In April 1946, Woody returns to his father's anscestral home in Ka-ke, near the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Woody is a soldier, and part of the American occupying forces in Japan. As a soldier, he imagines the silent resentment of the people, who, he imagines, must consider him a traitor to his own. Because of this, Woody actually dreads going to his father's home, but he figures he is "too close not to visit." He is greeted by his father's aunt, Toyo, who must be around eighty years old.
Toyo and the family receive Woody with joy, and despite the fact that they have little, treat him like royalty. Woody's father had left his home forty years before, and had lost contact with his family; they are delighted to hear that he is still alive and living in California. With typical Japanese reserve, they receive the gift of sugar Woody has brought graciously, a little embarrassed that they have nothing to give in return. Although the house is large and kept scrupulously clean, the rooms are almost empty, everything having been lost in the war. Toyo takes Woody to what she says is his father's gravesite; when they had not heard from him in so long, they had assumed he was dead, and had built a memorial to him. Ecstatic that her nephew is not dead as presumed, she tells Woody,
"There are...many relatives to meet. Everyone will want to see Ko's son."
Toyo shows Woody their "immaculate rock garden," and, with consumate dignity, makes him a meal, which she serves on "one of her few remaining treasures, a fine set of porcelain." Despite his protests, she then gives him a delicate coverlet, and takes him to a room where he can sleep. As he dozes, Woody senses a presence nearby, and he wakes to find Toyo sitting by him, just gazing at him with intensity. She is crying, and quietly tells him that he looks very much like his father. When Toyo leaves the room, Woody is overcome with "a sadness both heavy and sweet." He has found a connection with his past and his ancestry that he never fully appreciated, and resolves to ask his aunt tomorrow to share with him her memories of his father, "everything (she) can remember" (Chapter 18).