Adapted into both a television miniseries and a feature film, this story offers fresh and warm-hearted portrayals of connections between people even as it addresses such difficult themes as the death of a spouse, infertility, and infidelity.
Retiree Ryohei Atsuta lives on the outskirts of Nagoya with his wife Otomi. Having always relied on Otomi to take care of all their domestic needs, he is helpless around the house without her. One morning when he leaves to go fishing, he forgets to take the lunch she has prepared for him. He returns to find Otomi dead of a heart attack, and his lunch still sitting on the table where she had placed it that morning. He spends the days after her funeral as if only half alive, assailed by regrets and sapped of the will or energy to do anything.
Ryohei’s daughter Yuriko lives with her husband in Tokyo. In spite of seeking medical help for infertility, they remain childless. In the days following Otomi’s funeral, Yuriko learns that her husband has long been carrying on an affair with another woman, and that the woman has now become pregnant. When her husband says he’s unwilling to choose between the two women, she returns to her father’s house leaving signed divorce papers behind.
That same day, an eccentric-looking 19-year-old woman with bright yellow hair named Imoto appears at the house saying Otomi had asked her to help Ryohei and Yuriko out in the event something happened to her. She tells the two about a collection of “Recipes for Life” that Otomi has left behind, and says she will stay to help out around the house until the 49th day after Otomi’s death?that being the day when Buddhist tradition holds that the soul of the deceased attains full release. She also calls in a Japanese-Brazilian friend named Haru to help with any heavier lifting that’s needed, bringing them to a household of four.
Otomi’s recipes for Yuriko include recipes for meals and beauty tips; for Ryohei, instructions for simple housecleaning tasks and health tips. Also in her writings is a request that they hold a rousing party on the 49th day, instead of the traditional memorial service. At first, Ryohei and Yuriko balk at this suggestion, but they ultimately decide to honor Otomi’s wishes. In the course of preparing for the party, they both have occasion to reflect on their past and gradually come to terms with the present. When the day comes, relatives arriving for the observances initially object to the unconventional preparations that have been made, but soon they, too, are caught up in the spirit of things as they recall times spent with Otomi and reflect on who she was and the life she led. The party becomes a congenial, happy, and moving celebration of her life.