Hanbei’s manjū (traditional Japanese cake) store, near the Tenjin Shrine forest in Osaka’s Sonezaki district, is suffering because its location has become a mecca for suicidal couples influenced by Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s “Sonezaki Shinju” play
One day, Hanbei sees a young couple and decides to stop them from killing themselves. His motivation, it turns out, is more self-centered than humanitarian. He takes the lovers to his shop, where he gives them each a manjū, and his wife offers the couple a sobering piece of advice, confiding that she herself had a lover she had to give up on before marrying Hanbei. After listening, the couple decide not to take their lives after all.
The manjū business picks up as Hanbei and his wife start offering “counseling” to other young couples, charging them a hefty amount for their advice and a pair of manjū to take home. But as the manjū store owners lavishly spend their money away, they are slow to realize that the town of Amijima, the setting for another suicide story by Chikamatsu, has become more popular among the suicidal-minded.
And there, a tempura-store owner is selling his deep-fried dishes as he listens to couples’ stories, just as Hanbei had been selling his manjū.
Outraged, Hanbei visits Chikamatsu and begs him to write a new play set in Sonezaki, but the writer says he would only consider creating another play about the same area if another “exciting” new suicide were to happen there.
Hanbei and his wife, now heavily in debt, begin to contemplate their own suicides.