|STORY # 2:
AI WA KANASHIMI WO KOETE (Love Surpasses Sorrow)
The year is 1949. Following the end of World War II, Japan is currently under American occupation. Life in these immediate post-war years is very hard, with food and other essentials still in short supply, giving rise to the rampant black-market and sex trade which thrives within the city.
Aya's daughter, Yokoyama Junko (Matsushima Nanako) is now 25 years old. She has gone to the red-light different to find her younger brother, Shinichi, and suddenly there is a police raid on the illicit prostititution trade that is rampant there, and she is accidentally rounded up with the prostitutes and taken into the police station. She tries to explain to the police that it is a mistake, but they are very rude and dismissive. When she is told that she has to undergo a medical examination, she goes up to a passing officer in U.S. army uniform, Hirose Kazuo (Osawa Takao) and tells him in exasperation that not all Japanese women have become prostitutes, and that she is a primary school teacher. He clears up the misunderstanding for her, and she is allowed to go home. He offers to send her home in a car but she says it's not necessary and leaves.
When she gets home (a small room on the top floor of a tenant building), she sees Shinichi there, hunting around for money and she gets upset at him for not holding down a proper job (he gave up the most recent one after only a few days, despite the considerable trouble she went through to find it for him) and he tells her that he's more interested in making easy money on the black market, and only fools would break there backs to do "proper" work for a pittance. After having endured so much that night, she finally snaps and starts to fling things at him, saying "sell it all then! sell everything - if you want money that badly...". Shinichi leaves their room in a temper.
Shinichi goes to see his girlfriend, Nagai Toshiko (Takenouchi Yuiko), who is working in this restaurant. He hands her a package which contains some black-market medicine for her sick father. She's surprised, knowing how expensive and hard it is to obtain, but Shinichi just shrugs it off. After he leaves, she turns to go back to work, but when she sees some American soldiers, she shrinks back against the wall, trembling.
As Junko is walking into her school, she sees kids in the yard playing on an army jeep... inside she meets Kazuo in the hallway, and he explains to her that it's just a coincidence and he's not here to check up on her but on other business. He asks if they can take a look around the premises but she turns him down, saying it'll be difficult to arrange and leaves as the school bell rings.
Junko is teaching in her class and her students are reading out their compositions on what their wish is. Many of them have been influenced by the American culture and talks of the luxurious lifestyle they've read about in their comics. A girl is reading out her essay, which compares life in America with Japan, saying that in America, everyone has plenty of food and expensive appliances, etc. and she too wished to move to America when she grew up. Many of her classmates agree, but one boy tries to speak up for Japan, saying their country can be just as good as the U.S. - but he is immediately shot down by another voice, who pipes up that her parents call Japan a "third-world country". Another boy complains about the constant power shortages they have to endure here.
Her class is interrupted by the arrival of Kazuo with two American army officials, accompanied by the school master who tells Junko that they're there as silent observers. Junko is a little annoyed that Kazuo managed to get his way, but she doesn't say anything and just asks another student to read out his essay. He reads about how he has to go home to help his mom every day after work with chores because his father has died from the war, and then goes on to talk about the hardship they have to endure. (At one point, he turns around to look at the three soldiers in the back - Kazuo is busy translating what he is saying to the other two - but Junko calmly tells him to face the front and to continue). He goes on to say that he hates the Americans for what they'd done to his country and wishes that they would leave Japan and go home... he finishes by saying that he wanted to work hard so his mother can have a better life.
After he finishes, Junko tells her class that it's not just him, but "all of us have suffered losses - we all have family members who have died in the war, right? And it is very hard and the pain is great. But we are not the only ones who have suffered losses. Many families in America have also lost their family and friends. That is why Japan has mandated in its constitution a passive defense posture, because when war breaks out, both the victor and the vanquished suffer equally painful losses.... She then asks Kazuo if they can leave as they are disrupting her class. The school master tries to stop her as he doesn't want to offend the American army, but the soldiers agree and thanks the class for sharing their views.
Outside in the school yard, Junko is cleaning a boy's wound and Kazuo comes by and offers her a bandaid but she ignores him and continues to tear the cloth strips for bandaging. Kazuo helps the child anyway, and puts the plaster on the wound. He then tells her that the children are lucky to have her as a schoolteacher and that he understands their situation - but she tells him that pity is not the same as understanding, and he doesn't know, because he never went through what they had to go through. She talks of the hardships they had to endure in the city during the war, and how she had lost both her parents. She then walks off to play ball with the students.
