by Chris MaGee
The "Departures (Okuribito)" news just seems to keep coming in the wake of the film's win for Best Foreign Language Film at Sunday's Academy Awards. Yesterday we reported how Japanese movie audiences had already started to flock to theatres to see the film only hours after director Yojiro Takita and stars Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue and Kimiko Yo accepted the Oscar. Now there's word from Japan Zone that an upcoming Japanese reprint of the book that "Departures" is based on has been bumped up by an additional 50,000 copies.
Shinmon Aoki's 1996 book "Noukanfu Nikki" chronicles his decade long career as noukanshi, or "encoffining master", whose job it is to prepare the body of the deceased to be laid in their coffin. It's this profession that Masahiro Motoki takes on as an unemployed cellist on "Departures", but apparently Aoki (above) was not initially supportive of Kundo Koyama's screenplay due to it's changing of the setting from Toyama Prefecture to Yamagata and decided to pull his name from the project. Well, guess what... Aoki's happy now and has come out in support of the film. Guess it has something to do with "Noukanfu Nikki's" Japanese publisher increasing it's reprint to a total of 90,000 copies to keep up with public demand.
In searching out the details on this story I did find out that "Noukanfu Nikki" was translated into English in 2004 by Wayne S. Yokoyama and published by the Anaheim-based Buddhist Education Center under the title "Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician", but it appears to be out of print. I'm hoping that once Regency Releasing gets around to a release of "Departures" in North America that we'll see, even in a short run, the book come back into circulation.