It tells the story of a protagonist who is just referred to as dad or father (お父さん), who loses his job and family, and finds himself in ailing health. The one thing in his life that brings him joy is his dog, Happy. Together they set out on a final journey up the eastern coast of Japan toward Hokkaido.
There are several reasons why I feel a special attachment to this movie. The first is Toshiyuki Nishida. One of the staples of afternoon TV growing up in the '80s in Australia was Monkey. And people may not recoginize his name, but everyone of my friends can recognize Pigsy. When I found out Toshiyuki was from Koriyama City just down the road from me in Fukushima, that just increased my fondness for him even more. He is the Charles "Bud" Tingwell of Japanese TV and cinema, and he really is the shining light of this movie with a superb performance of an older man with failing health who is losing touch with society. Although, Nishida's staring performance probably highlights the rather uninspiring efforts of his supporting cast members.
The second attachment I have with this film involves the journey up the coast of north eastern Japan, through Iwaki and up the coast of Fukushima. Completed 6-8 months before the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, the journey taken would have lead through coastal areas of Japan that are currently unaccessible due to radiation quarantine.
This is definitely a tear-jerker, especially for dog lovers. Similar to the real life stories of Greyfriars Bobby and Hachiko. While the ending here is telegraphed from the opening scenes of the movie, the final and rather brutal realization of story still packs an emotional punch.