Some six months have passed, and one night Shinichi is fighting with some American GIs, while Toshiko is nearby trying to get him to stop. He's losing badly and they start walk off, but he flicks out a blade and lunges after them. This time, they continue beating him up, even after he's lying there half-dead. Luckily Kazuo comes by and his threat of calling the MP ("military police) scares them off and he takes Shinichi to the hospital, while Toshiko goes to find Junko. When Junko arrives in the hospital, she's surprised to see Kazuo there, and she starts to thank him - but when Shinichi comes out, he feels absolutely no gratitude to Kazuo, whom he despises for being part of the American army, and walks out.
Toshiko starts to blame herself for what happened, telling them how she had been raped a year ago by an American soldier, which severely traumatised her, and how Shinichi had found her and saved her. Unfortunately, each time she sees American soldiers, she'll freeze up, and it happened that night as they were eating at a food stall and some soldiers came by - and Shinichi got really worked up over what had happened to her and started a fight with them. She starts to break down in tears and Junko comforts her telling her it's not her fault. Suddenly, Kazuo makes a formal apology to Toshiko, bowing low and asking for her forgiveness. He says that he feels very badly for what has happened and is very ashamed to hear that someone in his army had done that to her.
Afterwards, Kazuo is walking Junko home, and Junko tells him how they'd been influenced by the Japanese imperialism during the war years, and that was the environment that her brother grew up under. Then with the end of the war, there's been a change in sentiment and now in school, everyone sings the praises of democracy instead, but her brother finds it hard to adjust to the drastic turnaround, and he dropped out of school and is now hanging out with ruffians and the underworld, and she's really worried about him.
Kazuo says that he too has a brother but he died in the war. He says he may not have experienced or understand the suffering in Japan but life for the Japanese in America was not easy either. He tells her that when America went to war with Japan, he, along with all the other American-Japanese citizens, were rounded up and put in a concentration camps, and their family was stripped of all possessions. His father ended up dying in the camp, and his mother was also ailing badly, so he joined the army in hope that she might be released, but it never happened. His elder brother, who also joined the American army, died while fighting in Italy. He says that having come back to Japan, he's not sure who he is anymore - American or Japanese - sometimes he feels like he is neither - and he thinks of the Japanese term "half-and-half"...
As he drops her off home, Kazuo asks is she is free that weekend...
When Junko gets in, her landlady tells her that an old guy in army fatigues had dropped by but left without a message when she told him that they were out. Junko is puzzled but cannot think of who it might be...
The next morning as she is dressing to go to work, Shinichi comes home and she starts to tease him about how he's not actually the tough uncaring character he tries to portray, and that Toshiko-san seems like a really nice girl and taking such good care of her ailing father, but Shinichi gets really irritated and he tells her to shut up, and says Toshiko isn't his girlfriend.
That weekend, Junko is at a Japanese opera, interpreting the sequence of events for Kazuo, who in turn, translates it to a high-ranking American military official and his wife. After it's over, he thanks her for helping him out and says that he wouldn't have understood any of it without her there. She says that it's been a treat for her as she hasn't seen it in a long time.
He offers to treat her out for dinner and she accepts. But he ends up taking her to this American soldiers' hangout, and she's sitting there uncomfortably while he chats with his friends nearby. A drunk soldier tires to make a move on her, and Kazuo gets into a fight with him and is helped out by one of his army buddies, Steve, who unfortunately gets punched down. A Japanese woman comes running in and shouts angrily at the drunk soldier, and finally the guy pushes off. She turns out to be Shimasaki Yoshie, an old classmate of Junko, and they have a tearful reunion. Yoshie's family has all died in the war and she is the only one left, so she supported herself by going into the sex trade. She is now "Steve's woman".
Yoshie marvels at the fact that Junko is a primary school teacher and Junko tells her of her dream to be a novelist and they reminisce about their time in school when Junko ended up writing a love letter for her to give to this guy she had a huge crush on because she was too shy to express herself properly.
Later that night, Junko is walked home by Kazuo and he apologizes to her for what happened earlier - but she says that it is okay, because she got a chance to meet up with a longlost friend and anyway, he had protected her when she got into trouble. But when he tries to ask her out for another date, she dodges his question and leaves, saying "oyasuminasei".
