Okuribito (おくりびと)

Beauty sometimes comes in Death

That was my first impression after watching Okuribito (Departures). I once watch Six Feet Under which is a US TV series about the life of people who runs a funeral house, but I found that series as boring and has no heart at all. With the same theme, Okuribito managed to deliver EVERYTHING…the laugh, the sadness, the beautiful art of sending the dead to the next life, and most of all the heartbreaking moment that everyone must face sometime in this lifetime.

Okuribito was directed by Takito Youjiro. It tells the story of a man named Kobayashi Daigo (Motoki Masashiro) whose dream was to become a professional a cello player but his dream was shattered when the orchestra was disbanded. Along with his wife, they moved from Tokyo to Yamagata. He got the first job he applied in that small town, he was sort of tricked into it. The ad said it was a job dealing with journey…but the journey turned out to be a journey to the next life.

Not ‘helping out journeys’, it’s helping out peaceful departure.

The company’s name was NK エージェント (NK Agent) as NK stood for Noukan (encoffining). Shachou (the director) was a nice man that was quite eccentric in his own way. Sasaki Ikuhei (Yamazaki Tsutomu) had been working as Noukanjin (encoffiner) for the past 9 years. His first customer was his own wife.

In the beginning, I have a lot of laugh because Daigo was not used to his new job and to make matter worst, his first dead body was a woman who was dead for 2 weeks and already smell so bad. He started having second thought about his job. He didn’t tell his wife, Kobayashi Mika (Hirosue Ryoko) about his new job because it was considered as a shameful job.

Daigo had a change of heart when he saw how beautiful the art of dressing the dead was. I fact, I myself was also impressed. All this years of loving all things Japanese, I never knew that the way they dressed the dead was as beautiful as other Japanese arts.

To revive a cold body and grant eternal beauty. It was calm and precise. And more than anything, it was filled with affection. To be present at the last farewell, and send off the deceased. It was tranquil, and every action seemed elegant.

Daigo came to love his job even though his old friend looked down on him. He even defended his job when Mika told him that she will go back to her parents unless he quitted his job. When he almost quitted his job, Sasaki-san told him that he shouldn’t see the job as taking advantage of the dead but it was more like daily life as we all live by eating the dead (dead fish, dead chicken, etc)

Out of expectation, Mika came back and told him that she was pregnant. She asked him again to quit his job, otherwise their kid will be いじめ の 対象 になる – ijime no taishou ni naru (bullied) by other kids. However, Mika had a change of heart too once she saw Daigo performing the art on a woman she knew. She even proudly said “夫 は のうかん人 なん です – Otto wa Noukanjin nan desu” (my husband is an encoffiner) when Daigo was furious seeing the men who treated his father’s dead body carelessly. Daigo hated his father so bad because he abandoned him and his mother when he was six…but when he performed the ceremony by himself, he slowly forgave his father.

I spent a lot of tissue papers while watching this movie. The ceremony, although beautiful as it may seems, it is still a heart breaking moment. In every ceremony this movie showed, I couldn’t stop my tears from falling down. Death is truly the saddest thing in this world, especially when the deceased is the one we love the most. Japanese are really good in making sad scene that feels so natural…they don’t need overflowing tears to make the scene as heartbreaking as possible.

Okuribito touches my heart so deep because it delivers death in a beautiful way. The scoring is also perfect, it gives power to every moment in this movie. It gives more reasons to admire Joe Hisashi, one of the most brilliant music composers in this world. Watching this movie was an amazing 2 hours journey. It impressed me so much, I wrote this review the second I finished watching it.

I didn’t know that Japanese shared the same premonition like Indonesian, we both believe that when someone is about to die, that person some how knows that their time on earth is soon be ending. That person will say something to someone else that sort of giving clue that he/she is about to depart to the next life.

I will definitely watch this movie again in the future. It’s no wonder that Okuribito won so many awards including the 81st Academy awards for an academy for best foreign film. It is impossible not to give this movie a  rating.

Because this is a new Japanese traditional that I found this month, as well as a new movie I’ve seen this month, I’m including this review for my Hello Japan! Mini Challenge for January.

Death doesn’t mean the end, but leaving the present, heading for the next stage. Truly a gateway. As a gatekeeper, I’ve sent many people while saying “Have a nice trip and see you again”

“いってらしゃい、 また 会お” の って 言ながら

Movie details:

Director: Yōjirō Takita
Producer: Yasuhiro Mase
Scriptwriter: Kundo Koyama
Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Ryōko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kimiko Yo, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takashi Sasano
Music:  Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography: Takeshi Hamada
Release date: September 13, 2008


  1. I can really see how this must be a fanatstic movie. I will have to try to get. I did like Six Feet Under a lot but not necessarily because of the funeral house part, more because of the characters and it did take me a while to get into. The first few are a bit harsh. But ineteresting. We don’t have that type of funeral in Euroep, it is very American. This movie is very different. Looks like a beautiful tradition. In Euroep it isn’t very beautiful either just not as artificial as in the States. I always wonder about the premonition. Many people know.

