This is a story about finding one's calling amidst the societal pressures surrounding his community. Daigo works as a cellist in a struggling orchestra in Tokyo. After a last performance wherein all the seats in the theater were not filled, their manager decided to disband the orchestra. Despite his dreams of becoming a well-known cellist, he knows that his talents are not enough to make his dream a reality, so he sells his cello and together with his wife Mika decides to go back to his hometown.
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Upon arrival, he immediately looks for a job in order to sustain their daily finances. He sees a local advertisement entitled "Departures," and thinking that it will be somehow related to travel, goes in for an interview. However, he finds out that the job entails him to retrieve and prepare bodies for burial and cremation. He was hired by Sasaki, an old man who runs the business, seeing that Daigo has potential despite his initial reluctance.
He immediately learned the downsides of his job after he completes his first assignment, retrieving the body of an old woman who died alone in her home. When he rode the bus, the students were looking at him disgustingly because of the bad odor that clung to his clothes. He then stops by a local bathhouse owned by a family family friend.
Because of the nature of his job, Daigo did not tell Mika about it. He leaves his home, fully dressed in a suit, completes his job, drops by the bathhouse, and then goes home. His love for music is still apparent when one night, Daigo finds a small cello he used to play when he was a child. He plays it while his wife is listening upstairs.
Despite Daigo's efforts, Mika finds out about his job when she sees a tape which shows Daigo as a corpse. When Mika confronted Daigo about it, he eventually told the truth. Mika was really disgusted that she can't bear to feel Daigo's touch anymore, and so she left.
Daigo spent his holidays with Sasaki and Yuriko, his boss's assistant. They each told stories about the things they went through and how they got to where they are right now. Daigo then played the cello, while the other two listened, reminiscing about the past.
One day, Daigo was surprised to see that Mika has returned, with the news that she is pregnant with his child. Mika thought that Daigo already found a different job, to which he told her that his job is very important. When the owner of the local bathhouse suddenly passed away, Mika witnesses first-hand the solemnity and intricacy of Daigo's job and she finally learns to accept it. After the funeral, Daigo takes Mika to a nearby stream and tells her a letter-stone. He says that a person finds a small stone that contains everything that he feels about a person and hands it to him. He then tells Mika about the man who gave him a letter-stone, a man which is his father and yet he cannot remember what he looks like.
Mika receives a letter from the owner of a fishing dock in a nearby village, informing them that Daigo's father passed away. Daigo did not want to go, telling Mika that his father abandoned him when he was a child. But when Yuriko tells Daigo about how she left her child, saying that she did not have any choice and telling Daigo how lucky he is that he can still get to meet his father, he agreed. Sasaki then lends his car to Daigo and tells him to choose any coffin he desires to encase his father in.
Daigo and Mika reaches the fishing dock where his father's remains lie. When the local encoffiners mishandles his father's corpse, Daigo pushes them away while Mika tells them that his husband is a professional encoffiner. Daigo is preparing his father's corpse when he notices that his hands are clenched. He pries it open to find the letter-stone that Daigo gave his father a long time ago. Daigo silently cries while Mika proudly watches him.
Best part of story, including ending:
The film shows the depth of a family's love is. Regardless of how tainted the memories are, one will still remember and appreciate the things that everybody went through.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Daigo goes to prepare his father's corpse and he finds the letter stone in his hand, as if telling Daigo that his father last thoughts before his death was all about him.
Opinion about the main character:
Daigo is a man who faced a lot of challenges in his life, and he does not let those challenges take away who he really is.