Shinichi sees them together, and he goes up to Kazuo afterwards and tells him rudely to leave his sister alone, saying why don't you Americans go home to where you belong?! Kazuo starts to say "I'm..." (I think he wants to say "Japanese" but he's not sure of his nationality) but he stops, and says instead that there's no point in talking to Kazuo when he's so worked up.
When Shinichi goes upstairs, he gives his sister a hard time about seeing Kazuo and although she tries to explain how Kazuo and others like him have also suffered during the war, he doesn't listen. Shinichi goes to the door but is stopped short by the sight of the old man in the army uniform standing there. Junko recognises him as her uncle and Aya's younger brother, Kouzou, (Beat Takeshi) and invites him in.
While he's burning some incense in respect to her parents, Junko tells him about her dad died in the war, and her mom also - in the fire caused by the bombing of their area. Kouzou said that he was captured and sent to an American concentration camp, and returned to Japan two months ago. Junko invites him to stay with them and starts to get him some dinner but Shinichi is reluctant, saying that they can't afford to house another person, but Junko is insistent. As they are arguing in the kitchen, Kouzou tries to leave, but he's in such a weakened state that he falls down the stairs.
The doctor confirms that Kouzou has broken his leg and he also treated Kouzou for malaria - and says that he must have a very strong will to live to have suffered it for so long. Afterwards, Junko goes in to see Kouzou, and convinces him to stay with them, saying that her mom would never forgive her if she lets him leave. Meanwhile Shinichi is being very mean-minded about the whole thing, and doesn't want to house his uncle, given their straitened circumstances.
The next day, Junko goes to school and sees two of her students fighting in the classroom. After separating them, she finds out that they're fighting because one boy had jeered at another for chasing some girl... Junko laughs and tells them that it's not something to be ashamed of and two people falling in love is actually a very precious thing, and it's a process they'll all go through when they get older.
At lunchtime, she goes home to bring some lunch back for Kouzou and sees him trying to get up and she quickly helps him settle back down in his futon, saying that the doctor says he must rest. They start to reminisce about Aya, and Kouzou tells her how he was always regarded as the black sheep in the family, while his older brothers all outshined him and Aya was the only one who loved and supported him. There was this time when some money went missing at home and everyone accused Kouzou of stealing it except for Aya, who staunchly stood by his side and believed him. Junko says that it's because her mom always trusted Kouzou... But then Kouzou tells her that he had lied, and it was him that stole the money only he was afraid to own up to it. Junko replies that it doesn't matter, Aya has always loved Kouzou and will stand by him, regardless of the circumstances.
Junko goes to visit Yoshie and she's living with Steve in this really nice place. She's really happy to see Junko and they're sitting there talking when Steve comes home, and Kazuo is with him. It's Junko's birthday and Steve has bought this present for her, which makes her really happy and she runs into her room to try it on. Steve and Junko comes out and says that they have to go somewhere, deliberately leaving Junko and Kazuo behind, to give the two of them some time alone together.
Shinichi is at home with Kouzou and Shinichi comments how Kouzou is so strange, and such a changed man from the dashing guy he used be in Dalian. Kouzou says sadly that when he went to war, he saw all his comrades die, and that he too should have died with them. Shinichi talks about the radical change in attitude during the war, saying that while Japanwas winning in the beginning, everyone talked of Japanese imperialism, but then after they started losing, the talk switched to democracy - and now he knows it's all just empty words and means nothing. But then Kouzou says that it's no use wanting to be dead, because there's no value in that, and you need to be alive in order to do something meaningful.
Back at Yoshie's place, Junko has cooked something for Kazuo and they're eating together. He really appreciates eating a home-cooked meal, saying that it's been a long time since he's has the luxury. As they're finishing, the house loses power and the lights go out, so they're sitting in the living room, surrounded by candlelight. Kazuo puts up some music and teaches Junko how to dance. As they're dancing, he kisses her and his gesture alarms her. He says that from the moment he first met her, she'd made a deep impression on him but he knew that she despised American soldiers, so he didn't think he had any right to go after her. He says that the war has split him up, so that he no longer knows whether he's American or Japanese, and has lost his direction in life. But since meeting her, he seems to have regained a sense of self again, and he knows that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. He asks her to trust him...
Shinichi is out with Toshiko, who tells him that her father's condition is worsening, and he needs to be hospitalised but her father's refusing to go. She says that their other friend has told her that he knows a way she can earn enough money to pay the hospital fees, but Shinichi tells her "no! the friend's so-called "way" is for her to go into prostitution..." Toshiko says she doesn't mind, but Shinichi tells her that the reason her dad won't go into the hospital is because he doesn't want his daughter to become a prostitute. He then tells her that he'll find the money for her.
