In a small village in a valley everyone who reaches the age of 70 must leave the village and go to a certain mountain top to die. If anyone should refuse he/she would disgrace their family. Old Orin is 69. This winter it is her turn to go to the mountain. But first she must make sure that her eldest son Tatsuhei finds a wife.
In Kabuki style, the film tells the story of a remote mountain village where the scarcity of food leads to a voluntary but socially-enforced policy in which relatives carry 70-year-old family members up Narayama mountain to die. Granny Orin is approaching 70, content to embrace her fate. Her widowed son Tatsuhei cannot bear losing his mother, even as she arranges his marriage to a widow his age. Her grandson Kesa, who's girlfriend is pregnant, is selfishly happy to see Orin die. Around them, a family of thieves are dealt with severely, and an old man, past 70, whose son has cast him out, scrounges for food. Will Orin's loving and accepting spirit teach and ennoble her family?