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Only Yesterday

Taeko is 27, unmarried and has lived her whole life in Tokyo, currently holding a position with a company there. She decides to take a 10 day vacation to visit her elder sister’s in-laws at their rural countryside farm to help with the safflower harvest and get away from city life. She has stayed with this family before, and while conversing about the trip the night before her journey with her sister, Taeko recalls wishing to visit the countryside as a child, and the envy she held towards her friends who had family outside of Tokyo. On the train to Yamagata, she recalls memories of her fifth-grade self, such as the first time she had a pineapple and the relationships she had with her former classmates.

While in Yamagata, Taeko finds she is increasingly nostalgic and wistful of her childhood self, while wrestling with adult issues involving her career and love. The trip dredges up forgotten memories, the first strings of childish romance, puberty, growing up, the frustrations of math and boys, the relationship she held with her sisters and parents. In lyrical switches between the present and the past, Taeko wonders if she has been true to the dreams of her childhood self.

The climax of the movie comes when Taeko is asked by her sister’s in-laws to marry their son, Toshio, and give up her city life to live on the farm. Overcome with emotion, Taeko runs from the country house, as an ongoing rainy storm reflects her mood. Toshio arrives to pick Taeko up in a car and asks what upset her (oblivious to the conversation she had with his parents), but Taeko insists her outburst was not a result of anything having to do with her trip. She recalls from her childhood a poor boy, who was always dirty, that was assigned a seat next to her when he newly arrived in Tokyo. The boy always bullied her, and Taeko secretly hated him, allowing her friends to talk about him behind his back. On the day he was to leave the city, Taeko’s teacher insisted everyone in the class shake his hand. Taeko was set to be the last person to shake his hand, but when the boy got to her, he refused to shake it. Taeko always thought he knew that she looked down upon him, and has since carried a tremendous amount of guilt. Toshio then points out that Taeko knows little about the thought process of boys, and explains that the young boy presented a tough image to Taeko in order to feel powerful. This realization helps Taeko overcome the painful memory, and ultimately come to terms with the person she has become, and how it differs from her fifth-grade self.

At last Taeko’s journey comes to an end. She is brought to the train station by Toshio and his family, and they exchange goodbyes while Taeko agrees to return on a later date. As the train pulls away from the station, Taeko’s fifth grade self and her former classmates parade the train, symbolic of the memories she was overcome with on her journey. When the train reaches the next station, Taeko realizes how happy she was at the farm, and rashly decides to run off of her train and catch one which takes her back to Yamagata. At Yamagata, Taeko finds Toshio waiting for her with his car, and the two drive back to the farm house. The images of Taeko’s past continue to parade around the couple the entire way.

Info & Credits

Title Only Yesterday
Japanese Title おもひでぽろぽろ
Japanese Title (Romanized) Omohide Poro Poro
Release Date 1991
Rated PG-13
Duration 1 hr 59 min

