Set in nineteenth century Japan, The Wanderers has been likened in its theme to Easy Rider. It follows the adventures of three "toseinins', unemployed young men who roam the countryside, living off petty crime and gambling. They follow their own rules and respect their own code of behaviour.
The three young men, Shinla, Genta and Mokutaro, meet at the house of a gang-boss and help him defeat his rival gamblers. During their stay in the house, one of the three, Genta, discovers that his father, who has been missing for years, also lives in the village and is planning to double cross the boss. The scheme is exposed and the gang leader orders Genta to kill his father.
The son obeys; he cannot forgive his father who deserted his family and ran away with a woman. After the murder, the three toseinin are expelled from the village. They return to Genta's house, where they are involved in further tragic violence. The director, Kon Ichikawa, satirizes and mocks the three youths throughout the film, to its tragic and ironic conclusion.
'It's all very convincingly acted, spledidly lensed and interestingly set in a hilly region of Japan, and a welcome return to the sort of film which shaped Japan's eminent post-war film reputation.