This haunting tale employs a stylistic opportunity through simple staging and a mixture of narrative and theatrical conventions adapted from Japanese theatre.
In the northern province of Echigo where snow falls for nine months, the peasant Kokuro removes an arrow from a stricken crane, who then comes in secret gratitude to live with him as a wife. When her weaving of magnificent cloth saves them from starvation, the poor peasant yields to greed and suspicion and loses his most precious gift.
The peasant chorus and Samurai lord provide laughter and commentary. The crane dancers and weavers offer elegant imagery.