Interesting Aspects of the Japanese Movie Departures


In celebration to the Japan-Philippines friendship month, the Japanese FIlm Festival or known as Eiga Sai invades Davao. I have the chance to watch their opening movie which is "Departures"
This is the synopsis of the movie as quoted from their flyer:


When the orchestra in which he plays cello disbands, Daigo KOBAYASHI (Masahiro Motoki) abandons a career in music, and moves with his wife Mikan(Ryoko Hirosue) to his home town in the northeastern perfecture of Yamagata. He finds a "help wanted" advertisement that seems to offer good terms for work with what he assumes is a travel agency, and goes for an interview in an office with new coffins lining the back wall. The company owner, Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), hires him with no more than a glance at Daigo's resume, at which point Daigo asks what exactly the company does and is told the work involves the ceremonial "encoffinating" of corpses prior to cremation. He is reluctant, but Sasaki urges him to take the job and he accepts, telling Mika the work involves "ceremonies". In this way he begins to travel around Hirano, in Yamagata, with Sasaki.

A beautiful suicide victim who turns out to be a cross dressing boy; a tearaway teenager dead in a motorcycle accident, an elderly grandmother who admired the baggy white socks favored by her grand daughters with their high school uniforms: Daigo encounters death in various forms and, although he is uncertain at first, begins to understand this work of "encoffination" and somehow a respect for life as well.

Mika, though, finds out exactly what sort of "ceremony" the work involves. Appalled, she demands that he quit, and when he refuses, leaves for her family home back in Tokyo.

He becomes alone again since his mother died several years before and his father having deserted the family when Daigo was a boy, but continues to believe in the value of the work he is doing.

As winter turns into spring, he begins to feel confident in himself and his new career, but now a series of significant events take place in close succession: Mika returns, the mother of a close childhood friend suddenly dies, and he receives word that the father he has heard nothing from in 30 years has also passed away.

As an encoffineer, as husband, as a son, and as a human being: how will Daigo deal with life and death among the people who are dearest to him? A final departure, to a happy farewell...

The movie itself is very interesting as it depicts about an unusual topic about encoffination. You will appreciate the job of encoffiners here and you will be able to realize that this one is not an easy job. Like any other jobs, this  one is also a passion and a skill. Not everybody could do this, and maybe nobody wants to do this. But if you get the hung of it, you will find this job interesting.
I'd like to note some interesting part of the movie which I think mean something to the title "Departure"

1. Eating with the barehand scenes
I've seen several scenes wherein Kobayahashi ate with his barehand together with the boss. And that eating scene happens after an encoffination. I think the implication of this scenes is "ACCEPTANCE". They have already accepted that to encoffinate is their fate, this is their job and they should not feel grossy about this. Imagine holding a dead body and eat with barehands afterwards, that's so unhygenic. But if you have already accepted and treated this as part of your life, as your official job and as you, then you can eat by all means without any apprehension.

2. Departure cases
There are a lot of departure cases happened in the movie. Aside from the literal departure of soul from the body, KOBAYASHI himself experienced several departures. First is when he is 6 years old, when his father departed from them to be with other woman. Second is when his mother passed away. Third is when they have been disbanded. Fourth is when they departed from Tokyo to go to his hometown. Fifth is when his wife left him when appalled with his job. And lastly, when his father died. There are also a lot of small departure scenes like that of octopus, salmon, etc. We all experience departure and this already part of life. Whether we like it or not, departure is part of life.

3. Season Changes
Changing from one season to another could be unnoticeable, but we should note that this one means something in the movie. The changing from one season to another means change is natural. Even nature change from one season to another. And if we say goodbye to one season, we will be facing with a new season. Life comes into phases, we will go through different phases of life and change is part of it.

A drama with a comic relief, Departure is a movie we should all watch as we could be able to realize life and learn to respect it.