Kyoto 1978. Fourteen-year-old Sarah Rexford returns to Japan with her mother for the first time in five years, to stay with the family at her mother's childhood home.
Having begun her teenage years in America, where she is popular, confident and assured, it is a shock for Sarah to find herself ill at ease and unsure of what to say or how to say it, whilst her usually quiet, rather shy mother at once returns to her engaging, accomplished and respected former self in the company of family and old friends.
As Sarah begins to reaquaint herself with her relatives and learn more about the culture she came from, she discovers a secret that stretches across three generations, its presence looming over the family home.
Personal boundaries are firmly drawn in traditional Kyoto, and actions are not always what they appear.
In this carefully articulated world, where every look and gesture has meaning, Sarah must learn the rules by which her mother, aunts and grandmother live.