Kikuji Mitani is on his way to a tea ceremony that will be performed at the inner cottage of Engakuji Temple in Kamakura, Japan. When Kikuji received an invitation to this ceremony from Kurimoto Chikako, his deceased father’s former mistress, he initially thought it was being conducted in memory of his deceased father, but a postscript mentioned that she wanted him to meet Yuriko Inamura, her student. As he again reads the note, Kikuji remembers that, when he was taken by his father to visit Chikako, he accidentally viewed the large birthmark that covers half of her left breast. Kikuji has been haunted by this image since then.
After Kikuji enters the temple’s grounds, he spots two young women, one of whom is carrying a bundle wrapped with a kerchief with a beautiful thousand-crane pattern. When Kikuji arrives at the cottage, he notices that the girl with the kerchief is there as well. Chikako tells Kikuji that the girl’s father was a friend of his father. She then takes him aside and apologetically informs him that Mrs. Ota, his father’s last mistress, is also attending the ceremony, along with her daughter Fumiko. Kikuji is puzzled because he knows that Chikako hates Mrs. Ota. In order to show Yuriko off to Kikuji, Chikako has her perform the tea ceremony using a bowl that originally belonged to Mrs. Ota’s husband and that was later given to Kikuji’s father.
After the ceremony is completed, Kikuji leaves. He runs into Mrs. Ota, who tells him that the ring that Fumiko is wearing was given to her by his father as a reward for helping him in an air raid during the war. Kikuji begins to feel that Mrs. Ota is treating him as if he were his father. They have dinner and spend the night together. He talks to her about Chikako’s birthmark, and she is disgusted. Two weeks later, Fumiko visits Kikuji and apologizes for her mother’s behavior. He tells her that her mother is a good person.
Chikako calls Kikuji at his office, telling him that she has cleaned his tea cottage and will cook for him. She also says that she will invite Yuriko for dinner. He returns home and...
(The entire section is 861 words.)