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He is subjected to prejudice from those around him, including from his wife, because of strong social taboos against people who deal with death. Eventually he earns their respect and learns the importance of interpersonal connections through the beauty okiribito dignity of his work.

The idea for Departures arose after Motoki, affected by having seen a funeral ceremony along the Ganges when travelling in India, read widely on the subject of death and came across Coffinman.

He felt that the story would adapt well to film, and Departures was finished a decade later. Because of Japanese prejudices against those who handle the dead, distributors were reluctant to release it—until a surprise grand prize win at the Montreal World Film Festival in August The following month the film opened in Japan, where it went on to win the Academy Okurobito for Picture of the Year and become the year’s highest-grossing domestic film.

Critics praised the film’s humour, the beauty of the encoffining ceremony, and the quality of the acting, but some took issue with its predictability and overt sentimentality.

Reviewers highlighted a variety of themes, but focused mainly on the humanity which death brings to the surface and how it strengthens family bonds. The success of Departures led to the establishment of tourist attractions at sites hisaishii to the film and increased interest in encoffining ceremonies, as well as adaptation of the story for various media, including manga and a stage play.

Daigo Kobayashi Oukribito Motoki loses his job as a cellist when his orchestra is disbanded. It is fronted by a coffee shop that Daigo’s father had operated before he ran off with a waitress when Daigo was six; since then the two have had no contact.

Daigo feels hatred towards his father and guilt for jjoe taking better care of his mother.


He still keeps okuribto “stone-letter”—a hisaushi which is said to convey meaning through its texture—which his father had given him many years before. Daigo finds an advertisement for okhribito job “assisting departures”. Assuming it to be a job in a travel agency, he goes to the interview at the NK Agent office and learns from the secretary, Yuriko Kamimura Kimiko Yothat he will be preparing bodies for cremation in a ceremony known as encoffinment. Though reluctant, Daigo is hired on the spot and receives a cash advance from his new boss, Sasaki Tsutomu Yamazaki.

Daigo is furtive about his duties and hides the true nature of the job from Mika. His first assignment is to assist with the encoffinment of a woman who hiaishi at home and remained undiscovered for two weeks. He is beset with nausea and later humiliated when strangers on a bus detect an unsavoury scent on him. To clean himself, he visits a public hisaidhi which he had frequented as a child. Over time, Daigo becomes comfortable with his profession as he completes a number of assignments and experiences the gratitude of the families of the deceased.

Though he faces social ostracism, Daigo refuses to quit, even after Mika discovers a training DVD in which he plays a corpse and leaves him to return to her parents’ home in Tokyo. Daigo’s former classmate Yamashita Tetta Sugimoto insists that the mortician find a more respectable line of work and, until then, avoids him and his family.

Okuribito Original Soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi on Spotify

After a few months, Mika returns and announces that she is pregnant. She expresses hope that Daigo will find a job of which their child can be proud. During the ensuing argument, Daigo receives a call for an encoffinment for Mrs Yamashita. Daigo prepares her body in front of both the Yamashita family and Mika, who had known the public bath owner. The ritual earns him the respect of all present, and Mika stops insisting that Daigo change jobs. Sometime later, they learn of the death of Daigo’s hisxishi.

A reluctant Daigo goes with Mika to another village to see the body. Daigo is at first unable to recognize him, but takes offence when local funeral workers are careless with the body.

He insists on dressing it himself, and while doing so finds a stone-letter which he had given to his father, held tight in the dead man’s hands. The childhood memory of his father’s face returns to him, and after he finishes the ceremony, Daigo gently presses the stone-letter to Mika’s pregnant belly. Japanese funerals are highly ritualized affairs which are generally—though not always—conducted in accordance with Buddhist rites. The body is then put on dry ice in a casket, along with personal possessions and items necessary for the trip to the afterlife.


Despite the importance of death rituals, in traditional Japanese culture the subject is considered unclean as everything related to death is thought to be a source of kegare defilement. After coming into contact with the dead, individuals must cleanse themselves through purifying rituals. Despite a cultural shift since the Meiji Restoration ofthe stigma of death still has considerable force within Japanese society, and discrimination against the untouchables has continued.

In the early s, a year-old Motoki and his friend travelled to India; just before going, at the friend’s recommendation he read Shin’ya Fujiwara ‘s Memento Mori Latin for “remember that you will die”. Motoki said he found a sense of mystery and near-eroticism to the profession that he felt had an affinity with the film world.

Getting funding for the project was difficult because of the taboos against death, and the crew had to approach several companies before Departures was approved by Toshiaki Nakazawa and Yasuhiro Mase. Production of Departures took ten years, and the work was ultimately only loosely adapted from Coffinman ; [18] later revisions of the script were worked on collaboratively by the cast and crew. This, together with the fact that filming was completed in Yamagata and not Aoki’s home prefecture of Toyamaled to tensions between the production staff and the author.

Aoki expressed concern that the film was unable to address “the ultimate fate of the dead”. While the book and film share the same premise, the details differ considerably; Aoki attributed these changes to the studio making the story more commercial. Motoki, by then in his early 40s and having built a reputation as a realist, was cast as Daigo. Motoki studied the art of encoffinment first-hand from a mortician, and assisted in an encoffining ceremony; he later stated that the experience imbued him with “a sense of mission To provide realistic bodies while preventing the corpses from movingafter a lengthy casting process the crew chose extras who could lie as still as possible.

For the bath house owner Tsuyako Yamashita, this was not possible owing to the need to see her alive first, and a search for a body double was unfruitful. Ultimately, the crew used digital effects to transplant a still image of the actor during the character’s funeral scene, allowing for a realistic effect.

