“Sometimes I fake smiles too, and ordinary bread tastes just as good,” Rie the chef of Café Mani says when cheering up a frustrated visitor. café Mani is located in the countryside, near the shores of Lake Toya, Hokkaido. A happy couple, Rie and Nao greet visitors with fresh coffee and delicious breads. With beautiful scenery of town Chukiura, delightful people and tasty bread, travelers heal their worn-out emotions and discover their own meaning of happiness. The film Happy Happy Bread (2012), its original Japanese title Shiwase No Pan, turns the audience into visitors of café Mani, and lets them think about happiness they might have been neglecting.
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Rie and Nao were oppidans who decided to get away from fatigue and secular values, and moved to a small town near a serene lake. They named their café after Rie’s first love, Mani, a character in her favorite childhood story. In Chukiura, there are neighbors who are full of joy and give happiness to each other. There are three stories, one story per season. They all imply different lessons, but they are linked to each other in that they all guide the viewers to find happiness in their lives.
A peculiar thing about this movie is that the writer is in charge of the screen play. After publishing her book Shiwase No Pan (2012), Yukiko Mishima decided to create the story into a film. The movie was actually filmed around Lake Toya, Hokkaido. The location is the home prefecture of Oizumi, the actress who starred as Rie. Before filming, Oizumi even spent time as a baker’s apprentice to prepare for the role. Her practice probably helped a lot; the movie successfully attracts its viewers by showing several scenes of the baking process and appetizing breads.
Rie and Nao seem to live a humble but satisfactory life regardless of the season. They collect coins each time something pleasant happens, and bake delicious breads in and out of time. The life of Rie and Nao is in complete contrast with people these days, who blindly pursue secular values. As the seasons change, there are different travelers that come to visit café Mani. The lessons each story provides are as follows: “Do not neglect small happiness all around chasing big happiness,” “Be grateful for the things you have left rather than grieve for the things you have lost,” and “Never assume that you have experienced every kind of happiness and that you only have gloom left.”
The visitor of summer is Kaori, fooled by her boyfriend who promised to go on a trip to Okinawa with her. She was so devastated by the fact that she was neglected by her boyfriend because she could not satisfy his standards. With self-esteem harmed as much as it can be, Kaori thinks herself as a trifle, ordinary type of bread. Rie consoles Kaori with a piece of ordinary bread, simply commenting, “Ordinary kind of bread tastes just as good.”
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During her travel, viewers can find Kaori still regarding material happiness more important than humble life. However, after her birthday party thrown by Rie and Nao, Kaori realizes humble happiness can be as good as secular happiness. She then decides not to be busy chasing secular values and neglect happiness that comes from trivial things around her when she leaves to go back to Tokyo.
When fall came, the next visitor comes from the town, a female child named Miku. She is a young girl who is lost in sorrow, longing for her mother. At first, she is overwhelmed by her memories with her mother and does nothing to retrieve happiness. Miku then realizes that she has to let go of things that passed her away, and taking care of things that she has left is important. She then sips the soup that recalls the memory of her mother, and faces her true feelings instead of running from them. Miku finally does what she had to do in order to become happy again—face her sad memories and step forward.
There comes winter, a severe one, even in peaceful Chukiura. Plowing through the snow storm, an old couple visits café Mani. They were hopeless after a big earthquake that deprived them of their daughter and fruits of their labor of their youth. The old man makes an exceptional order, rice meal for his wife who has not eaten bread for her entire life. The striking thing was, the old lady suddenly reaches her hands out for the breads and eats them. She says that she wants to eat the bread tomorrow too, when they culminate their lives. Who would have known that a piece of bread could become a reason to continue one’s life? The old man watches this, then realizes people keep changing throughout their lives and to continue watching his beloved people is the reason to not give up his life.
Watching all their visitors discovering true happiness, Rie finally finds her Mani, her husband Nao. She discovers, just like the visitors of café Mani, her happiness right beside her. After three long seasons, long-awaited spring greets Chukiura. Warm happiness knocks the door of Rie and Nao, too, and seems to bless their future ahead. The film guides the audience, in a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere, to find happiness that is actually all around them. People who might have been neglecting happiness that is present all over, will get a chance to alter their perspective toward life.
Film Information Title: Shiwase No Pan (Happy Happy Bread in English) Genre: Drama Runtime: 114 minutes Director: Mishima Yukiko Writer: Mishima Yukiko Featured Actors: Tomoyo Harada as Rie Mizushima, Yo Oizumi as Nao Mizushima