A film by Yojiro Takita
Academy Award® Winner - Best Foreign Language Film
Winner - 10 Japan Academy Prize including Best Picture, Best Director & Best Actor
Winner - Grand Prix des Ameriques - 32 Montreal World Film Festival
Winner - Mercedes Benz Audience Award, Best Feature - Palm Springs International Film Festival
Winner - Audience Award - Hawaii International Film Festival
Winner - Masahiro Motoki - Best Actor - Asian Film Awards
Official website: www.departures-themovie.com
Press Materials: http://www.regentreleasing.com/pwpresspass.html
RT: 131 min., 35mm color, 1.85 flat, sound is Dolby SRD, in Japanese with English subtitles, Rated
PG-13 for thematic material
Senior Vice President of Theatrical Distribution, John Lambert 310-806-4278
Vice President Marketing, Jonathon Aubry 310-806-6382
Director of Theatrical Distribution, Helene Nielsen Beal 310-806-4279
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Winner of the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film, “Departures” is a delightful
journey into the heartland of Japan as well an astonishingly beautiful look at a sacred part of
Japan's cultural heritage.
When a symphony orchestra in Tokyo disbands, Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) suddenly
becomes unemployed. Suffering from low self esteem, he faces the fact that not everyone who
has devoted their life to music can become a top artist. With wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) in tow, he
moves back to his hometown in the northeastern prefecture of Yamagata to live in his late mother’s
house, which doubled as the local pub. Daigo's father abandoned the family when he was a very
small boy, but his mother never stopped carrying a torch for him.
Spotting a Help Wanted ad featuring the word “Departures,” he is excited about the prospect of
trying a new career in the travel industry. He arrives for the interview, curiously eyeing the coffins
lining the back wall of the office. The company owner, Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), hires him on
the spot, with only a cursory glance at his resume. Daigo finally ventures to ask what is involved,
exactly, and is stunned to learn what he has gotten himself into: the ceremonial “encoffination” of
corpses prior to cremation. Sasaki urges him to take the job, proffering large amounts of cash;
he’s getting older and needs someone to carry on the tradition. Daigo overcomes his initial
trepidation and agrees to try the job.
Daigo's very first encounter with the dead is such a grisly one that it nearly puts him off the job for
good. Sasaki is comically matter-of-fact but firm in his directives and tries to convince Daigo that
they are providing an important service to their community. Other cases soon follow. Some are
markedly traditional, featuring loving family members in the time-honored transition of grieving and
saying goodbye. Others highlight the kind of pot boiler family dramas that are often fraught with
unexpected conclusions: a beautiful suicide victim who appears to be female is actually
transgendered and a teenager who caused a fatal motorcycle accident tests the fortitude of the
victim's family. He is also deeply touched by an elderly grandmother whom he dresses in the white
socks and school uniforms of her granddaughters. Daigo encounters death in various forms and,
true to Sasaki’s expectations, develops a deep respect for life in all its variations and a profound
empathy for people trying to make peace with the finality of death.
Daigo’s wife Mika has been kept in the dark. At first, he was too embarrassed to tell her about his
conversation-stopping profession. He was too embarrassed to admit he loved living in his
hometown again with the people he knew while growing up while embracing his newfound
connection to the living. However, it’s a small town and eventually she discovers his ruse.
Appalled and disgusted, she won’t let him touch her and insists that he quit. When he refuses, she
returns to her family in Tokyo. Daigo stubbornly clings to the sense of value he has found in
himself and the work that he is doing. As winter turns into spring, his confidence blooms and he
begins to take charge of the business for the aging Sasaki.
Unexpectedly, Mika returns with the wonderful news that she’s pregnant. Her affection is tepid but
she begins to accompany him on his calls. Slowly, as Mika sees how he treats the deceased
mother of a close childhood friend, and how he helps the family to achieve closure, she begins to
accept Daigo's career choice. When he receives word that his father has suddenly died, she helps
him face a serious dilemma. With seething resentment bubbling to the surface, he tells her he is
not obligated to take responsibility for the arrangements. As their relationship hangs in the balance,
how is Daigo going to react as an encoffineer, a husband, a son and now a father and ultimately as
a human being? It is Daigo’s turn to deal with life and death among the people who are dearest to
Winner - Jury Award from SIGNIS – at Filmfest DC - Washington DC
This is for the film’s “reverence for human dignity.” SIGNIS is an official international Catholic
The “Encoffiners” - With loving kindness, they preside at life’s final departure.
