In The Wild Geese, a tale set in the thirteenth year of Emperor Meiji's reign, an invisible narrator introduces the reader to the handsome Okada, a handsome medical student. During his regular walks through the city he becomes enchanted by an "oval and somewhat lonely" face that smiles at him each day from a window. That face belongs to Otama, the mistress of Suezo, a vain, parsimonious moneylender. Otama's only friend is her weak father, who depends upon her for support.
One day a snake slithers into Otama's birdcage and snatches one bird fast in its jaws, while the other bird flails to escape. Okada slices the snake apart and saves the remaining bird. Otama herself is the caged bird, Mori implies; the snake not just Suezo, or her ineffectual father, but the patriarchy that traps her. Mori drives the point home when Okada kills a wild goose in a lake. Otama was infatuated by Okada's freedom to do whatever he wished. Otama's wings were crushed before she could use them, while Okada flew away.
Otama formulates a plan to meet Okada, but it backfires, and Okada leaves the country the next day. The narrator called Okada the "hero" of the story, but Okada was a man who felt "a woman should be only a beautiful object, something lovable, a being who keeps her beauty and loveliness no matter what situation she is in." . The two never meet; or, do they? The author suggests there is more to the story, yet refuses to reveal the ending. The Wild Geese is full of allusions and hints, painting a watercolor tale as lovely and enigmatic as Japan herself.