The main character is Daigo Kobayashi. He is a cellist. When his orchestra is dissolved, he decides that he is not talented enough to continue his career as a professional musician. Because they cannot afford to live in Tokyo, he tells his wife Mika that they will move back to his hometown. Mika supports Daigo wholeheartedly, but she is upset to learn that he had recently bought a high-priced cello without first talking with her.
Finding work is difficult for Daigo because he has no skills besides playing his cello. He reads a newspaper ad for an agent who assists with departures. No experience necessary. Daigo thinks that it may be a job with a travel agency so he applies. It turns out that the ad had a few misspellings. The job is for an "encoffinment" assistant who dresses the deceased before they are put into their coffins. This funeral ceremony is performed before a dead person's family and friends. Although disgusted at the thought of the job, Daigo takes it because the salary is too high for him to refuse. But, Daigo does not tell the wife what he does.
In this movie, departures refer to many things—the recently deceased, of course, and to how loved ones react to the recently departed. It is also about people who abandon their family, as Daigo's father did when he was six years old. Then there is the leaving Daigo takes from his beloved job to one that seems out of the norm to his wife and others. To top off Daigo's troubles, he is unable to communicate his feelings except through his cello, and later through the solemn, graceful, and moving steps he performs in his new job.
Departures is a loving tale of truth that no review or summary can describe or explain. You just have to see it. Trust me.