This post includes a brief plot summary, an explanation about the ending of the film Kotonoha no Niwa / The Garden Of Words (2013) and a character analysis of Takao and Yukari. Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, the 2013 Japanese anime stars Miyu Irino as Takao Akizuki and Kana Hanazawa as Yukari Yukino.
The Garden Of Words (2013) – Plot Summary
On a rainy day, 15 year-old Takao decides to skip school. The boy goes for a walk at the park. Shortly after, Takao sees a woman (Yukari) sitting at a bench and he joins her. The 27-year-old woman is also skipping work.
While observing the woman, Takao notices her “love” for beer and chocolate. The two don’t say much to each other. However, Yukari notices the boy’s uniform and recognizes the crest. She smiles and leaves the premise with a tanka (a Japanese poem) for Takao.
The two continue to meet each other but only on rainy days. After taking a closer look at Takao’s drawings, Yukari realizes the boy’s interest in shoes. At the moment, Takao is trying to make a pair of female shoes. However, he’s struggling with the measures. As a result, Yukari offers her feet as a reference. Meanwhile, the raining season ends and the two stop meeting each other at the park.
After summer break, Takao spots Yukari at school. His classmates brief him about what happened to the former literature teacher. Yukari used to teach at Takao’s school. However, a malicious group of students started to spread false rumours about her.
The constant bullying led Yukari to skip work on a regular basis. As a result, the park became a mental refuge for the teacher. Being away from school, was Yukari’s way to escape her current problems. Unable to cope with a hostile workplace, Yukari quits her job.
Upon hearing Yukari’s story from his friends, Takao confronts the group of instigators that were targeting Yukari. The boy slaps the head behind all these rumours, but ends up in a physical with the rest of the group.
After the fight, Takao heads to the park and finds Yukari there. Meanwhile, it begins to rain heavily. As a result, the two head to Yukari’s apartment and spend the afternoon together.
Takao realizes that he has feelings for Yukari. After professing his love to her, Yukari gasps for moment. However, the teacher is quick to remind the boy the reality of things. First, she’s a teacher. Second, the teacher is moving back to her home town soon.
The boy excuses himself and leaves Yukari’s apartment. Shortly after, Yukari realizes the reason behind Takao’s negative reaction. Therefore, she runs after him. At the stairwell, the boy berates at Yukari for being secretive and playing with his feelings. The teacher embraces Takao and explains how he actually saved her during their mornings at the park.
In the end, Takao continues his studies in Tokyo, while Yukari starts teaching again in her home town. During winter, Takao returns to the park. After reading a letter from Yukari, he places a pair of shoes (the ones he made for her) at the bench. Then, he states his desire to meet her again, once, he finds his own path.
The Garden Of Words (2013) – Ending Explained
What happened at the end of The Garden Of Words? What’s the meaning behind the ending scene?
When the teacher was doing a reality check on the boy, she wasn’t trying to be hard on him. You see, Yukari is a grown woman, whereas Takao is still a minor. So, when Takao professed his love to her, Yukari couldn’t do much but to brush things off. How else could she react?
As the adult in the room, the teacher couldn’t take the boy’s words too seriously. Although Yukari cares about Takao, she couldn’t reciprocate his feelings. It would not be right to do so.
WHY DID TAKAO LEAVE THE APARTMENT?
The main reason why Takao stormed out of Yukari’s apartment was his inability to deal with rejection. However, Yukari didn’t reject him, she did what it was best for both. As the adult, it wouldn’t be wise for Yukari to encourage the boy’s feelings for her. Unfortunately, Takao interpreted her reaction as indifference.
Although, Yukari did the right thing, she forgot that Takao is still a boy. In other words, the teacher should have handled Takao’s small ego in a better way. However, she quickly realizes her “mistake” and rans after him to let him know that he matters to her.
When Yukari finds Takao, the boy starts yelling at her. It’s obvious that Takao is angry at Yukari, but he doesn’t really hate her. When Takao was saying all those hurtful words to Yukari, he didn’t really mean it. The boy was angry at himself for falling in love with her.
A deep feeling of rejection led Takao to blame Yukari for everything. The boy accuses the teacher of leading him on with her secretive persona. However, does Takao have a reason to be angry? No. Although, he’s right about Yukari being secretive, she does not owe him a thing. They were both strangers at the park.
Yukari is a pretty lady. That’s not my personal opinion, Makoto Shinkai (the director) said it himself that he wanted to make the teacher beautiful and flawed at the same time. Now, let’s imagine that Yukari was a complete plain Jane. Would Takao even fancy her? Probably not.
It’s not the teacher’s fault that the boy developed feelings for her. Yukari’s beauty might explain why she became such a big target at school. It all started with some boy liking the teacher and some girl being jealous about it. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense for Takao to accuse Yukari of leading him on. That behaviour makes Takao no different from those mean girls at school.
WHY DID YUKARI CRY AT THE END?
Yukari was holding a lot inside of her. During this entire time, the teacher was lying and hiding her true feelings from everyone: her ex, her students… As a matter of fact, when Yukari was spending her days at the park, she was actually hiding from her problems.
Meeting Takao was like a breeze of fresh air for Yukari, because he didn’t know who she was. Although Yukari didn’t do anything wrong, the constant bullying drove her to the edge. The malicious rumours at school completely tarnished the teacher’s reputation.
Yukari’s meetings with Takao at the park during rainy days gave her something to look forward to. In other words, a reason to get out of bed and do something with her life. In a way, Takao saved Yukari from sinking into a darker mental state.