“Encoffination,” the ceremonial washing, dressing and placing of the deceased into a coffin in the
presence of the bereaved, is a career less than highly sought after, but one in “Departures” that is
both heart-warming and life-affirming. In the film, a young man comes face to face with the many
ways in which people are visited by death and in the process creates a new life for himself.
Yojiro Takita is one of Japan’s most accomplished directors, from his early success with comedies
such as “The Yen Family” and “We Are Not Alone,” through dramas such as “When The Last
Sword Is Drawn.” The script is by Kundo Koyama, his first for the big screen, although he served
as writer on the cult-hit cooking series “The Iron Chef.” Composer Joe Hisaishi, who wrote scores
for many Hayao Miyazaki films, such as “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle,” provides the
original score. The film is shot on location through the four seasons of the year in Yamagata
Prefecture, located in Japan’s beautiful northeast region.
Masahiro Motoki plays Daigo, a man who has lost his way in Tokyo and returns to his hometown
with his wife Mika, played by Ryoko Hirosue. She brings clarity and naturalness to the role of a wife
who initially disapproves of her husband’s career choice, but eventually comes to understand and
respect it. Tsutomo Yamazaki (“Tampopo,” “Heaven and Hell”) brings his craggy features and
towering presence to his portrayal of Sasaki, Daigo’s employer and mentor. The supporting cast of
well-known character actors includes Kimiko Yo (“Café Lumiere”), Kazuko Yoshiyuki (“Glory To
The Filmmaker!,” “Granny Gabai”) and Takashi Sasano (“Kabei” – “Our Mother”).
“Departures” opened in Japan in the fall of 2008 and became a major box-office hit. It has won 10
Japanese Academy Prize awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best
Screenplay. It won the Academy Award® in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
"Departures" is the first Japanese film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film since Yoji
Yamada's 2003 samurai drama "Tasogare Seibei" ("The Twilight Samurai"). Since the start of this
award in 1947, only four Asian and three Japanese films have ever won it, beginning with Akira
Kurosawa's 1951 classic "Rashomon."
Auditions for a corpse
A few scenes were filmed in early 2007 in order to capture the snowy landscapes, but principal
photography began that spring. After 40 days filming on location in Yamagata, the crew moved
onto the set in Tokyo. Filming ended after nearly 3 months without incident.
The only problem was with the scenes involving corpses. Although they were playing the role of
someone who has died, the actors remain very much alive. No matter how quietly they lay, their
eyelids or their veins would twitch. This might not have been an issue in a film where the corpse is
incidental to the story, but that was not the case in this film. Ultimately, the problem was solved by
fabricating a meticulously modeled corpse “doll.”
The problem first arose as the crew prepared to film the opening encoffination scene. Every time
Daigo handled the corpse, the actor burst into a fit giggles claiming he was ticklish. Abandoning
that actor, the producers held an emergency audition for an actor who could play “an absolutely
still corpse.” Shirai Koyuri was chosen from among 200 applicants and you can see her onscreen,
beautifully portraying a perfectly motionless body.
The encoffining technique: Nearly magical
In the story, Daigo is transformed from a professional cellist into a professional funeral director;
neither profession brooks any compromise. Motoki, (the actor playing Daigo), began training for
both roles well before filming began. During filming, Motoki soundproofed his hotel room, retreating
there for two hours every day to take cello lessons. Motoki mastered his part as a funeral director
under the tutelage of a real professional, practicing on his own personal manager who was
reluctantly cast to play the corpse.
With such rigorous training behind him, Motoki breezed through his cello scenes without playback,
resulting in an authentic moving performance. During the closing credits, there is one continuous
take that shows the actor encoffinating a corpse. The technique he displays in this scene reaches
an aesthetic peak, rivaling that of an illusionist. While shooting this scene, the entire crew held its
breath, engrossed in his performance. When the director finally called “cut!” they broke into a
Q&A WITH THE DIRECTOR - YOJIRO TAKITA
1) Where did you get the inspiration for this project?
A: I received the idea for this project from the producer. I knew of the job of a “nokanshi”
(encoffineer) through reading a book, (Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician by Shinmon
Aoki) but as I have never actually been in direct contact with them, there was too little I knew of the
job. When I read the script, I felt the content very familiar and close, and though the film will be
dealing with death, I felt that the film would definitely become interesting. I think finding the charm
in themes that other people do not want to touch, is probably a habit to all directors.
