Sweet bean


Sweet red bean paste

Movie Data

Title: Sweet (red) bean (paste)
Original title: あん An
Published: 2015
Length: 109 minutes

Director: Naomi Kawase
Script: Naomi Kawase
Music: David Hadjadi

Kirin Kiki: Tokue
Masatoshi Nagase: Sentaro
Kyara Uchida: Wakana
Miyoko Asada: Ladenbesitzer
Etsuko Ichihara: Yoshiko
Kazue Tsunogae: Sentaros Mutter
Miki Mizuno: Wakanas Mutter


The film centres around Sentaro, a middle-aged man who runs a small dorayaki shop in the outskirts of Tokyo. The shop is frequented by locals as well as secondary-school pupils. When he puts up a notice saying that he is looking for a co-worker, he is approached by Tokue, a lady in her mid-seventies, who states that she has always wanted to work in a dorayaki shop. Sentaro initially rejects her application, afraid that the work would prove too much for the old lady who, moreover, has somewhat deformed hands. He is swayed, however, when he tries Tokue's bean paste; its taste and texture are far superior to that of the factory-made bean paste Sentaro has been using. Sentaro asks Tokue to start making bean paste with him, revealing that up until now, he did not actually like his own product.
Business begins to thrive, and very soon Tokue also starts serving customers and packaging dorayaki. However, when customers realise that the deformities to Tokue's hand were caused by leprosy, they stop coming, and Sentaro is forced to let her go. Wakana, a school girl whom Sentaro has befriended, eventually suggests that they go and visit Tokue at the sanatorium where she and other patients were forced to stay until the 1996 repeal of the 1953 Leprosy Prevention Law. Sentaro feels guilty that he was not able to protect Tokue against the prejudice of their customers, but she assures him that she is grateful for the time she was allowed to spend at the shop.
When Tokue dies of pneumonia a few months later, she leaves Sentaro her own bean paste making equipment, as well as a cassette recording intended for him and Wakana. In it, Tokue stresses that a person's worth lies not in their career, but simply in their being, and also that joy comes from taking in the sensory experiences of the world that surrounds us.
Through most of the film, Sentaro had been a man weighed down by his past. When Tokue no longer works for the shop, he sends her a letter, in which he reveals that he once seriously injured a man in a pub brawl, something he is still ashamed of. He was subsequently imprisoned and was ordered to pay a large reparation to the victim. Physically, Sentaro is tied to the dorayaki shop, which is owned by the loan shark that furnished the money for the reparation—money which Sentaro has not yet been able to pay back. Yet at the end of the film, Sentaro is seen selling dorayaki from his own stall in the local park, and it is clear he has learned to live with his circumstances.