Junko brings some canned goods back for Kouzou and he says they're very expensive but she tells him they're a gift from her American soldier friend and tells him about Kazuo, asking him if he - like Shinichi - is also repulsed by her being friends with an American soldier. Kouzou tells her that there should be no more distintinguishing between "us" and "them". The war has ended, so everyone should find their own way. He says that was what Aya did - despite all the difficulties, she managed to find her own way of life and persist in her beliefs.
Junko then asks him to tell her about her mom's family background, saying that Aya never talked about her family when she was alive and during the war, even when everyone else was retreating from the city to go back to their homeland, Aya never thought about going back to her own home. Junko had thought of bringing her mom's ashes back to her hometown, but she's not sure if that's the right thing to do. Kouzou encourages her to do so.
At this point, Shinichi comes in, really drunk and starts to demand money from his sister. She tells him that she won't give him any unless he states his reason, but he doesn't and just continues to rant. Kouzou reaches into his knapsack and takes out some money, which he hands to Shinichi - but Shinichi isn't grateful, saying it's just a pittance, and he needs a lot of money - tens of thousands of yen. Junko slaps him, and he tells her to go ahead, so long as she gives him the money - but she says that she doesn't have that much. He tells her to go and get the money from her American soldier friend, and then lurches drunkenly from the room. After he leaves, Kouzou tells Junko it's no use to talk to Shinichi when he's in such a state, and that the boy has bottled up a lot of pent-up pain and unsure of what he should do.
Junko arranges to meet Kazuo in a coffee house, and when he arrives, she tells him that they can't see each other anymore. Kazuo is hurt, and asks if he's done something wrong but Junko tells him that the problem's not with him but with her, and that she's really sorry.
Junko then travels to Aya's hometown (Yamagata-ken, a prefecture in the Touhoku area) with her mom's ashes, and deposits it with the temple there. She asks the *juushoku* (head of the temple) there about Aya. He takes out Aya's portrait (the one that Kouta painted) and tells Junko her mom's story - how Aya and Kouta met and fell in love, but Aya was then forced to marry Heikichi and how she'd suffered in the Yokoyama abode... (Junko is somewhat incredulous, as her mom and dad has been very happy together since the time of her birth.).. He tells her about the earthquake, Aya's abortion and imprisonment and how she finally was given the chance to choose her own destiny when she came out, and she'd chosen to rebuild her life with Heikichi in Dalian. He tells her that Aya was a very special woman, that she was very strong and very brave, and she never faltered in her beliefs and how she fought for her love and never gave up, even when she faced opposition from the whole world.
Junko is very moved by the story, and she's standing in front of Aya's gravesite, thinking about her mom's courage and determination, when she suddenly sees Kazuo coming towards her and she runs into his arms. Kazuo learned of her whereabouts from Kouzou, and he'd been worried that she'd be put off by the sight of him but still, he couldn't resist as he really wanted to see her. They then spend the night there, and as she's lying in his arms, she says that she wished they could remain here forever and Kazuo feels the same way.
The next day, Shinichi is being beaten up very badly by some members of his black market gang. They'd caught him selling black-market goods on his own and as they drag him off, Toshiko and this other guy runs off to find Junko, and runs into Kouzou, just as he was leaving their home. (He has packed up his stuff and left a good-bye note for Junko.) When he learns about what happened to Shinichi, he makes a decision to rescue him, and leaves his knapsack back in the house, bringing only his gun with him. He tells Toshiko to go notify the police and the other friend takes him to find Shinichi. (Kouzou's leg is still not fully recovered and he's limping after the friend as they hurry through the city.)
Meanwhile, Junko has returned home and her landlady tells her what has happened, and she hurries after them to find Shinichi.
Shinichi's beaten up badly in this darkened garage, and when Kouzou comes, he goes down on his knees and begs the yakuza head to let Shinichi go - but the yakuzas jeer at him. Finally, this one punk takes out his gun and waves it in front of Kouzou's face, trying to scare him but Kouzou takes out his own gun and holds it to the guy's head. Junko's running in at this point, and she hears this loud "pop".... the guy's gun has shot Kouzou through his stomach... and Kouzou then releases the trigger from his own gun, but it's not loaded! The yakuzas are all freaked out and they run off.