2) Was there an event in your life that drove you to make this film?
A: I was interested in the theme all the more because my experience with death was quite limited.
Although I participated in ordinary funerals before, I had never seen or thought about what was
happening on the other side of the funeral and the people who were involved with this. When I
was small, it is true that funerals took place inside each household, and each death was a closed
incident. However, realizing what “death” was about is another story. While I was gathering
information, I suddenly felt a sense of full comprehension, the presence of “death” right in front of
you, just as I felt in my childhood. What existed there was that the family, the relatives, did not
despise or detest “death.”
3) What was it about the idea that resonated and made you feel compelled to spend this time with
A: All human beings have to face death at one point, but at the same time, they try to turn their
eyes away from death. The recognition of this fact may have come up in watching this film, and I
feel that the audience may have replaced themselves with one of the characters and tried to touch
or feel their death through other people’s lives.
4) Do you need inspiration to commit to a project, or just a good team of collaborators?
A: To be able to team with good staff is a major premise and essential. However, nothing can start
if there is no inspiration. Whether or not you understand the subject is another matter, but your
feelings of attraction towards it is definitely the most important thing of all. I live for such
inspirational occasions. A film is made with various elements combining together in perfect
harmony. Therefore, a good staff gathers when there is a good inspiration. And, extraordinary
power is completed by consuming and growing with the power from these surrounding parties.
5) What do you consider to be unique and original to this project?
A: At first, neither the production, distribution or even the release of the film was decided. Because
of this, I was dealing purely with the project, without trying to be “too art-house” or “too
commercial.” In spite of the adversity, I had much confidence that this project would definitely work.
6) After you finished the film, how did it change you as a person? What did you learn from this
A: I believe I came to face "death" more naturally. I am afraid to die, but not afraid of “death” itself
anymore. When I attended funerals for those close to me, I would often have just prayed for the
deceased. I found myself touching their faces and trying to confront their death. By touching their
skin, I would feel the warmth of the deceased, the warm-hearted life of the person who had cared
for me. I came to think that I must tell kids that death exists in everyday life. It is important for us as
human beings to witness, that we are given birth with crying, and we die crying.
7) Looking back on the filming of this movie - what scene stands out the most in your mind and
how did that scene touch you?
A: I like the scene where Mashiro Motoki plays “Ave Maria” on the cello, after eating chicken in the
office with Tsutomu Yamazaki and Kimiko Yo. I think the scene was able to capture a moment in
which each character had a chance to think back about themselves in a gracious manner. I believe
that their bonds were expressed without words. I also like the scene where Tetsuta Sugimoto
sends off his deceased mother to be burned, but only is able to say “Ma! I’m sorry!” in the back of
the crematorium. I felt that it made sense from a man’s point of view, in terms of how a man deals
with his mother’s death.
8) We all deal with the death of our loved ones throughout our lives - the sadness, the mourning
and the celebration of our loved ones’ life. But the actual prepping of our loved ones for
“encoffination” is a process that is often over looked or not seen. What research did you do in
preparation for this film?
A: The most important for me was what “encoffining” actually was. The atmosphere and the great
sensation that I felt when I had experienced the “encoffinment” backed up my attraction for and
confidence in creating this film. The experience also made me realize the wonder and beauty of
sending off someone with respect.
9) I found it interesting that you choose Kundo Koyama as the scribe for this film. He really
captured the beauty and the sensitivity of the story while interjecting moments of humor. Did the
script evolve naturally when you first read it or were there many revisions?
A: The script was not originally in this style. We changed the characters and characters' feelings
towards death. I felt that death was not a dark incident, but a moment infused with humor and
grace, so I had changed my view somewhat from the standpoint presented in the original version
of the script.
10) The cello music plays an essential role in the movie, really enhancing the film to another level.
What was the direction that you gave Joe Hisaishi when you first met?
A: We knew from the start that the cello piece would have a major role in the film. We discussed
creating music with themes encompassing reconciliation and reproduction. The reason for having
the lead play the cello was because of the wide range of pieces that the instrument was able to
11) With the current economic crisis in both the U.S. and throughout the world, many people are
losing jobs they have grown comfortable with and accustomed to; now people have to take jobs
they never expected they would do. Motoki plays out these emotions and reactions beautifully in
concert with his adjustment to the new job. Was this something that came naturally or did you
coach him through it?
