Life during wartime in Japan. Dr. Sadao Hoki and his pureblood wife Hana spot a dark shape in the surf that turns out to be a white man; a severely wounded soldier. At first, they agree to turn the man over to authorities as a prisoner of war. This makes only perfect sense considering not just the ramifications of treating his wounds, but that the doctor and his wife are both virulently racist nationalists who consider the Japanese to be superior to the white race anywhere in the world. They had met in America before the war and the only proposed because his father consented to his choice of a pureblood.
Changing their minds in the face of the massive trauma exhibited by the man, the two agree to take him back to their home and treat his injuries as an act of humanitarian compassion consistent with their belief in the superiority of the Japanese people. They must inform their servants of this decision, of course. The servants are every bit as racially prejudiced and biased as their employers, but their edges have not been softened by the humanitarianism of medical service. The servants make no secret of their belief that the man should have been left to die and turn cold toward the doctor and his wife.
After a week of treating the white man and helping him recover from his life-threatening injuries, the servants quit when their ultimatum that the man is turned over to the authorities is met by the doctor’s steadfast resolve. Meanwhile the man—an American named Tom—is well enough to thank the doctor for saving his life. The doctor warns him not to be premature with this assessment. When a messenger arrives for her husband, Hana is terrified that the servants have spilled beans and they are about to be punished.
Instead, the message directed Dr. Hoki to a patient consultation with General Takima, a wife-beating hero of the Battle of Manchuria. Takima is very ill and will likely die without the surgical skill of the doctor. Sadao chooses to confess to the General about the situation with the injured soldier. The General, in a remarkable display of self-interest over duty, agrees to keep the secret. After all, if he turns in the doctor, then Sadao will likely be executed and he needs the doctor alive in order to prolong his own life. They reach an agreement in which the General will send assassins to kill Tom.
After a few days, the soldier not only has not been assassinated but has recovered much of his strength which intensifies the doctor’s fear. Since it seems the General has changed the plans they agreed upon, Dr Hoki takes it upon himself to arrange the man’s nighttime escape aboard a Korean fishing boat without informing his wife. The escape plan seems to be going off without a hitch.
Then the doctor is called in for emergency surgery to save the General’s life and when the patient is strong enough to receive the news, he tells him that his prisoner somehow escapes in the night. The General confesses that he was worried about his own life to the degree that he had completely forgotten the assassination agreement. He then goes on to very strongly that it was simply a case of carelessness and most certainly not a dereliction of duty or lack of patriotism. The two men strike a deal to keep secrets secret with the General promising Sadao that he will be rewarded.
As Dr. Hoki looks out toward the horizon for the American’s signal that he was still safely in his hiding spot awaiting the arrival of the fishing boat. But the sunsets without a signal, informing the doctor that the escape has successful. This, Dr. Hoki thinks, is his real reward. As he ponders his time in America, the true depth of his irrational prejudice against the white race is revealed through his thoughts. Such is the depth of his hatred of the “repulsive” whites of the world that he is actually glad the country is at war with them.