The story follows the journey of a man travelling some 300 kilometres from Toyama City, Japan to his wife's hometown in Nagasaki Prefecture, in order to scatter her ashes into the sea. Along the way he travels through many famous locations (Osaka, the ruins of Takeda Castle, Shimonoseki City, the Kanmon Bridge, Moji-ku, Kitakyūshū, and Sasebo, Nagasaki), recalling experiences with his wife along the way. He also befriends and is assisted by numerous strangers.
Ken Takakura as Eiji Kurashima
Yuko Tanaka as Yoko, his wife
Kitano Takeshi as Sugino Teruo, van-driving Japanese literature teacher
Tadanobu Asano as cop
Tsuyoshi Kusanagi as Tamiya Yuji, food-stall cook
Kōichi Satō as "Nambara", food-stall cook and former fisherman
Haruka Ayase as Naoko Hamazaki, young waitress and Nambara's daughter
Kimiko Yo as Tamiko Hamazaki, her mother, eatery owner, and Nambara's widow/wife
Hideji Ōtaki as Ohura Goro, elderly boat owner, and estranged father of Nambara
Around the time of filming, Takakura was 80 years of age - much older than the probable working age of the prison carpentry instructor he was portraying (given that the common retirement age in Japan is usually 60). Hideji Ōtaki, who played the cranky old skipper, died a few months after the film's release.