Some time ago, a group of punks ruled the street. Years pass, and two of the punks get together again, one of them being the former leader. They reminisce about the old days. Time has not been kind to them, and the leader wants a bar to sit down at and talk. But, the younger one doesn’t understand what the deal is. The younger one also suddenly gets sick and throws up. The leader comments on the smell of blood on him, and the younger one answers that he’d been working at a shop carving up body parts for medical analysis. It’s a horrible job and he can’t do it any more. The two of them nervously talk around various subjects and the leader finally gets them into a secluded bar. His ulterior motive to to show this nasty growth or wound over his right shoulder blade and upper back. He tells the younger guy to touch it and it feels cold. Another customer at the bar laughs, but quickly looks away. The two leave the bar and head for an unprotected rail crossing where one of them had witnessed a suicide years before. They stand there, thinking about how the town changed, how they don’t fit in any more and how convenient it would be to end everything. The last train of the night comes barreling up, and it looks like they decided not to stay in the middle of the tracks after all.
Two guys working at a factory share the same room in an apartment building to save on rent. The hero gets disgusted at the behavior of his roommate, and escapes to the factory to take a shower. The water of the communal bath is too cool, so the hero works on the boiler to bring the temperature up, but with little success. While the rest of the workers bathe, the hero plays cards with two friends, and talks about the bad behavior of the roommate. The hero wins the game and leaves to take his bath. The roommate stumbles in, stinking drunk, and makes a mess of the bath. At the end, the hero tells the roommate that he’s horribly disgusting, and the guy just stands there staring, drunk and with vomit running down his chin.
In this story, a man that has parts of his memory missing finds his way to a newspaper office where the editor and one reporter had been spending months trying to find him. Between them, they try to piece together exactly what the guy, Taguchi, had done, and why. Initially, he’d been an accountant for a large company, and one day he found himself the only one in the office, handling the upcoming bonus money. Since the bonuses were all handed out in cash at that time, Taguchi found himself in possession of more money than he’d ever dreamed of. He packed it up and skipped out that night. From here, his memory gets sketchy. He remembers being attracted to steam locomotives because he’d never seen one. He travels around, staying at small hotels, wearing a mask, and hanging out at a strip bar. The problem is that the account dug up by the reporter doesn’t jive – he doesn’t remember the mask, or the small hotels. At one place, he remembers a clear day, but the reporter arrived at about the same time and it was snowing heavily. When the newspaper needed help for leads, they’d contact Mrs. Taguchi. Again, the details don’t jive.
The reporter talks about Taguchi’s meeting with one particular stripper, and how when he tried to have sex with her he’d failed miserably and she’d laughed at him. Taguchi thinks the guy’s just making this up, and the reporter sniffs that he works for a real newspaper, not some cheap daily rag. The editor asks if Taguchi wants them to believe that he has a double somewhere that has been doing these things in his name. The editor stops, commenting that that’s an angle they’d never considered before. In any event, the editor asks Taguchi to write down whatever he can remember, and the guy refuses, saying that he can’t. He comments that what he remembers and what other people say he did makes him feel like he only exists on paper. He hands his own notes over to the editor, saying that he’ll think about it more then leaves. The editor asks what the reporter thinks, and he answers that there’s a good chance that Taguchi will disappear again. The editor considers this, that there’s no guarantee for Taguchi coming back, and lights up the reporter’s cigarette, thinking.
This one is a simple story of a poor family post-war trying to survive. The main character is the youngest of 3 brothers. The older two have moved out and found jobs, while the youngest one still lives with his parents and his mother’s father. It’s basically a story of abuse. The grandfather waits until the boy’s mother looks away, then takes a swipe at him with a pair of iron tongs, or rips off some of his hair. When asked why the old man does this, the mother is told that it’s actually a way to keep the boy’s father from doing something even worse. The father has come down with some kind of illness and spends most of his time in bed. Finally, things come to a head when the two older brothers visit the house and notice that a neighbor’s house is on fire. The youngest boy wants to go outside with them, but the father barks out that he has to stay and eat dinner with him. The boy doesn’t immediately behave, and the father punches him in the nose and draws blood. The grandfather gets in the act, along with the mother, and soon they’re at each other’s throats. When the dust settles, the wife is holding her husband back, and the oldest brother is restraining the grandfather. The father disowns everyone, then starts coughing up blood, but refuses to see a doctor. The middle brother runs to the hospital to get someone, and the youngest one escapes the house to lose himself in the frenzy of the nightlife in the red light district.
One interesting element in this story is that one of the characters notices Sabu walking around the streets (Sabu was featured in an earlier story by Tadao).
Seigan is a manager at some company who is facing retirement. Tadao starts out by pointing out Seigan in a company photo, mentioning that he liked to take long walks to relax. The story basically shows Seigan at work and at home, with occasional flashbacks to the reconstruction period following the war. Tadao joins the company just before Seigan’s retirement party, and during the party notices that Seigan is looking pretty lost at what to do next with his life. After the drinking, the two of them wander around the streets, and Seigan decides to push forward despite it all, which Tadao turns into meaning that they should try running up the big hill they’re on. Tadao quickly gets winded, and when he yells out to Seigan to stop with the joke already, the old man ignores him and continues wheezing uphill.
A part-time factory worker/university student spends his days at work, and his nights learning to paint just like Van Gogh. He talks to the reader about Van Gogh’s life, and wonders what had happened to make him paint so many self-portraits. A co-worker drops by with some grilled chicken and sake and they revel through the night, leaving the worker exhausted the next day. This is the time of the U.S. war in Vietnam, student unrest in Japan, and union strikes. The factory is trying to keep the workers happy, but it’s not working. The artist buys some grilled chicken to share with his friend, but then discovers his friend in the company of two university students that are planning on trying to rescue another student demonstrator that had been arrested earlier. The friend decides to go with the other two, and the artist returns back home to his paintings.