This collection of linked short stories describes how 65-year-old Emiko, born in 1942 during World War II, spends some five months in the Kuju Highlands of northern Kyushu while she prepares to sell her family home. Emiko lost her husband to a stroke six years earlier, and her two sons are now living on their own; she has been living with her dog Fujiko (a female miniature dachshund) in Tokyo. Her mother, who had spent her life as a farmer's wife, died a year earlier, and now Emiko goes to live in the old house in order to deal with her mother's effects, taking Fujiko along with her. She enjoys the natural environment of her birthplace, and quietly carries on with the work of disposing of her mother's belongings. Each night she has just one nightcap before going to bed, but she finds it difficult to get to sleep. She listens to late-night radio broadcasts and then drifts off into dreaming. Her dreams form the heart of each story.
Emiko had always enjoyed travel, especially to the less-explored areas of the world, and had visited the Gobi Desert in Central Asia with her husband before his death. She has also learned that her late elder brother hunted for dinosaur fossils in the Gobi region, and that her husband's father was interned nearby after the end of the war, by the Soviet Union. It seems to Emiko that her husband, brother, and father-in-law are aware of each other in her dreams, and have come together in the Gobi. News of a former classmate's death and of Japan's attempts to recover remains of the war dead also appear in Emiko's dreams, and she begins to look forward to her nightly visions. The author's masterful weaving of disparate strands of fantasy into a convincing narrative will astonish the reader.