A: We had different visions and I believe we both respected each other’s opinions. Masahiro
Motoki had to learn the art of encoffinment; he went on to express the beauty of a person, sending
off another person, by conducting the act with grace and blessings. He definitely brought it into his
Notes from Japan - excerpt from an article by Mark Schilling – Special Correspondent to The
Japan Times – Friday, February 20, 2009
In September of 2006, Yojiro Takita agreed to direct “Okuribito" (“Departures”). Star Masahiro
Motoki had first had an idea for a film about nokanshi nearly seven years earlier and finally sold his
pitch to producers Toshiaki Nakazawa and Yasuhiro Mase, who proposed the project to Takita.
"I thought there was something different and interesting (about this film) when I first read the
proposal," Takita told The Japan Times in an interview at the Yokohama Film Festival on Feb. 1,
where "Okuribito" (“Departures”) won prizes for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting
"It's not easy, getting the right balance between drama and comedy (with this sort of story) - one
mistake can throw everything off," commented Mase, who first worked with Takita on "Himitsu."
"But Takita was able to do that well in the delicate world of this film - that's what makes him so
Takita felt from the beginning, though, that "Okuribito" (“Departures”) had the potential to be an
extraordinary film with "a positive message."
"The hero is someone who had never had to make choices about his life," he explained. "From the
time he was small his life had been decided for him by others. It's the story of how he grows as a
human being and discovers his own sense of values."
It's also about how Daigo and his young wife, who at first sees his new profession as both icky and
low status, come to better know each other and, in Takita's words, "find love and hope." Initially,
however, Mika was supposed to be about the same age as Daigo - that is, their late 30s (Motoki is
now 44) - but the search for a suitable actress came up blank. Then Takita suggested the younger
Hirosue, who had starred as a teenager in "Himitsu" - and proposed her for the role to Mase.
"In the beginning (Daigo and Mika) are somewhat naïve - they don't know a lot about the world,"
Takita explained. "Then they are faced with a crisis and have to deal with it - and in the process,
grow as people. For that reason, I thought that a younger actress would be better - she would be
better able to show that change. Also, Hirosue has a wide range. I saw that when I directed her in
'Himitsu,' where she played a mother as well as a high-school and college student, when she was
still in her teens."
But the film's center is Motoki, who rose to fame as a singer with boy-band Shibugakitai in the early
1980s but has since developed a career as a serious actor, working with such leading directors as
Masayuki Suo, Shinya Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike. As the nokanshi, Motoki expresses not only
a musician's grace and precision, but compassion and respect for the deceased by attitude and
"More important than the way an actor says his lines are his expressions," Takita commented. "It's
really difficult to get that sort of thing right — there are so many ways to see a character. What's
good about Motoki is his transparency; he lets you see into his (character's) thinking and behavior."
YOJIRO TAKITA - Director
Born in 1955, Yojiro Takita joined Hiroshi Mukai’s Sushi Productions as an assistant director in
1976, making his directorial debut in 1981 with “Chikan Onna Kyoshi” and going on to helm over
20 films. His first feature film “Komikku Zasshi Nanka Iranai!” or "Comic Magazine" (1986), was
selected for the New Directors/New Films Series. His subsequent filmography includes “The Yen
Family” (1988), “We Are Not Alone” (1993), “The Exam” and “Secret” (both 1999). In 2001, his
special effects fantasy “Onmyoji” (“The Ying-Yang Master”) stormed the box office and generated a
sequel, “Onmyoji 2,” in 2003. His historical drama “When the Last Sword Is Drawn,” earned Best
Film at the 2004 Japan Academy Prize Awards and his most recent films are “Ashura” (2005) and
“The Battery” (2007). Takita is originally from the town of Takaoka, Japan and he currently resides
Like a number of Japanese independent directors who were not under contract to big studios,
among them Kiyoshi Kurosawa ("Tokyo Sonata") and Masayuki Suo ("Shall We Dance"), Takita
began his career in Japan's "Pink Cinema" genre. "Pink Cinema" is erotic but never explicit: no
genitalia or on screen couplings are depicted. For many filmmakers, it's the American indie
equivalent of getting your start with Roger Corman.
JO HISAISHI – Composer
Hisaishi is renowned for the lush scores accompanying Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films; from his
early work “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” through his more recent “Howl’s
Moving Castle” and the Academy Award®-winning “Spirited Away.” Hisaishi has also worked
extensively with Takeshi Kitano, writing the music for “Sonatine,” “Brother,” “Hanabi” and “Kikujiro.”