The characters

 01 Taeko Okajima (Adult)
A 29-year-old office worker. Taeko is thoughtful and described as hard-working. Taeko takes a vacation from her job to visit her brother-in-law’s family in the countryside in Yamagata and help with the safflower harvest. Shortly before leaving on the trip, Taeko begins having flashbacks of various unrelated events from her childhood. Taeko spends a lot of time trying to discover the reason for her flashbacks. Elder Taeko provides the narration for the entire film.
image001 Taeko Okajima (Young)
Elder Taeko as a 10-year old schoolgirl. She is the youngest in a family of three daughters. Younger Taeko is easily excited and has a tendency to have her spirits crushed by reality. Elder Taeko’s flashbacks of her younger self range from her first taste of pineapple to her inability to divide fractions.
image002 Toshio
A farmer in Yamagata. He is Kazuo’s second cousin. He is very helpful and knowledgeable about many different topics. He is also a fan of Hungarian folk music. Toshio comes to Kazuo’s farm to help with the safflower harvest. Taeko develops a liking for him during her trip.
image003 Naoko
A teenage girl who also helps with the harvest. She is Kazuo and Kiyoko’s daughter. She is like most other teenagers in 1982, and is up-to-date on the latest fads, such as PUMA sports shoes and the movie “E.T.”. She is friendly and a fast runner.
image004 Taeko’s Father
Taeko’s father is strict and very formal. He maintains his leadership role in the family, having the final word on all decisions.
image005 Taeko’s Mother
Taeko’s mother is less strict than her husband, but is still firm. She stands by Taeko’s father in most of his decisions.
 image006 Nanako Okajima
The oldest sister in Taeko’s family. She attends art college. She is a fan of the Beatles and is the first to try out new fashions, including the mini-skirt. She is much kinder to Taeko than Yaeko is.
image007 Yaeko Okajima
The middle sister in Taeko’s family. Yaeko is a good student and seems to dislike her sister in general. She seems to take pleasure in angering Taeko. She has a crush on a female member of the Takarazuka acting troupe for a short while.
 image008 Taeko’s Grandma
Taeko’s grandma is mostly silent, but when she speaks, everyone listens to her. She accompanies young Taeko to a trip to the hot springs in Atami.
image009 Shuji Hirota
A boy in the classroom next to Taeko’s. He is an excellent pitcher on his class’s baseball team. He has a crush on Taeko, but it is only discovered when a few girls in his class write about it on the wall in an alley. When Taeko watches him play baseball, he seems to pitch even better than normal.
 image010 Rie
One of Taeko’s classmates. She is shy and quiet, and mature for her age. She temporarily becomes extremely unpopular with the girls in her class when she tells a male classmate about menstruation, who in turn tells it to all the 5 th-grade boys in the school. This makes the boys tease the girls unrelentingly for a while. She is also good at fractions, which elder Taeko attributes to her later success in life.
image011 Tani
One of young Taeko’s close friends. She seems to be the leader of Taeko’s group of friends. She is up-to-date on current events (the Vietnam War) and is very persuasive. The boys in her class think she is a goody-two-shoe.
image012 Abe
A transfer student to younger Taeko’s school. He is somewhat dirty and has a few bad habits, causing his classmates, especially the girls, to despise him. Taeko sits next to him during the second half of the school year. Elder Taeko remembers him and feels guilty about how she let her friends treat him.
image013 Toko
One of Taeko’s close friends.
image014 Suzuki
One of Taeko’s classmates. He can’t stand drinking milk, so he agrees to eat Taeko’s radishes, which she hates, in exchange for having her drink his milk instead.
image015 Tonomura
One of younger Taeko’s classmates. He is known for being the only baseball player who can hit Hirota’s pitches; however, he is struck out when Taeko is watching the game, since this makes Hirota pitch better to impress her.
image016 Toshio’s Mother
Toshio’s Mother helps also helps out in the safflower harvest. She is friendly, although a little presumptuous.
image017 Kazuo
Toshio’s second cousin and Naoko’s father. He is serious and hard-working.

Production Credits

Director Isao Takahata
Screenplay Isao Takahata
Original Story Hotaru Okamoto, Tone Yuuko
Executive Producer Hayao Miyazaki
Character Design Yoshifumi Kondou
Scene Design Yoshiyuki Momose
Sound Editor Naoko Asari
Original Music Katsu Hoshi, Amanda McBroom, Teruhiko Saigo, Seiichiro Uno

Voice Casting

Character English Japanese
Taeko Okajima NA Miki Imai (Adult Taeko)
Youko Honna (Young Taeko)
Toshio NA Toshir Yanagiba
Naoko NA Masako Watanabe
Taeko’s Father NA Masahiro Ito
Taeko’s Mother NA Michie Terada
Taeko’s Grandmmother NA Chie Kitagawa
Nanako Okajima NA Yorie Yamashita
Yaeko Okajima NA Yuki Minowa
Shuji Hirota NA Yuuki Masuda
Rie NA Yukiyo Takizawa
Tsuneko Tani NA Mayumi Iizuka
Abe NA Hirozumi Satoh
Toko NA Megumi Komine
Suzuki NA Masashi Ishikawa
Toshio’s Mother NA Takako Sendou
Kazuo NA Kouji Gotou
Torahige NA Ichirô Nagai
Aiko NA Mei Oshitani
Kiyoko NA Sachiko Ishikawa
Baccha NA Shin Itou
Trainstation Employee NA Yoshihiro Furubayashi

Only Yesterday Trailer

Screenshots from the movie




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