The non-profit organization Sakata Location Box was established in December to handle on-location matters such as finding extras and negotiating locations. After deciding to shoot in Sakata, Location Box staff had two months to prepare for the eighty members of the film crew. From a hundred candidates, Takita chose it for its atmosphere as an aged building with a clear view of the nearby river and surrounding mountain range.

The soundtrack to Departures was by Joe Hisaishia composer who had gained international recognition for his work with Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Before shooting began, Takita asked him to prepare a soundtrack which would represent the separation between Daigo and his father, as well as the mortician’s love for his wife.

Upon completion, Takita declared Departures “perfect”, and praised the crew for their hisaushi in developing the content and the humble, “hand-made” quality of the film.

That the film’s initial success depended largely on word-of-mouth was also a source of pride for the director. As they are the movie’s “central dramatic piece”, the encoffining ceremonies in Departures have received extensive commentary.

Hsaishi all but one case, the dead are either young or already made-up, such that “the viewer can easily tolerate these images on the screen”. Mullins writes that the gratitude shown in Departures would probably not have occurred in real life; according to Coffinmanthere “is nothing lower on the social scale than the mortician, and the truth of the matter is that [the Japanese people] fear the coffinman and the cremator just as much as death and the corpse”.

In a montagescenes of Daigo playing his childhood cello while sitting outdoors are interspersed with scenes of encoffining ceremonies. Byrnes believes that this scene was meant to increase the emotional okutibito of the film, [52] and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times considered it a “beautiful fantasy scene” through which the camera is “granted sudden freedom” from the generally standard shots.

When you play the cello, the instrument has a human, curvaceous form. The cellist embraces that form when playing the instrument, very loving, affectionate.

That’s very similar, physically, to the actions of the encoffiner, cradling the body, being tender and gentle with it. Byrnes found that Departures used the symbol of the cherry blossoma flower which blooms after the winter only to wither soon afterwards, to represent the transience of life; through this understanding, he wrote, Japanese people attempt to define their own existence. Natural symbols are further presented through the changing seasons, which “suggest delicate emotional changes” in the characters, [52] as well as the letter-stones, which represent “love, communication, [and] the baton being passed from generation to generation”.


Departures incorporates aspects of humour, an “unexpected” complement to the theme of death which Ebert suggested may be used to mask the audience’s fears. Several critics discussed the theme of death found in Departures. Scott highlighted the contrast between jof taboo of death and the value of jobs related to it. He also noted the role of the encoffiner in showing “one last act of compassion” by presenting hksaishi dead in a way which preserved proud memories of their life.

Daigo is alienated from his wife and friends owing to traditional values. Along je this theme of death, Takita believed Departures was about life, about finding a lost sense of feeling human; [27] Koe gains a greater perspective okurobito life and comes to know the diversity of people’s lives only after encountering them in death. Daigo’s coming to terms okuribiti his father is a major motif, encoffinment scenes okuriibto on the living family members rather than the dead, and even in the NK Agent office, conversation often revolves around family issues.

Mika’s pregnancy is the catalyst for her reconciliation with Daigo. Byrnes found that Departures leads one to question the extent of modernity’s effect on Japanese culture, noting the undercurrent of “traditional attitudes and values” which permeated the film. Although the encoffining ceremony was traditionally completed by the dead person’s family, a decreased interest in it opened a “niche market” for professional encoffiners.

The taboo subject of Departures made prospective distributors wary of taking on the film. This fear was misplaced; Departures debuted in Japan at fifth place, and during the fifth week of its run hit its peak position at third place. This made Departures the highest-grossing domestic film and 15th top-grossing film overall for From the beginning an international release of the film was intended; as English is considered a key language in international film festivals, English subtitles were prepared.

The translation was handled by Ian MacDougall. As such he felt a faithful translation was best, without going far to accommodate foreign audiences to unfamiliar cross-cultural elements. In SeptemberContentFilm acquired the international rights to Departureswhich by that time had been licensed for screening in countries such as Greece, Australia, and Malaysia; the film was ultimately screened in 36 countries.

He had the opportunity to view the film before beginning the adaptation, and came to feel that a too-literal adaptation would not be appropriate.

He made changes to the settings and physical appearances of the characters, and increased the focus on the role of music in the story. On 10 Septemberthree days before the Japanese premiere of Departuresa soundtrack album for the film—containing nineteen tracks from the film and featuring an orchestral performance by members of the Tokyo Metropolitan and NHK Symphony Orchestras —was released by Universal Music Japan. Shinobu Momose, a writer specializing in novelizations, adapted Departures as a novel.

It was published by Shogakukan in A dual-layer DVD release, with special features including trailers, making-of documentaries, and a recorded encoffining ceremony, was released in Japan on 18 March A Blu-ray edition followed in May. Franck Tabouring of DVD Verdict was highly complimentary toward the film and the digital okribito, considering its visuals clean and sharp and the audio particularly the music “a pleasure to listen to”.

Departures received generally positive reviews from critics. Initial reviews in Japan were positive.

In Kinema JunpoTokitoshi Shioda called Departures a turning point in Takita’s career, a human drama capturing both laughter and tears, [] while in the same publication Masaaki Nomura described the film as a work of supple depth that perhaps indicated a move into Takita’s mature period, praising the director for capturing a human feeling from Motoki’s earnest encoffining performance.

He commended the performances of Motoki and Yamazaki, particularly their playing the serious Daigo against the befuddled Sasaki. In the Asahi ShimbunSadao Yamane found the film admirably constructed and extolled the actors’ performances. Yamane was especially impressed by the delicate hand movements Motoki displayed when he performed the encoffinment ceremony.

He believed the film had a samurai beauty to it, with its many scenes of families sitting seiza.