Working with Japan’s top directors, Hisaishi has been responsible for music compositions in over
50 films. In Japan he is also a renowned classical music conductor.
MASAHIRO MOTOKI (Daigo)
Motoki made his film debut as the unlikely sumo wrestler in “Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t” (Miramax U.S.
release), for which he was given the Japan Academy Award for Best Actor in 1992. American
audiences may also remember him from the original Japanese version of “Shall We Dance?” Since
then, he has worked with Japan’s top directors, starring in “Gemini” (1999), “Spy Sorge” (2003) and
voicing a lead role in “Tekkon Kinkreet” (Sony Pictures U.S. release).
RYOKO HIROSUE (Mika)
Since making her debut in a major cosmetics commercial, she has worked steadily as a leading
actress and singer. In 2000, she won the Japan Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
playing opposite Ken Takakura in “The Stationmaster.”
TSUTOMU YAMAZAKI (Sasaki)
Best known as the trucker, Goro, in “Tampopo,” Yamazaki first made his cinematic mark playing
the addict in Akira Kurosawa’s “Heaven And Hell.” He also worked with “Tampopo” director Juzo
Itami in “The Funeral” and “A Taxing Woman.” More recently, he has had featured roles in
“Beautiful Sunday” (1998), “Go” (2001) and “Doing Time” (2003).
DEPARTURES CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS
Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki)
Male lead; he plays the cello and assists the senior Funeral Director.
Mika Kobayashi – (Ryoko Hirosue)
Daigo’s young wife.
Ikuei Sasaki – (Tsutomu Yamazaki)
Senior Funeral Director who hires Daigo to help with his Encoffination business.
Kamimura Yuriko – (Kimiko Yo)
Funeral Director’s office assistant.
Shokichi Hirata – (Takashi Sasano)
Mature gentleman who is a frequent visitor to the bathhouse and operates the crematorium.
Tsuyako Yamashita – (Kazuko Yoshiyuki)
Mature woman who runs the bathhouse.
Yamashita – (Tetta Sugimoto)
Daigo’s friend from childhood and son of the woman who runs the bathhouse. He has a wife and
Director: Yojiro Takita
Screenplay: Kundo Koyama
Executive Producer: Yasuhiro Mase
Producer: Toshiaki Nakazawa
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Director of Photography: Takeshi Hamada
Lighting: Hitoshi Takaya
Production Design: Fumio Ogawa
Editing: Akimasa Kawashima
Sound Recording: Satoshi Ozaki
Sound Mixer: Osamu Onodera
Set Decorator: Naomi Koike
Costume Designer: Katsuhiko Kitamura
Beauty Director: Isao Tsuge
Line Producer: Shuji Yamashita
Assistant Director: Hidetaka Nagahama
End Credit Theme Song By Ai
“Departures” Film Partners:
Tokyo Broadcasting System, Inc.
Sedic International Inc.
Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Amuse Soft Entertainment Inc.
Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc.
TV-U Yamagata Inc.
TBS Radio & Communications, Inc.
About Here Films
Here Films, the acquisition and distribution division of Here Media, Inc., is dedicated to showcasing
quality independent films; distributing powerful and thought-provoking world cinema; and nurturing
innovative, emerging filmmakers.
Here Films releases 8-12 films per year, which include co-productions and acquired titles. Recent
and upcoming releases include Academy Award® winner “Departures,” the historical dramas “The
Little Traitor” starring Alfred Molina and “Eichmann” starring Thomas Kretschmann, award-winning
comedy “Patrik, Age 1.5,” Cannes Fortnight winner “I Killed My Mother,” Kenneth Branagh’s made
for cinema opera “The Magic Flute,” Berlin Silver Bear winner “About Elly,” 2009 Sundance entry
“Zion and His Brother” and 2009 Berlin entry “El Nino Pez.”
About Here Media
Here Media, Inc. produces and distributes niche content across all platforms worldwide. Here
Media’s iconic brands distribute gay media and world cinema programming with universal,
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Here Media owns and operates a variety of media assets including:
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and lesbian audience airing in 96 of the top 100 US markets, including every top 10 market.
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Paul Colichman is Chief Executive Officer of Here Media and Stephen P. Jarchow is Chairman.
Together, they have produced and/or distributed over 200 motion pictures including Academy
Award® winners “Gods and Monsters” and “Departures.”