Mt. Koya’s 1200th Anniversary Commemorative Production

Anxiety and doubt often comes into life. This is a story of me becoming an abbot at age 24, and the journey thereafter of finding my way.

Cry, laugh, and be healed –
The birth of a “monk” entertainment piece, filled with hints to our life.

Koen Shirakata, age 24. With the sudden death of his grandfather, he became an Abbot of Eifukuji, the 57th of 88 temples on the Shikoku pilgrimage route. Although he was born and raised in this temple, stepping into the Buddhist world as a monk was a much deeper experience than he had ever imagined.
At times getting excited seeing special monk tools for the first time, or meeting unique monks, while also worrying about relations with worshippers of the temple. As a monk, he observes people’s weddings and funerals, but also has to act as the “face” of the community. Through observing many people’s lives and deaths, it is a natural part of the job to ponder about the meaning of life and death. What can the rookie monk Koen do? And what messages can he convey? Through much trial and error, Koen grows bigger also as a person…

An outstanding cast and the staff from “Always - Sunset on Third Street” come together to make a film adaptation of a book about the real life experiences of an Abbot at Eifukuji Temple.

The splendid Atsushi Ito, who has played everything from serious to comedic roles, plays the main character, Koen Shirakata, who suddenly becomes an abbot at the age of 24, with conviction. He embodies the attractive Koen, who is “a monk everyone would like to have nearby”, with a warm character and great heart. The other unique cast members include Mizuki Yamamoto, Junpei Mizobata, Gaku Hamada, Miyuki Matsuda, and Issey Ogata. With each of them making flavorful performances with their characters, the touching drama is enhanced.
The original story, “Bokuwa Bousan.” is by Missei Shirakawa, who vividly chronicled his experiences as an Abbot of Eifukuji Temple. Before being made into a book, and now the long-awaited film, the story began as a serial essay which ran on Shigesato Itoi’s Website, “Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shimbun” for 7 years. The film is directed by the up-and-coming Yukinari Makabe, who has had much experience at the forefront of the industry, including as Assistant Director on “ALWAYS - Sunset on Third Street”. Be ready to laugh and cry in this heart-warming entertainment piece, which will be his feature film debut. Other staff members include director of photography, Kozo Shibasaki, who has won Japan Academy Prize for best cinematography three times, along with an array of veteran staff from the “ALWAYS” series. The beautiful sceneries of Shikoku and Mt. Koya are also one of the film’s highlights.

What is the meaning of life? What happens when we die?
Many life-teaching hints that will resonate with your heart.

“I am a Monk” shares the everyday lives of monks, who are prominent, but at the same time remain somewhat a mystery to us. Even monks have anxiety and doubts, sometimes even being disheartened. They drink alcohol and have romantic relationships. Although sometimes a bit clumsy, Koen looks out for the people around him earnestly, while trying to look for an answer to all the questions in life. There should be people who receive courage, or identify with Koen staying true to himself and living each day with care. On top of that, this film includes several Buddhist teachings which may be useful in our daily lives, such as “Your heart is too close to see. (That which is near and yet difficult to see is one’s own mind)”, “A man is not who he is by himself. He’s an empty vessel in the world. (They are not born from self or other, but from the chain of causation)”, “On Earth when things rise, we call it ‘Life.’ (To awake is named birth, to return is called death.)”
The year 2015 marks the 1200th anniversary of Grand Master Kukai, opening ground on Mt. Koya. In this special year, why not get immersed in the “monk world” and listen in on teachings which have been passed on for centuries. Those words shall lend peace to your heart, and offer hints to live our lives. By watching this film, your heart will feel lighter, and you will start to appreciate the beauties of everyday life. A touching tale which you could laugh and cry to, and perhaps become a bit more positive toward life, is born.


Original Story : Missei SHIRAKAWA
Born on 1977, in Ehime Prefecture. Missei Shirakawa is the Abbot of Eifukuji, 57th temple of the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage. He had worked at a bookstore after graduating from Koyasan University.
Following the death of his grandfather, who was then the incumbent Abbot, Shirakawa filled the vacancy and took over the position. He is a huge “Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (Almost-Daily Itoi Newspaper) [*1], and the email he once had sent to the team running the website to propose his idea to write a story about his daily life as Abbot, which turned out to be his regular-basis column for the website. As an author, he has “Kukai-san ni kiitemiyou. Kokoroga ureshikunaru 88no kotoba to idea (Let’s ask Kukai-san – 88 words and ideas that will bring you happiness) (Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co., Ltd) / 2012)”

Director : Yukinori MAKABE
Born on 1984 in Tokyo. After graduating university, he joined ROBOT. After years of serving in the CM Production Division, he was transferred to Film Direction Division.
He made his directorial debut after he studied under film director Katsuyuki MOTOHIRO during the filming of “The Bayside Shakedown”, and also under film director Takashi YAMAZAKI during the filming of “ALWAYS – Sunset of Third Street 3”, as their assistant.

Makabe’s short film “The Sun and The Moon” won Jury’s Award in the Journey Awards, a prestigious international film competition established by Kar Wai Wong and Louis Vuitton. Makabe has directed short films such as “Tokyo Sky Story”, commemorative of Tokyo Skytree’s first anniversary, and “Starry Night”, exclusively produced for Nestle Theather. He has also directed TV drama such as “The Liar and His Lover – Side Story”, and theatrical play “Martini!”.

This film marks Makabe’s feature directorial debut.