Looking for work he answers an ad that's a bit ambiguous but offers flexible hours and high pay. The position is only described as dealing with "Departures.". Thinking it might be a travel agency he calls and sets up an interview. Hired on the spot he later learns the job involves "casketing," the process of washing the deceased (usually in front of their family) before they're placed in the coffin for cremation. The older owner of the company explains that families used to do this themselves but that now most people hire someone to provide the service. At first the younger man is put off but decides to try it - largely it appears for the money. His wife and most neighbors are extremely displeased to the point of shunning his company but it turns out he has a true gift for the work. It's hard for me to describe in writing but the film shows how the process he's paid to do brings a great deal of closure to the families present - and that rewarding aspect of the work changes the way family and friends perceive the new profession.
It's a slowly paced movie that's very rewarding to watch. Well acted, visually beautiful with well fit music throughout. It wasn't quite as moving for me as Cherry Blossoms but it was still very good (technically that's not a Japanese film - but the style and theme of life/death begs the comparison). It's well worth a try, even if like me you're initially turned off by the ick factor. Thankfully I was talked into it by some friends and I'm very glad it went.
It's been generating tremendous word of mouth here among festival goers. In part because it's very good - but also I believe due to it's scarcity. Both screenings were totally sold out with many passholders having trouble getting in. It's showing again at the Monday "Best in Fest" and I suspect it may be more of the same. If you at all like Japanese cinema you should try to work it in.