagawa from Kyoto. A tofu maker, he has learned his craft under the tutelage of a master for 12 years, and now the time has come for him to go into business for himself.
Eikichi enjoys the kindness of a bucket maker's family living near the property he ends up renting for his shop, and a year later he is married to Osumi, their daughter. The newlyweds set about getting their tofu shop, named Kyoya for Eikichi's origins, off to a good start. Confident of his product, Eikichi procures pricey high-quality soybeans and offers his tofu at a lower price than his competitors. The business struggles at first, though, as Edo residents do not take to the refined Kyoto-style flavor of his product. At last, thanks in part to some secret support from an older tofu merchant in the area, Eikichi secures a lucrative arrangement with a major temple nearby. Kyoya is finally on track for success, and the business grows thanks to Eikichi's skill and ideas and Osumi's talent for marketing.
Midway through, the story shifts gears. Eikichi passes away in his fifties, and Eitaro?the eldest son whom Osumi hoped would take over the business?squanders the shop's profits on women and gambling. Goro, the younger brother who has inherited his father's talent for tofu, is joined by his sister Okimi, who is wholly in his corner, and the two of them face off fiercely against Eitaro and their mother. This is an entertaining work that showcases the author's skill at foreshadowing and in crafting well placed, sharply chiseled characters.