Set in contemporary Tokyo, “Tokyo Sonata” is a story of an ordinary Japanese family of four. The father, Ryuhei Sasaki, like any other Japanese businessman, is faithfully devoted to his work. His wife, Megumi, left on her own to manage the house, struggles to retain a bond with her oldest son in college, Takashi, and the youngest, Kenji, a sensitive boy in elementary school. From the exterior the family is seemingly normal, save for the tiny schisms that exist within.
The quiet unraveling of the family begins when Ryuhei loses his job unexpectedly. Facing completely unfamiliar circumstances, he decides not to tell his family and begins his lonely sojourn into the world of the secretly unemployed. Along with many other businessmen who save face by concealing their shameful reality from family and friends, Ryuhei begins to depart each day for work, when, in fact, he kills time in libraries and parks. His lies and torment go unnoticed by Takashi, who becomes increasingly despondent and alienated from his family, and Megumi, who can no longer summon the will to keep her family together.
Meanwhile, Kenji’s journey begins to mirror his father’s solitary plight. While Ryuhei vehemently refuses to allow Kenji to play the piano, he nevertheless finds a way to take clandestine piano lessons by using his school lunch money for lesson fees. What began as lies created as means to survive in a society increasingly unable to communicate, gradually lead the family into unforeseeable destruction.
In the hands of world famous director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, known for his thrillers and movies of suspense, this story probes the dark side of human nature and the social problems that confront contemporary Japan. Kurosawa’s portrayal of the breakdown and redemption of Japan’s “ordinary family” is every bit as gripping as his previous works.