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Departures is a Japanese film that won the 81st Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film. It is an extraordinary film focusing on the mortician’s job. Departures is set in the coastal area of the Sea of Japan (Shonai region) in Yamagata Prefecture centering especially on Sakata City, Tsuruoka City and Yuza Town (Yuza-machi). Many other locations are situated across Yamagata Prefecture. Enjoy a sightseeing tour in Yamagata at the same time as making a pilgrimage.

The hometown of the hero, Daigo Kobayashi, is in Kaminoyama City in the inland region of Yamagata Prefecture. But Daigo who went back home was hired by “NK Agent,” a funeral company, in the Shonai region. The office of NK Agent is in Hiyoshi-cho 2-chome, Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture. Starting from April 20, 2009, the office is opened to the public and busy with the tourists.

When the NK Agent president, Sasaki, told Daigo, his newly joined employee, to come to the cinema, Daigo walked all over looking for the cinema with a note in his hand. The red shrine gate and the stone-paved road appeared in this scene is Hie Shrine (Hie-jinja) and the nearby stone-paved road in Hiyoshi-cho 1-chome, Sakata City. His destination, the cinema (Minatoza Cinema) is also in Hiyoshi-cho 1-chome. It was at this place that “How to Encoffin” (Noukan no Tebiki) was filmed. Although this cinema was closed in 2002, it re-opened on June 12th, 2009 as it came into the limelight due to the filming of this scene. Now, in addition to showing movies, a variety of events are held at the cinema.
The shopping arcade appeared in the scene that Yamashita, Daigo’s ex-classmate, told him something sarcastic is the Sakata Naka-dori Shopping Arcade in Nakamachi 1-chome. And the Sankyo Warehouse (Sankyo-soko) in Sankyomachi 1-chome, Sakata City appeared in the scenery viewed from the car when Daigo was on his way for his first work at NK Agent.

The public bath that Daigo goes often since his childhood appeared many time in the film. It is “Tsuru no Yu” in Honcho 2-chome, Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. It was closed on September 1st, 2009 and relocated to the Shonai Movie Village (Shonai Eiga-mura) outdoor set in April, 2010.
Gekkogawa River Park (address: 211 Maizuru, Yuza, Yuza-machi, Akumi-gun) appeared many times in the film. Many great scenes of Departures were filmed at this park. The scenes include: Daigo plays the cello with the mountain (Mount Chokai) in the background; Sasaki comes to pick up Daigo and says, “ It’s a destiny” (Unmei dane) on the bridge and Daigo gives a “stone letter” to his wife, Mika, at the riverside. As the park has very beautiful sceneries, it is nice to spare some time to take a walk.
The coast of Shonai near Yunohama Hot Spring was used to shoot the scene that Daigo and Mika went together to encoffin his father. The concert hall that appeared in the film was Sakata Civic Hall, “Kibo Hall (Hall of Hope),” in Honcho 2-chome, Sakata City. The scene Mika was going back to her hometown was filmed at Amarume Station in Shonaimachi, Higashitagawa-gun, Yamagata Prefecture. The Sakata City Funeral Hall (address: 1897 Hachikenyama, Hamanaka, Sakata City) is the crematorium in the film. The funeral hall was designed by Soichi Yagisawa, a recipient of the Architectural Institute of Japan Award. The bar “Kazu” left by Daigo’s mother is in Sakaemachi 1-chome, Kaminoyama City. It is now open as “Kaminoyama Concerto Hall.”
The Shonai region, the location for Departures, was also the setting for Oshin which is popular around the world even now. Also, there is Shonai Movie Village in Haguromachi, Tsuruoka City where Zatoichi: The Last starring Shingo Katori, Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei), The Samurai I Loved (Semishigure), Yamazakura and Sukiyaki Western Django are filmed. The Shonai region is indeed a paradise for the fans of Japanese movies. Also, various places in the Shonai region were included as one to three-star destinations in the Michelin Green Guide for Japan. Why don’t you enjoy the tourist attractions included in the Michelin Green Guide for Japan along with popular locations for Departures?

[Photo credit] Movie "Departures" DVD on sale now, 3,990 JPY, Sold by Sedic International / Shogakukan, Distributed by Amuse Soft Entertainment, © Movie "Departures" Production Partnership

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