Departures Summary

Departures Summary

The film begins with a scene in which the main character, Daigo, drives through a blizzard with an old man beside him. He thinks about the life he used to have in Tokyo and how everything seems dull in comparison with the life he has now in Yamagata, a village where he moved to.

The scene then moves inside a funeral home, where the young man performs a complex funeral ritual on a young woman who probably died of suicide. The scene becomes tense when the two men realize that the person they thought to be a young woman is actually a young man. The scene ends with the family’s decision that the young man should wear the make-up that is suitable for girl because that is what he wanted to be when he was still alive.

The movie then moves backwards, when Daigo lived in Tokyo with his wife, Mika. He played the cello in an orchestra but because not many people attended their concerts, they were all fired.

Daigo goes home, feeling like he is unworthy of the cello he has. When Mika arrives home, Daigo tells her that he got fired. Mika tries to help him by supporting him and telling him that they will manage to get by with her salary. When Daigo tells her how much it costs to rent his instrument, she is shocked and goes to the kitchen.

That night, Daigo proposes to her that they move to his late parent’s house in the countryside to start over. His wife agrees telling him that in that way, they won’t have to pay rent.

Daigo and his wife move into the little village where Daigo used to live with his mother. Once they arrive there, Daigo starts to look for work and he finds an interesting add in the newspaper about a job where the candidate is not required to have any experience. Daigo decides to give it a try, thinking that the firm hiring is a tourism company and that he will be a tour guide.

When Daigo arrives at the place mentioned in the ad, he is welcomed by a secretary who is shocked to find that Daigo doesn’t know what the job implies. When the boss arrives, he gives Daigo the job on the spot, not caring that he doesn’t know what he will have to do. When the boss, Ikuei Sasaki, tells Daigo that they run a business which provides funeral rituals for the dead, Daigo is uncertain whether to accept it or not. Daigo shows Ikuei the ad in the newspaper and he concludes that there must have been a mistake when the ad was published. Daigo accepts the job when Sasaki offers him a good pay.

When Daigo arrives home, he lies to his wife and lets her understand that he performs ceremonials for weeding and not for funerals.

The next day, when Daigo goes to the office, he is able to talk for a little bit with the secretary who finds that Daigo never came into contact with dead people, despite the fact that his mother died not too long ago. Their conversation is interrupted when Sasaki calls to announce Daigo that his presence is required at a location.

When Daigo arrives there, he finds that he isn’t needed for a funeral ritual but rather to play into a short film where Sasaki will demonstrate how the funeral ritual is performed. During the ritual, Daigo sneezes which causes Sasaki to cut him while he is shaving him. When Daigo arrives home, he once again refuses to tell his wife that he is performs rituals for the deceased when she asks him how he got cut and instead tells her that he cut himself at work accidentally.

After a short while, Daigo accompanies Sasaki for the first time and sees a dead body. His first experience is not a positive one however as the body turns out to be a woman who died two weeks before she was discovered and her body was in an advanced state of decomposition.

On his way home, Daigo notices how the people on the bus give him strange looks and realizes that he smells. Daigo stops at a bath house that is still owned by the mother of one of his former colleagues who recognizes him.

When he gets home, he finds his old cello and begins to play music again, which prompts him to remember the hazy image he has of his father.

Daigo’s perception about the work he does changes after he accompanies Sasaki to a job where they help prepare the body of a woman. After the body was washed, dressed and had make-up on, the family thanked them for making the body look like it was alive again.

Soon after that, the people from the village started to find out where Daigo works. When Daigo meet one of his former classmates in the streets, his former classmate forbids his wife and child to speak with Daigo and urges Daigo to change his workplace.

When Daigo arrives home, h discovers that his wife found out the video where he posed as a corpse and also found about the place where he works. Upset, Mika tells Daigo to give up his job. When he refuses, Mika leaves him and returns to her parents in Tokyo.

Devastated by all this events, Daigo goes to Sasaki with the intention of quitting his job. Sasaki tells him that the first customer he had was his wife who died almost 10 years ago and since then, he continued to work as a mortician. After telling his story, Sasaki invites Daigo to stay for dinner which convinces Daigo to continue working as a mortician.

Slowly, Daigo becomes more accustomed with the job and starts to go alone to certain jobs while also becoming closer to Sasaki and Uemura, the secretary. After a few months, Daigo returns home to find that Miko returned to him. She asks him one more time to find another job, telling him that she is pregnant. She asks him to think if their child will be proud of the job he has.

Daigo is forced to stop the conversation when he receives a phone call from Uemura who tells him that the owner of the bath house that Daigo used to frequent died and that his presence is required. Daigo and Mika go together and Mika watches as Daigo performs the funeral rituals. After watching him, Mika changes her perception about what he does and becomes more accepting of his profession.

At the end of spring, Daigo receives a telegram announcing him that his father died. Daigo also finds that his father was alone and that he didn’t remained with the woman he ran off with. At first, he refuses to go and see him but Uemura convinces him to go and see his father for one last time.

Daigo goes to see his father accompanied by Miko. Once they arrive there, Daigo gets angry at those who came to take the body so he performs the funeral ritual himself with much care. During the preparations, Daigo discovers in his father’s palm a stone letter he gave his father as a child, thus hinting that his father never forgot him. Daigo recognizes him as his father and the hazy memory Daigo had of him becomes clearer.

The film ends with Daigo pressing the stone letter to Miko’s pregnant belly.

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