Masahiro Motoki (as Daigo Kobayashi)
Ryouko Hirosue (as Mika Kobayashi, Daigo's wife)
Tsutomu Yamazaki (as Shouei Sasaki, Daigo's boss)
Kumiko Yo (as Yuriko Uemura, staff of Shouei)
I recently got to watch the Japanese movie 'Okuribito'. Its a movie, partly narrated on a first person perspective of the main protagonist Daigo Kobayashi, about his life as an 'encoffiner' (or 'Nookanjin'). Originally a cellist for an orchestra, he returns to his mother's house in the province after the group doesn't get much ticket sales for their performances and was forced to be disbanded. Answering to a vague ad in the newspaper, Daigo ends up as an 'encoffiner' in his hometown.
In watching Japanese drama or movies, you not only get entertained, but you also get to learn something new. In the Japanese movie 'Okuribito', you get an insight into Japanese burial customs and traditions, in which the 'encoffiner', with a short dignified ceremony, cleanses the body and changes them to their burial clothes before they are transferred to the coffin for their last rites. It is said that this practice is often done by family members, but recent trends increased the need for a professional encoffiner.
Even though that he is despised for his line of work, for not having a 'normal', 'dignified' job, Daigo doesn't quit.
In providing the transitional service, their clients find themselves in a epiphany about their lives, their relationships, and their bond with the deceased. Helping the bereaved find closure and start the healing process for them to carry on. This, in turn, gives Daigo a sense of fullfillment of what he does for the people.
Little does he know that the same sense of fullfillment he gives to his clients will ultimately lead to his own salvation and rediscover his roots as he applies his skill as an 'encoffiner' to the father he barely knew.
After seeing this movie, I searched the web for more info about it. I was surprised to see the sheer number of awards it attained in various award giving bodies around the world. It even bagged the 'Best Foreign Film' from the 81st Academy Awards. Although the movie was a success, the director was worried because discussing death in a family is considered taboo. I also read in wikipedia that this film took 10 years to make as Motoki took the time to learn about encoffining and playing the cello. The director also attended several funeral ceremonies to understand the setting, the mood, and the feelings of the ones left behind.
While I was drawn in with the story and Masahiro Motoki's acting, I also can't get my eyes off the character played by Ryouko Hirosue.
Its a very good movie to watch. Even those who are not fans of Japanese movies or dramas will get something out of watching this.