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Toshio, a 10-year-old boy, lives with his father, a shiftless ex-soldier, his stepmother, and his toddler half brother. The family gains a livelihood by means of a swindle in which Toshio's stepmother rushes into the path of oncoming traffic and feigns being struck by a car in order to hound a quick cash "settlement" from the driver. Eventually, Toshio is trained to assume her function, and the family moves from city to city to avoid detection. Their nomadic lifestyle isolates Toshio, who often retreats into fantasies. He attempts to run away to his grandmother's house in Kochio, but, unable to afford the fare, he buys a ticket to a less distant location and after sleeping on a beach returns to his parents. With police now alerted to the family's activities, they travel north to snowy Hokkaido. The boy's parents quarrel: his stepmother hopes to gather enough money in a short time to make a better life for them, while his father believes that they should refrain from repeating the swindle until the danger has passed. They discuss separating for a time and argue over who will take Toshio, the breadwinner. The father, in an outburst, flings away the watch Toshio's stepmother has given him. The toddler wanders into the road to retrieve it and causes an accident that results in the deaths of a man and a little girl. Later, the despondent Toshio builds a snowman and tells his little brother of a benevolent man from outer space who will right all wrongs; then, recognizing his own impotence, he attacks the snowman. The family settles down and again moves south, but the police arrest them. Under questioning, the boy admits only that he was in Hokkaido and witnessed the accident.