“Departures” (Okuribito — The Sending-Off-Person) is an award winning 2008 Japanese film about a young Cello player who loses his orchestra job and out of financial necessity returns with his wife to his rural home town where he accidentally finds a job for a funeral company. The story involves learning deep love, forgiveness, the healing of childhood loss and cultivating artful En in one’s profession.
Seeing this last film night, it is now one of my top favorite movies. How can I help but not recommend a film that made me tear up several times? However, I am not sure if it was the film or my personal experiences in Japan (and life) that made this film so powerful for me. I am sure the following helped me appreciate this film:
- Speaking Japanese and long, rich experiences with the complexity of Japanese relationships
- Having been an acupuncture apprentice with wonderful, enigmatic teachers much like the teacher in this film
- Wrestling with Japanese spirituality and cultural values about death. It will help you to read about Japanese funerals before seeing this film.
- Understanding rural vs. urban Japan
- Lots of wonderful experiences at Japanese public baths (sentō)
But I think perhaps anyone can enjoy it. So if you see it, please let me know if it struck a chord with you. Meanwhile, here are some more links:
- To see one of my related Japanese experiences, read my story of possession by a dead Japanese woman — my first Japanese funeral.
- For a similar theme, see the excellent 1999 Chinese comedy-drama, “Shower” (Xǐzǎo=”to bathe”). A man returns to his family public bathhouse and begins to understand himself and family.
- For a very different, funny film which pokes fun at Japanese funerals, see Ososhiki (The Funeral, 1984).