In 1890, Dr. Tamura's kindness in caring for his patients is winning
him the trust of Kashino, a poor village on the island of Kii Oshima in
Wakayama Prefecture (now part of the municipality of Kushimoto).
Assisting him is Haru, who the shock of losing her fiancé to drowning
has left mute. In the night of 16 September of that year the Turkish frigate Ertuğrul,
on its way home after paying a courtesy visit to the Emperor of Japan,
is driven aground in a typhoon and wrecked in the Pacific Ocean off Cape
Kashino. Hearing the alarm bell that warns of a vessel in distress, the
villagers rush to the shore, to be confronted there with the grisly
spectacle of vast numbers of dead and dying. They rescue who they can,
while Tamura and Haru go to work treating the injured. Mustafa, the 2nd
engineering officer, has stopped breathing, but Haru pushes desperately
on his chest and he comes around. The next morning, there are 69
survivors from a crew of 618. Feeling guilty that he has been spared
when so many others have not, Mustafa blows up over any number of
trifles. Tamura, as the only person in the village who speaks English,
bears the brunt of his anger, and eventually shows him how the villagers
are carefully cleaning and polishing the personal items they have
salvaged from the wreck so that Mustafa can take them back to the
families of the crew. Mustafa is deeply moved by the kindness the
Japanese show him.
In 1985, during the Iran-Iraq war, a Turkish embassy official named Murat encounters Harumi, a teacher at a Japanese school, during a bombing raid in Tehran. Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, declares that in 48 hours his air force will shoot down any aircraft encountered over Iranian air space. Japanese ambassador Nomura requests rescue flights from Japan, but is told that a quick response is not possible. Meanwhile rescue flights from other nations are arriving, leaving only the Japanese stranded. Kimura, an automotive engineer posted to Tehran, has given up trying to get himself and his family out. Harumi, though, wants to save her students and prevails upon Nomura to ask the Turkish ambassador to arrange a flight. Turgut Özal, the Turkish prime minister, agrees, but by now the Tehran airport is full of not only Japanese but Turks trying to find a flight home. Kimura and the other Japanese have all but given up hope of getting onto a flight when Murat begins to speak about the kindness Japanese villagers once showed to Turkish sailors shipwrecked very far from their homes.