Why I Love Japan

I recently watched Departures ("Okuribito"), directed by Yôjirô Takita. This touching movie won the 2009 Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film, the first Japanese film to do so.

The movie hit me on a lot of levels. First, it is a story about family. I happened to watch it during Obon, Japan's summer holiday season when one honors ancestors. Living apart from my American relations is never easy, and this movie reminded me about the importance of taking care of those who have taken care of me.

On another level, the movie reminded me of the power of the Japanese spirit. To me, Japan represents qualities like passion for detail, a respect for craftsmanship, and the ability to communicate beyond words. Departures reminded me of those qualities. Best of all, it made me fall in love once again with the country where I live, work, and raise my family.

I awoke the next morning determined to do my best to help my clients achieve their dreams. In doing so, I hope that I might help Japan's recovery, in some small way.

If you have yet to watch Departures, please do so. It can help your essay writing in several ways.

First, notice the narrative structure. The film opens in the present day, then jumps back two months to see how the main character Daigo arrives on that snowy Yamagata highway, driving a hearse.

Second, notice the character development. At first, the main character's wife Mika lacks credibility (at least to my American feminist eyes). When Daigo suggests that they leave Tokyo to return to his hometown, she simply smiles and says, "Sure." Later, she admits that she had serious misgivings about the move, and leaves him alone in Yamagata. In that moment, she becomes believable. She has faults and needs. She is human.

Finally, on a professional level, this film reminded me of why I love counseling MBA applicants. I do it because I believe in the power of narrative. If nothing else, Departures reminds us that we all have stories to tell. By honoring them, we can move toward the future while respecting the past.