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Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a cellist in an orchestra in Tokyo, loses his job because of dissolution of the orchestra. After quitting as a professional cellist, he decides to sell his cello which he had recently purchased for 18 million yen, then deciding to move back to his old hometown, Sakata, Yamagata, along with his wife. One day, he finds a classified ad entitled "Assisting departures" for an "NK Agency". He goes to the job interview thinking it is for a job at a travel agency. But at the interview, he discovers that NK is an abbreviation for "encoffinment" (納棺, nōkan?), and he is instead to assist the "departed". The interviewer, the President of NK Agency, immediately decides to hire Daigo after confirming that Daigo is able to "work hard." The salary is 500,000 yen per month with an additional 20,000 yen bonus for the interview. With no other job prospects, Daigo decides to accept the offer. However, when he comes home to his wife, he finds himself unable to admit the type of work he will be doing, so he dissembles, saying that he is to be employed in the 'ceremonial occasions industry.'
Daigo has a hard time at his first day of work, being made to act as a corpse in a DVD explaining the procedure of encoffinment. More harrowing still is his first assignment which is, in preparation for the wake, to clean, dress and apply cosmetics to the body of an aged lady who has died alone at home remaining undiscovered for two weeks. Beset with nausea at the sight and smell of her collapsed body, but in need of the money that is paid at the end of each day, Daigo sets out in his new career. Daigo completes a number of assignments, and experiences the joy and gratitude at his work of those left behind. He starts to feel a sense of fulfillment in his work when his wife, Mika, (Ryoko Hirosue) finds the training DVD and begs him to give up such a "disgusting profession." Daigo, however refuses to quit, so his wife leaves him. Even his old friend, Yamashita (Tetta Sugimoto), learning of his job, tells him to get "a proper job", then avoids him because of his refusal.
Not long later however, Daigo's wife returns announcing that she is pregnant and pleads with him once again to find a different source of income. At this moment the telephone rings with a new assignment. Yamashita's mother, Tsuyako (Kazuko Yoshiyuki), who ran the local bathhouse on her own, has died. In front of Yamashita, his family and Mika, Daigo prepares Tsuyako's body for her wake and earns the respect and understanding of all present. Then one day, a telegram is delivered to Daigo's house, with notification of the death of Daigo's estranged father. Daigo refuses to see his dead father, but Mika and Daigo's co-worker convince him to go. When Daigo sees his father, he notices that he has left only one cardboard box of belongings, despite the fact that he lived 70-odd years. Funeral workers come to get Daigo's father's corpse, but Daigo decides to personally encoffin his father. As he encoffins him, Daigo finds a "stone-letter" he had given to his father when he was little; the stone-letter was grasped in his father's hands. When Daigo is finished, he recognizes the father he remembered and cries. As his father is carried away in a coffin, Daigo presses the stone-letter to Mika's pregnant belly.
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