Day-to-day events in the lives of two 73-year-old men from the old shitamachi section of Tokyo, who have known each other since they were boys, are portrayed in this humorous spin on the realities of growing old in an aging society.
Kunimasa Arita and Genjiro Hori were born before the Second World War in a tiny neighborhood situated between the Sumida and Ara Rivers, and they have stayed there all their lives. The two men, who call each other Masa and Gen, are a study in contrasts. Masa went to college, became a banker, and had an arranged marriage that produced two daughters who were in turn married, leaving their parents to a quiet and uneventful but seemingly contented life. That was until three years ago when Masa retired and Kiyoko announced she was leaving him to move in with their eldest daughter. Gen, meanwhile, apprenticed himself to an ornamental hairpin maker without even finishing grade school, and is now one of the leading practitioners of this traditional craft. His wife died when he was in his forties, and as of two years ago he has an apprentice (Teppei, age 20) working with him.
Though these are supposed to be Masa's years of free and easy retirement, he finds his single life lonely, and he also feels slightly jealous of Gen, who continues to be engaged in fulfilling work, is popular about town, enjoys a lively social life, and is even able to be a bit flamboyant?dying what little hair he has left a bright red.
When the two men learn that some of Teppei's friends from his juvenile delinquent days have attacked him and taken his money, they angrily lure the culprits into a confrontation, and after a hard-fought battle, drive them off . . . On the day of a typhoon, Masa throws out his back and is unable to move, but Gen happens to look in on him and comes to his aid . . . When Teppei proposes to a hairdresser who is seven years older, he asks Masa to be the official go-between at the wedding. Masa goes to see his wife for the first time in three years to request her cooperation, but is summarily rebuffed . . . The scenarios add up to a highly entertaining comic novel.