One thousand years ago, chaos loosed itself upon Japan, upending an era in which the arts flourished. At the dawn of 250 years of civil war, in the opulent court of Lord Norimasa, the beautiful but cruel poet Lady Utsu wages war with men's hearts and holds the fearsome lord and his devoted samurai Matsuhito in her thrall. As the two men raze Japan's landscape in futile battles for unity, Utsu falls for Matsuhito even as Lord Norimasa continues to love her.
The epic romance of Utsu and Matsuhito resumes itself decades later, when they meet as vagrants so transformed by time that they no longer recognize each other; they are reunited through their mystical connection to a pair of snow foxes that are their only company in the Japanese wilderness. The heartbreaking story of their renewed love is fraught by the Japanese concept of mono no aware—life's ephemeral nature—that weighs on the lovers.