Role in the film
Taeko is 27, unmarried and has lived her whole life in Tokyo, currently holding a position with a company there. She decides to take a 10 day vacation to visit her elder sister’s in-laws at their rural countryside farm to help with the safflower harvest and get away from city life. She has stayed with this family before, and while conversing about the trip the night before her journey with her sister, Taeko recalls wishing to visit the countryside as a child, and the envy she held towards her friends who had family outside of Tokyo. On the train to Yamagata, she recalls memories of her fifth-grade self, such as the first time she had a pineapple and the relationships she had with her former classmates.
While in Yamagata, Taeko finds she is increasingly nostalgic and wistful of her childhood self, while wrestling with adult issues involving her career and love. The trip dredges up forgotten memories, the first strings of childish romance, puberty, growing up, the frustrations of math and boys, the relationship she held with her sisters and parents. In lyrical switches between the present and the past, Taeko wonders if she has been true to the dreams of her childhood self.Then, Taeko is suddenly asked by her sister’s in-laws to marry their son, Toshio, and give up her city life to live on the farm. Overcome with emotion, Taeko runs from the country house, as an ongoing rainy storm reflects her mood. Toshio arrives to pick Taeko up in a car and asks what upset her (oblivious to the conversation she had with his parents), but Taeko insists her outburst was not a result of anything having to do with her trip. She recalls from her childhood a poor boy, who was always dirty, that was assigned a seat next to her when he newly arrived in Tokyo. The boy always bullied her, and Taeko secretly hated him, allowing her friends to talk about him behind his back. On the day he was to leave the city, Taeko’s teacher insisted everyone in the class shake his hand. Taeko was set to be the last person to shake his hand, but when the boy got to her, he refused to shake it. Taeko always thought he knew that she looked down upon him, and has since carried a tremendous amount of guilt. Toshio then points out that Taeko knows little about the thought process of boys, and explains that the young boy presented a tough image to Taeko in order to feel powerful. This realization helps Taeko overcome the painful memory, and ultimately come to terms with the person she has become, and how it differs from her fifth-grade self.
At last Taeko’s journey comes to an end. She is brought to the train station by Toshio and his family, and they exchange goodbyes while Taeko agrees to return on a later date. As the train pulls away from the station, Taeko’s fifth grade self and her former classmates parade the train, symbolic of the memories she was overcome with on her journey. When the train reaches the next station, Taeko realizes how happy she was at the farm, and rashly decides to run off of her train and catch one which takes her back to Yamagata. At Yamagata, Taeko finds Toshio waiting for her with his car, and the two drive back to the farm house. The images of Taeko’s past continue to parade around the couple the entire way.
Taeko is slender 27 years adult. At the present, she wears a white and blue striped shirt, white slacks, and white shoes. When she arrives at the countryside farm, she keeps her regular clothing, but opts for a more head coverings to keep from the sun.
- Mr. Okajima (father)
- Mrs. Okajima (mother)
- Yaeko Okajima (elder sister)
- Nanako Okajima (elder sister)
- Grandmother Okajima (grandmother)
- Little Taeko is similar cloth style of Chibi-Maruko Chan