On Haru’s Journey

Haru’s Journey is one of the latest in a long line of Japanese films that take a close look at a world changing so quickly that one generation is barely able to provide the next with the manners and mores necessary for sensible living. Yasujirô Ozu was the master, who in films such as Tokyo Story and Late Spring revealed both the way time unravels family traditions and the necessity of abandoning security for the creation of a new life.

At the beginning of story, eighteen year old Haru and her grandfather, Tadao, are off to a rocky start on their journey to visit his elderly siblings. The two have evidently lived together in a fishing village on Hokkaido since the death of Haru’s mother. Since the school where Haru works is about to be closed, and she dreams of moving to Tokyo to start a new life, it will be necessary to find a new home for her grandfather (Tatsuya Nakadai, who was in several classic Kurosawa movies). Director Masahiro Kobayashi takes his time to develop even the cursory outlines of this story, but it eventually becomes clear that the siblings have no use for a brother they regard as a solitary dreamer who has avoided them for years. Haru is as selfless as the grandfather seems selfish, so much so that she is willing to forsake the sympathy of others to see that he is taken care of.

Will she be able to take the seemingly necessary step of emancipating herself from a life of confinement? As the money runs out and the two are no closer to finding a solution, their predicament takes on a new urgency. Haru seems on the verge of making a decision when another mystery begins to loom even larger: that of her mother’s early death, as well as the reason for her estranged father’s long absence. Haru’s Journey is worthwhile viewing for anybody, but it’s a must-see for fans of Japanese cinema.


  1. A Japanese “Straight Story” (Lynch) – be interesting to watch them together as a double feature…


  2. Quin Finnegan says

    Yes! Regrettably, I have not yet seen Straight Story. And I’m a fan of Lynch. I’ll correct that soon.

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