Americans love plenty of Japanese imports, from cars and TVs to sushi and karaoke. Many are also fascinated by some of the oddities, including sumo wrestling, Japanese animation and manga comics, Hello Kitty, Godzilla movies (and Japanglish). Some of the everyday Japanese things we probably won't be enjoying anytime soon include public beer vending machines, hostess bars and shrunk wrapped squid jerky.
While the film The Departures racked up Japanese awards and won the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, it also offers a look at daily life in small town Japan. Daigo Kobayashi decides that he is not going to make it as a professional cellist, so he moves to his hometown with his wife. He misunderstands a job advertisement and ends up as an apprentice undertaker. But in Japan, there is a very strong stigma about touching the dead, so Daigo hides his job from his wife, neighbors and old friends. But he can't hide his profession from the town forever. It's an understated but touching and often humorous film about finding fulfillment.
The film screens at Zeitgeist at 7 p.m. Friday through Thursday.