    1. The ceremony is so beautiful and showed how patience Japanese are when comes to ceremony. It is like Tea ceremony performs for the dead.

      They have to wipe and change the deceased clothes in front of the family but not allowed to let the family see the body of the deceased. They have to do it all under the blanket or the yukata.

      Indonesian don’t have beautiful ceremony either. We have a more religious way of delivering the dead. I will highlight it in the future in my Indonesia Banget post.

  2. Lovely review Novia, it sounds like a good film. I like films that deal seriously and sensitively with death as I think it is a reality that is neglected by Hollywood.

    1. Thx Ronan 🙂
      It is a really good movie…fortunately the academy also realized that and gave it an Oscar.
      You know, since I paid attention to more movies from another part of the world…I become less interested with Hollywood movies.

    2. Agree with Ronan, films about death is so tricky and Hollywood often don’t know what to do with it. I may not agree with the views shared by this film but I can still appreciate its portrayal.

      1. Which views are you talking about Ruth? You make me curious.

        In the sense of Belief I don’t shares the same views too because as you know, I am a Muslim with my own belief of death. But I always find it interesting to know more views from different beliefs. I’m assuming that the views that you are talking about is this thing 🙂

        1. Oh, I just mean in general, not necessarily the film expressed in this particular film. As you know, I’m a Christian so I have my personal belief about what death means and for a believer, life on earth is only temporary.

          1. Ah..I see. I too see this life as a temporary life.
            But it’s amazing how different countries and religions have their own belief on Death. I always enjoy watching a movie that shares a bit of their belief (without making other belief looks bad).

            When a movie gives more than an entertaiment…that really meant a lot.

  3. one word to describe Okuribito: beautiful.

    What I get from this movie is that death has a lot of meanings. sorrow, tragedy, happiness, forgiveness, a message, the end of everything, the beginning of something… depends on one’s perspective or situation.

    I also couldn’t stop crying in several scenes. huhuhu…

    Glad it got an Oscar.

    1. Okuribito really deserved its Oscar trophy!!

      It really is beautiful isn’t it. I have been wanting to watch it since Kazu’s mom told me but haven’t gotten the chance to see it yet. Thank you for sharing it with me Yan 🙂

      Those scenes made me think of my own family…and for that, I couldn’t stop my tears.

  4. Nice review Nov! It’s a beautiful film indeed. The only beef I had was the attempts at comedy by the principal actor which seemed a bit out of place in the context of the movie.

    1. Thank you Castor.
      I get used to the comedy part easily as it is often shown in Japanese movies or dorama. It’s nice to see how the movie shifted from smile to tears

  5. beautiful film. biasanya saya sering ngerasa takut liat film yg menggambarkan kematian, tapi di film ini kematian digambarkan dengan indah. dan bagian akhirnya bikin saya nitikin air mata karena inget almarhum bapak saya :’)

  6. I so want to watch this movie! I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I’ve never experienced the death side of Japanese culture and customs but it sounds quite fascinating and beautiful.

  7. @Fariz Same with me, Okuribito officially becomes one of my favorite movies of all time.
    (I really need to update my ‘all time favorite’ page)

    @Sam Thanks 🙂
    Yup I agree, the subject is peculiar but they make it into something that everyone can accept. When I first heard about it, I thought Okuribito is a drama about family matter.

    @Tanabata It is beautiful!! It reminds me so much of Tea Ceremony…slow but graceful. I really hope you can find it and enjoy the beauty of this movie.

  8. This is one of my favourite films of last year! Which reminds me… still need to post a 2010 movie list. :\

    It would be lovely to depart this way. Unfortunately it would be hypocrite to do so when not of shinto ‘religion’. I bet the tissues came out every time the cello started playing, right? Same here. 😉

    But you’re wrong about 6FU. I didn’t like it either when I watched just one or two episodes on telly sometime, but when I started at the beginning on dvd I was hooked. It does have heart, isn’t boring and when you reach the end you’ll want to start all over. 😉

    1. I couldn’t remember movies I have watched in 2010, unless if I watched in cinema because I like keeping my cinema ticket.

      The tissue came out everytime a member of family cried over the dead. Having a sick mom really makes things like that hit my heart so deep and tears start falling down.

      Hehehe…it’s not a matter of wrong or right, Gnoe 😉 it’s a matter of taste. I watched the 1st season in DVD but it didn’t leave any impression on me…I finish 1 season because I had nothing else to watch. I didn’t say it was bad, I said it was boring for me. Nice to know you could enjoy it 🙂

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