Departures (おくりびと ,Okuribito) is a 2008 Japanese film directed by Yōjirō Takita that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Oscars.

The story starts 16 years ago… “Okuribito” is based on a novel called “Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician” by Toyama native Shinmon Aoki, 71, and began its path to making film history with one call from actor Masahiro Motoki.

Aoki, who after dropping out of university managed a drinking establishment for a time before becoming a Buddhist mortician, put a lot of his own experiences into “Coffinman.” While the novel is now a best-selling title, having sold some 200,000 copies, it was originally released by a local Toyama publisher at Aoki’s own expense, and had an initial print run of just 2,500. Not long after that came the call from Motoki.

“I was hoping I could quote a passage from your book in my travel diary from Varanasi, India,” the actor said, and Aoki readily agreed to the offer. Motoki sent his diary to Aoki, and when the writer opened the book he found a picture of Motoki, standing by the Ganges River next to a fire for conducting spirits of the dead to the beyond. Attached to the photo was a passage from “Coffinman”:

“Maggots are life, too. When I thought that, I could see the maggots shining.”

These were the reflections of a character as he placed the body of an old man who had died and laid neglected for months into a coffin. The depth of Motoki’s understanding touched the author’s heart, and the relationship that was to result in “Coffinman” coming to motion picture life began.

Read full article (Mainichi)

Further Reading: Departures (Wiki)

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