Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday feels a bit underexposed compared to more popular Ghibli movies in the west, but it stands out in Ghibli’s trademark environmentalism due to a synthesis between psychological and ecological recovery. Its plot revolves around the 27 year-old unmarried woman Taeko, who takes a holiday from her busy office work in busy Tokyo. To the surprise of her friends, she chooses to voluntarily work on an organic safflower farm run by distant relatives. Her connection to this more authentic line of work reflects on her experienced lack of authentic life choices throughout her childhood and adolescence.
Taeko’s family want her to marry wealthy and support a providing husband, having obstructed her own creative ambitions throughout her youth. Living under the financial constraints of modern life, Taeko desperately seeks the balance in life between sufficient provision and her liberation from a predetermined path. The organic farm life provides a metaphorical outcome for her predicament, while also winning Taeko over in its own right. Hence, Only Yesterday synthesizes the ecological objective for sustainable, organic farming with the individual’s mental well-being (cf. Hecht 2015).