Takata Gou-ichi (played by Takakura Ken) takes the train from his quiet Japanese fishing village to Tokyo following a telephone call from his daughter-in-law, Rie (played by Terajima Shinobu). Takata has been told by Rie that his son, Ken-ichi (played by Nakai Kiichi) is seriously ill, and asking for his father whom he has not seen for many years.
But when he arrives, Takata finds that Rie has not been entirely truthful in her vain attempt to heal the painful rift that had long existed between father and son. Ken-ichi has been hospitalized, but still refuses to see his father.
Crushed, the old man quietly leaves, with Rie handing him a videotape before his departure. Rie hopes that the tape, shot by Ken-ichi, will help him get to know his son again.
Takata learns that his son is studying a form of Chinese performance folk art, featuring mask-wearing actors. Ken-ichi had travelled all the way to Lijiang to see the famous actor Li Jiamin (played by Li Jiamin) perform this Chinese folk singing, but the actor was ill and unable to sing. Li had promised to sing the legendary play, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles for Ken-ichi if he returned the following year.
Hoping to bridge the gap between he and his son, Takata sets off for China, despite not being able to speak Mandarin and his lack musical knowledge, to find Li Jiamin in order to videotape his performance for his dying son. Unfortunately, Takata finds that Li has been imprisoned, and videotaping his performance seems to be an impossible task. But Takata's determination moves the prison warden, who eventually allows him the freedom to film.
However, Li also has a complicated father-son relationship since he has an 8-year-old illegitimate son, whom he has never met.
Source: China.com(China Daily)