The Garden of Words (2013)
A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
Takao, who dreams of becoming a shoemaker, skips school and is sketching shoes in a garden in the middle of Tokyo. He meets a mysterious woman, Yukino, who is older than him. Then, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days.
This short film follows Takao Akizuki, a 15 year old amateur shoe-maker who often skips classes to practice. With an unsupportive and broken family, he tends to visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden when it rains for the peace it provides as well as a place to make his shoes in solitude. One rainy day he comes across a mysterious 27-year-old woman named Yukino. Both looking for a friend, they wind up unconsciously wanting to meet on rainy mornings, and it soon becomes a tradition between the two. While Takao is skipping his classes to design shoes, Yukino is also avoiding work due to deep personal problems. When Takao learns Yukino's identity, the two grow closer and both learn that they have been teaching each other "how to walk". Shinaki perfectly demonstrates feelings of longing and sadness, with just a glimmer of hope in this melancholic masterpiece.
- The Garden of Words is considered a romance and drama film. It opens at the start of the rainy season in Tokyo with Takao Akizuki ( Akizuki Takao?), a 15-year-old student and aspiring shoemaker, opting to skip his first class and sketch shoe designs in the garden at Shinjuku Gyoen. There he encounters Yukari Yukino, a 27-year-old woman who is skipping work and enjoying beer and chocolate. When she notices the school crest on his uniform, Yukino bids him farewell with a tanka (a form of Japanese poetry), leaving Takao puzzled as to its origin and meaning. The two continue to encounter each other and socialize in the park on rainy mornings, but never formally introduce themselves. After Yukino expresses an interest in Takao's shoemaking, he decides to make a pair of shoes in her size. With the end of the rainy season, Takao stops visiting the park and focuses on his work.
[A faint clap of thunder, Clouded skies, Perhaps rain will come. If so, will you stay here with me?] Yukino in The Garden of Words
Following summer break, Takao returns to school and spots Yukino. His friends inform him that she is a literature teacher and that she had been the target of gossip and bullying. Out of kindness and to avoid further confrontation, Yukino opted to avoid work and retreat to the park, hoping she would learn to overcome her fears and be able to "walk" again. However, Yukino quits her job and leaves the school. That afternoon, Takao meets Yukino at the park and greets her by reciting the 2,514th poem from the Man'ysh Japanese poetry collection, the correct response to her tanka, which he found in a classic Japanese literature textbook. After getting soaked by a sudden thunderstorm, both head to Yukino's apartment and spend the afternoon together. When Takao confesses his love following dinner, Yukino is visibly moved, but then reminds him that she is a teacher and tells him that she is moving back to her hometown on Shikoku. After Takao abruptly excuses himself, Yukino realizes her mistake and runs after him, finding him in the stairwell. Still upset, Takao angrily takes back what he had said and criticizes her for being so secretive and never opening up to him. Yukino embraces him and the two cry while she explains that their time together in the park had saved her.
[A faint clap of thunder, Even if rain comes or not, I will stay here, Together with you.] Takao in The Garden of Words
The credits show Takao barely passing his final exams, but still working towards his goals, while Yukino moves back to Shikoku and resumes her teaching career. In a post-credits scene, Takao revisits the park that winter, reads a letter from Yukino, places her finished shoes on the bench and then vows that he will go find her after he has made progress with his career. In the manga illustrated by Midori Motohashi, scenes were either added or slightly modified from the anime version. For example, after the conclusion of the rainy season, Takao was unable to visit the park during the only rainy morning that summer because he had scheduled to visit the footwear college he wanted to attend, disappointing Yukino who had hoped to see him in the park. Also, at the conclusion of the story, Yukino is seen wearing the shoes Takao had made for her.