After their emotional encounter, Takao and Yukari part ways. The boy continues his studies in Tokyo, whereas Yukari starts teaching again in another city. Despite of living far apart, the two remain friends and exchange letters frequently.
It’s clear that Takao still has feelings for Yukari. The shoes are the proof that the boy still cares for her. It’s no coincidence that Takao places the shoes at the park where the two used to meet. During the process of making Yukari’s shoes, Takao realizes that he still has a lot to learn.
The boy is aware of the long journey ahead. Takao knows that he’ll have to work hard in order to get to where he wants to be. However, that realization does not hinder his intense desire to pursue what / who he wants. Takao wants to have a successful career, so one day, he can visit Yukari as an equal.
The Significance / Meaning Of Shoes In The Garden Of Words
The words walking and shoes appear a lot in The Garden Of Words. But what do they mean?
Walking means living. Meanwhile, shoes are a metaphor for the will to live. In The Garden Of Words, shoes help a person to walk again (to live again). That mindset was the driving force behind Takao’s desire to make a pair of shoes for Yukari. He wants her to be okay again.
Although, Yukari runs after Takao in a weird way (in their last scene), there is nothing physically wrong the teacher. Her real problem is emotional. Yukari tends to run away from her problems, instead of confronting them. She could’ve gone after the girls that were bullying her, yet to chose to quit her job.
When the teacher met Takao at the park, she had no direction in life. However, little by little she started to enjoy life again. Soon, Yukari was once again in charge of her life and making decisions about her future, such as: teaching in another city. Having said that, through her interactions with Takao, Yukari learned how to walk again.
Yukari Yukino – Character Analysis
Yukari is a young woman who is currently avoiding her workplace. She used to teach at Takao’s high school, but quit because of malicious rumours spread by a group of ill-intended students.
Although Yukari is an adult, she’s still afraid and unable to confront her bullies. In reality, she did nothing wrong, but she hides as if she did. All the stress induced by the bullying at school, led Yukari to lose her sense of taste and her will to get her life back together. In a way, she’s just as immature as Takao when it comes to dealing with her own emotions and personal problems.
At the moment, Yukari is extremely unhappy with the direction that her life has taken. On one hand, Yukari is aware that she needs to change her ways. But on the other hand, she doesn’t know how to break from her own bad habits. Day after day, she lies to her friends and drinks heavily. Yukari knows that what she’s doing is bad, yet she feels to weak and stuck to make a change.
In Takao, Yukari found a new reason to get up and walk. She liked her meetings with Takao because of the anonymity. In the beginning, they were just strangers chatting at the park, which gave a her an enormous sense of freedom. Takao didn’t judge her like the others, he didn’t know who she was.
The relationship that Yukari has with Takao is purely platonic. Although Takao accuses Yukari of playing with his feelings, she never did such thing. It’s true that Yukari was being secretive during their meetings, but she had her reasons.
Takao Akizuki – Character Analysis
Takao is a teenage boy who enjoys skipping school on rainy days. He spends most of his time alone. The boy’s mother is pretty much absent and his older brother is moving out soon.
Unlike Yukari, Takao is not scared of confronting people. When he learns about the real reason why Yukari quit, he went to look for the culprits. Although, Takao couldn’t fight them all, that didn’t stop him from trying.
Prior to meeting Yukari, no one ever really invested in Takao’s dreams. However, Takao also never told his real dreams to anyone else but Yukari. His brother is aware of his interest in shoes, but he doesn’t know how committed Takao is to the craft. Although, the boy is passionate about making shoes, he’s not very confident at it, yet.
Shoes are a big deal to Takao. He enjoys making them because he likes things that serve a purpose. In addition, the boy likes to use shoes to bring joy to other people. During a flashback, we see Takao’s mother smiling when she receives a nice pair of shoes. Having said that, he wants to do the same for Yukari. Takao wants to make a pair of shoes for Yukari so she can walk again.
By making those shoes, Takao is trying to “fix” Yukari. However, during the process, he realizes his own limitations. As a teenager, Takao is not really a child, but not yet an adult. In other words, he still has a lot to learn.
The Garden Of Words is a very intimate cinematic experience. Watching the film feels like reading someone else’s personal letters.
As the story unravels, the viewer is basically following two lonely strangers developing a real connection without knowing much about each other. Yukari and Takao don’t know each others’ names up until the moment the teacher shows up at the boy’s school.
What is The Garden Of Words about? It starts with loneliness, but then it ends, with a more hopeful message: ageing is not the same as growing up and that’s okay. A fine example of this is Yukari.
Before meeting Yukari, Takao had this idea that being an adult was the best because he thought they have it all figured out. However, Yukari proves him the completely opposite. She’s older than Takao, but she is just as lost as he is. In other words, the teacher does not have her life together and is still trying to find her path.
The Garden Of Words tries to show its audience the following: the transition to adulthood is an ever going process. There’s no magic switch. People don’t become an adult (mentally) once they hit a certain age. Life happens and people figure out things as they go.
Having said that, the world of adults is a social construct more than anything else. There are many rules trying to dictate what should one do as an adult. However, there is no guide that actually teaches people how to become adults.
Another interesting theme in The Garden Of Words is the beauty of anonymity. Takao opened up to Yukari and told a complete stranger his most intimate secret: the desire to become a shoemaker. No one else knows how serious Takao is about his secret passion: not even his mother, brother or close friends. As for Yukari, she showed Takao her least flattering facet: an adult who skips work in order to avoid her current problems.
Overall, The Garden Of Words is a beautiful film, visually and story-wise. It’s definitely one of those films that lingers in your heart. One can watch over and over again and still find new nuances.