red and white flowers under blue sky during daytime

Feels like I was a little girl, Only Yesterday(1991) #293

Another Studio Ghibli movie, that I wanted to watch from long time and happened to watch very recently is Only Yesterday(1991). Speaking of Ghibli movies, you can also check out The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

‘Only Yesterday’ is a woman-centric story written for grown-ups. The story’s main character is Taeko, a 27 year old working girl, living in Tokyo. Taeko is city-girl, who never experienced life in country-side. She decided to take a few days off and visit her elder sister and her in-laws in the rural countryside to help them in saffllower harvest.

After getting in a sleeper train to Yamagata, memories of her childhood came rushing back in her mind- one after another. Let’s talk about some of the highlights of her memories.

Eating pineapple for the first time: Taeko remembered the first time her dad got a fresh pineapple from the market. All the ladies in the house- Taeko’s grandmother, mother, two elder sisters were intrigued after seeing the fruit. None of them knew how to cut it open. As of that point, they only had it from cans… They had to wait for couple of days and finally one of her sisters figured out the way to cut the fruit. This definitely makes me nostalgic- the way all of us have become dependent on internet, it’s getting more and more difficult to comprehend how people used to function in pre-internet era!

So finally everybody gathered around the dinner table to taste the fruit. The girls were surprised to find the taste so much different from canned one. In today’s date, take any fruit on the face of the earth- somebody has definitely made an elaborate taste-testing video/blog on the internet, so all these information barely leaves any room for surprises.

Picky Eater: Growing up, Taeko was a picky eater. Her mother used to get upset every time she wasted any food. So she used to make deals with other picky eaters to minimize the food waste and manage to have their favorite foods only.

I feel for Taeko on this one- on one side I am a picky eater, on the other there is the guilt of wasting food. Thanks to my parents and elder sister who had always had my back- in weddings, lunch parties and what not.

The Period Talk: Taeko was thinking about the time all the girls were told about period. Guys so naturally became interested in knowing what the fuss was about. One girl snitched and the news spread among the boys like wild fire. Some girls were very much embarrassed of period and some were taught by their moms to not feel shy about it. Girls were allowed to skip PE classes during their period. Taeko realized that any girl skipping PE would be marked as ‘period girl’ by the boys. Even though she had fever, she didn’t want to skip PE to save herself from the teasing…

My school experience is so much different in this regard. I have studied in all-girls’ school from beginning to end of my school-life. We were never given a period talk by our teachers, in fact there was no mention about period by any teacher on any context whatsoever- ever though we had only female teachers.

Period was definitely a taboo topic even among the girls – nobody would admit when they got their first period. Looking back at those times, it feels so foolish. In college, we all used to hide period-products from guys like all the girls were on some kind of a secret mission to save/destroy the world!

Crushed by the crush: Taeko reminisced about the time a boy had a crush on her in fifth standard. How she used to blush whenever his name was mentioned. Then one fine day, the boy finally gathered enough courage to have a small talk with her and they became friends.

Struggle with maths: Mathematics wasn’t Taeko’s strongest suit. Fractions were her biggest enemies.

I wouldn’t say that I was weak at maths, however my mom had very high standards. She wouldn’t accept anything but full marks in maths. I still remember getting smacked on the face by my mom, because of a mistake in the solution on the day before my exam. (My mom wouldn’t usually use physical aggression, she was big on scolding/taunting/silent treatments.)

Being flooded by all her childhood memories Taeko reached Yamagata and met her brother-in-law’s second cousin Toshio. Taeko spent a great deal of time with him while working in the fields and lending helping hands in the harvest. One day Taeko’s niece got scolded by her mother and Taeko was telling how she was in her childhood- a spoilt brat.

The Spoilt Brat: Being the youngest of the 3 girls, Taeko had acted like a spoilt brut many times… The people who knew her only as an adult found it difficult to believe .

Yes, yes and yes. I am the second child and the title of ‘spoilt brat’ was given to me by my elder sister on multiple occasions. She might be right in few instances. In my defense, haven’t we all been there- immature, childish, wanting everything in our way?

She also remembered being disciplined by her father. Well, I was ass-whooped probably a couple of times by my father as well… Fortunately, I don’t have much memories of those days.

Taeko went to a nearby place with her niece and Toshio for site seeing and shared her memories of her brief fame in a drama.

The star of the drama: Taeko used to get very small roles in her class, one time she just got one line in her part. However she was so passionate about it that she made several versions of that line- however her teacher didn’t allow that improv. Since creative lines weren’t allowed she did it with her expression. Her brief part was loved by everyone. So much so that she got an offer for another drama from a reputed drama club- however her father was firmly against ‘show business’ and didn’t allow her to do it.

Taeko had so much plans for that drama. Later she made sure to join drama club during her high school years, however acting wasn’t her thing.

Taeko was having a great time at the country-side, even though people would often ask her to get married and settle down. One fine evening, her sister’s mother-in-law started asking about how she was liking her stay and brought up the topic of getting married to Toshio and stay back as both of them looked very compatible.

Taeko felt embarrassed from the proposal and left the house for some time. Even though she didn’t accept or reject the idea, she couldn’t stop wondering- how her life would be with Toshio…

Toshio came to pick her up and take back home.

On their way back home, Taeko remembered about a poor boy named Abe who came to her school for a short time. Everybody used avoid him for his dirty clothes and haughty attitude, Taeko used to sit next to him. On the last of his school, when he was asked to shake hands with everyone, he refused to shake hands with Taeko and went away. Taeko was still very guilty for that incident.

Toshio explained that the boy probably liked her out of all people, that’s why he didn’t want to say goodbye to her.

In all this conversations, Taeko realized how comfortable she felt around Toshio and she wanted to hold his hand that day…

The next day Taeko left for the city only to come back and start a life with Toshio in the countryside…

My final thoughts:

‘Only Yesterday’ took me back to my own childhood days. The story is from a working woman’s point of view and realistic in nature- which is very unorthodox for the time when it was released (1991).

All in all, I’d rate this movie 4.5/5… Thanks for reading, hope the movie makes you nostalgic too! 🙂

Post Author: Molten Cookie Dough

A typical Pisces person.

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