Junko runs over to where Kouzou is, and Shinichi also half-crawls to Kouzou. Kouzou's dying, but he says that it's okay and he should have died long before. He tells Shinichi to be a better person and not give Junko so much grief. As he dies, he looks up at the sliver of sunlight that is shining through and says weakly, "yatto....yatto..." (finally) - and that the sun is very bright today...
(Voice-over: Even after the war ended, Kouzou continued to carry the burden of the pain caused by the war. He chose to commit suicide to rid himself of the unbearable weight of his pain and suffering brought on by the war.)
It's the start of the new school year, and Junko is trying to locate Kazuo, who has disappeared and despite calling his home a number of times, she is unable to find him. As she goes back dispiritedly into the house, she finds Shinichi packing up all his stuff, but he won't tell her where he's going. She breaks down in tears, asking him what she'd done that was so wrong that drives everyone to leave her without a word... Kouzou, Shinichi and ... "him" (meaning Kazuo).
Suddenly there's a knock on the door and it's Kazuo. He apologizes to Junko for disappearing on her like that, saying that he was called away urgently to the Korean Peninsula and could not leave word for her. He tells them that war is about to break out there and even though he doesn't want to, he has been called up to fight there. He asks Junko to marry him - and Junko, worried about Shinichi's reaction, hesitates. Kazuo says he wants to tell her before he left for the war, and to ask her to wait for his return. Junko is unable to give him an answer and he leaves, disappointed but telling her that he won't give up.
After he leaves, Junko turns to Shinichi and says, "I..." but Shinichi suddenly turns and runs out, after Kazuo. He asks Kazuo if he really loves his sister and Kazuo says yes. Shinichi goes on to say that he too loves Junko very much and wants her to be happy, but all he ever seems to do is cause her trouble and heartache, and he hoped that she can find happiness with Kazuo. He asks Kazuo to make a promise that he'll take care of her and ensure her happiness for the rest of her life, warning him fiercely not to go back on his word or he'll have Shinichi to deal with. Junko is listening to this from around the corner, and she's deeply moved. After Shinichi runs off, she walks over to Kazuo and he takes her into his arms.
Kazuo's regiment is about to be shipped to Korea, and Junko is there to see him off. Steve's also being sent to Korea and Yoshie is there as well. Yoshie is really upset, and she keeps pleading with him not to go, saying that she thought the war had ended and they no longer had to send their men off anymore and why was this happening all over again. Steve says that he doesn't want to go either but he can't help it, and Yoshie gets really angry and says "go then! I don't care... go there and die!" Meanwhile, Junko is talking to Kazuo and he's trying to reassure her that he'll be okay, saying that they've been told that the fighting's not very intense and no casulties are expected. Junko asks him to promise to come back to her, and he does. As the regiment's driving off, Yoshie regrets her rash words and runs after the truck, telling Steve that she loved him...
While war continue to rage on the Korean peninsula, life resumed its pace in Tokyo. Gradually, living conditions in Tokyo improved and pressures started to ease as food and other supplies became less scarce. Junko goes about her daily routine, teaching at the primary school, and one day, on her return home from work, she gets a post-card from Kazuo telling her that he's fine and due for leave, so he should be back in Tokyo within the next few days and will let her know once the date has been confirmed. She's really happy and waits in anticipation.
But the next day, Shinichi comes running to the school, all wet from the rain, and tells her that he'd just received news that Kazuo has been killed. Junko reels from the news and says that it can't be, as she'd just heard from him and he said he was coming back soon... but Shinichi tells her that the news came from his buddy, Steve, and she sinks down to the ground in shock. After he goes, she suddenly gets a bout of nausea, and realises she is pregnant with Kazuo's child.
Three years later, Junko is back in her hometown, at her mother's grave. There is a little girl with her and it's her and Kazuo's daughter, Kazuko. She tells her mom that she has no regrets about the choice that she had made, and says that although war may have taken Kazuo away from her, and also Kouzou and her parents - it can never take away the love that she has for them and they'll always live within her heart. Aya was the one who had taught her to love in the face of all adversaries, and that it was something that she would pass onto her daughter, and her daughter would, in turn, pass it on, and it would be something that would be handed down to all their future generations of daughters. And no matter how the world may change with the passage of time, this is something that will never change.
She turns around and sees a vision of Kazuo coming towards her and her face lights up for a brief moment before the image vanishes. She takes Kazuko's hand, and together they leave the cemetery....