(C)1999 Bandai Visual, OFFICE KITANO

Japan,1999, 121 minutes

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Leading Players:
'Beat'Takeshi, Yusuke Sekiguchi, Kayoko Kishimoto, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Akaji Maro



STORY

The much awaited summer vacation has begun. But for an elementary school third-grader, Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi), there seems to be nothing to look forward to. Even the familiar route to his school seems foreign to him. His friends have all gone either to the beach or to their parents' hometowns. With the soccer class also on vacation, each day ends solely by entering the weather into his picture diary. There is nothing else to write. Masao's father died in a traffic accident soon after he was born, and his mother (Yuko Ooya) is working somewhere far away. After his grandmother (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) leaves for her usual part-time job, Masao decides to go on an adventure trip. The destination is Toyohashi City in Aichi Prefecture. It is where his mother, whom he has only seen in photographs, lives. Packing his picture diary and summer vacation homework in his knapsack and with his monthly allowance in his hand, Masao leaves home.
Kikujiro (Beat Takeshi) is a "free man." In other words, he has never had a serious job in his life. He's been fooling around since his younger days, because straight forward living doesn't seem to suit him. "Life never works the way as planned. When the wind changes, he'll have a life people would envy about." But for that he needs capital to realize it. With no such capital at hand, he lives on what his wife (Kayoko Kishimoto) makes. Dreaming of such a break, time has passed. It is by chance that Kikujiro is to accompany Masao on his odyssey to find his mother. "You don't have anything else to do except loaf around, so go with him" are his wife's words. "That woman never thinks about my schedule," thinks Kikujiro. He swallows "If you're so worried, why don't you go with him," because she gave him 50,000 yen as travelling expenses. The amount immediately gave birth to some plans in his head. For Masao, a trip alone would be discouraging, and there is no one else to rely on. Even though his face is far from being friendly and his language is bad, "Mister" may not be such a bad person after all. But soon after their departure, Masao finds himself at the bicycle race tracks. Kikujiro hits jackpot with Masao's innocent guesses. With a lump sum in his pocket, Kikujiro rejoices and has a good time, but his ambition to multiply the fortune meets with a losing streak. Not only does he lose all the money he won, he also loses most of the travelling expenses his wife gave him as well as Masao's meager allowance. Hitting the roof, Kikujiro goes for a couple of drinks, but during his absence, Masao is nearly molested by a "dangerous man" (Maro Akaji). Seeing Masao in tears brings Kikujiro to his senses. Taking the money from this pervert, Kikujiro decides to take the trip seriously. But how are they to set out at such a late hour of the night? As a starter, Kikujiro tries hitchhiking. Even though they started in the right direction, Kikujiro is not very reliable, as he ends up in a fight with a truck driver for a trifle reason or wasting time at a bus stop where the bus route must have been terminated or altered years ago. After much run-around, the two "boys" miraculously reach their destination. But when they come to the address, there is a different name place on the house. As Masao watches from a distance, a little girl and her parents come out of the house. Seeing Masao dismayed, all Kikujiro can say is "It must be a different person." Trying to cheer up Masao, Kikujiro remembers a glass angel bell he took away from a couple of Harley bikers. Giving it to Masao, "Your mother moved away, but left this for you. She wanted you to have it when you came. If you're in trouble, ring this and an angel will come to help you." Masao rings the bell, but no angel appears. "If this is how it turned out, we might as well have fun," thinks Kikujiro.
On the way back to Tokyo, Kikujiro and Masao enjoy the summer festival in one of the local towns, steals corn from the fields and eats them, and camps with the two Harley bikers and a novelist-to-be young man. In the blazing green of the summer, the group indulges in various games and other recreation, and happy time passes equally for both the child and men. Since he started the trip, a certain place had been on Kikujiro's mind. He finally decides to go there. It turns out to be an old-age home. He sees old woman is sitting apart from other women. Her face is shadowed by the same loneliness shared by Masao's mother, the loneliness of a mother who has abandoned her child. Without a word to her, Kikujiro leaves the old-age home. Summer draws to an end, and it is time for farewells. The car driven by the novelist-to-be returns to Asakusa in downtown Tokyo. As Masao is about to run off to his home, he asks "By the way, Mister, what is your name?" The man replies: "It's Kikujiro, dammit."