Keita Tomiya, 29, is a freelance writer commissioned by a magazine to write a story on Jun Sasada, 66, a writer of erotic fiction who was highly active two to three decades ago but has been mysteriously quiet of late. According to the magazine’s editor, the order for the article has come down from Hirota, a higher-up at the publishing house. After finishing the planned interview, Keita and the photographer he brought along, Nana Noda, end up staying on to hear a lengthy account from Sasada about how he has traveled repeatedly to the past. It is a highly improbable tale of leaping back through time to lodge inside his younger self, and to observe from there the life of his one true love Natsuko during the years before they actually met. Sadly, Natsuko had died of leukemia at the young age of 33.
The time-leaps take place in his dreams, and begin by carrying him back to his elementary-school days. When he wakes up, he returns to the present. Each time he goes back, his younger self is a year older. While lodged in the young Sasada, the elder Sasada can communicate with his younger self. He persuades young Sasada to find Natsuko, still in elementary school at the time and a complete stranger, so they can observe her from afar. During each subsequent time-leap, the two Sasadas go to see how Natsuko is faring, and how she has grown over the past year. Mixed with a good bit of humorous give-and-take between the two, the journeys to the past proceed briskly year by year until the day when the younger Sasada actually meets Natsuko at the age of 26. On this day, the elder seeks to alter history by asking the younger to steer clear of Natsuko. The younger says he understands how the elder feels but cannot do as he wishes. Later he shows the elder a letter he received from Natsuko saying, “Thank you for always keeping an eye out for me. I’m sure I will be fine. You have your own life to live.” The next thing he knew, Sasada was back in the present, and he tells Keita and Nana he has no idea what happened after that in the past.
A year later Sasada’s first new novel in decades appears, and Keita and Nana are stunned to discover that it is the very story they heard from Sasada about his time with Natsuko—except without any of the time-leap elements. They immediately go to see what they can learn from Hirota, the man who had originally wanted them to do the article on Sasada. Hirota tells them that Sasada died of heart failure several months after their interview with him, and that the new novel was a work Sasada had brought to him at least 20 years earlier with the request that he publish it only after his death. He also reveals to their astonishment that Sasada’s wife Natsuko had died only four years before at the age of 53.
The younger Sasada had in fact sensed what Natsuko had in store for her from the way the elder Sasada was behaving during his annual visits, and hoping she might be able to live longer if she knew her circumstances in advance, had contacted her against the elder Sasada’s wishes much sooner than the elder was aware: he had begun seeing Natsuko when she was 20, and by the time she reached 26 they were in fact already married. Keita and Nana realize that the man who told them about the time-leaps as well as the man who penned the recently published novel was actually the younger Sasada.
Hirota also gives Keita a letter Sasada has left with him for when Keita comes calling. It is a brief note saying that he hopes Keita will “now tell my story”—meaning the story of the younger Sasada who actually succeeded in changing history. It is a stirring tale of love that reaches across the interstices of space and time.