The movie was "The Lightning Tree" (Raiou), which was basically the Romeo and Juliet of Edo era. It tells the story of Narimichi (Masaki Okada), the son of a Shogun (dunno which one) who disliked his life in general. His father abandoned his mother when Narimichi was still a child, leaving the poor kid bereft of paternal love. To make it worse, the kid had a habit to collapse out of the blue.
One day, when Narimichi was already a gorgeous young samurai lord, he ventured out to a village called Seta to convalesce. There, he met a rascal girl named Rai (Yu Aoi), who taught him how to laugh, dance in the rain, and basically be himself. As expected, the two youngster fell in love slowly but sure. It was a beautiful cliche, full of laughter and promises. I cannot help but hope that the two lovebirds would find their happiness in the end.
To make the story more complicated, Rai's real name was actually Yu. She was the lost daughter of the previous Seta village leader, also the little sister of Seta Sukejiro, Narimichi's attendant. Yu's 'father' was actually an assassin who was instructed to kill Yu when she was still a baby. Yet, when he was about to do that under a large gingko tree, lightning struck and split the tree in two. Riemon, the baddie, took this as a sign from God that he should not kill the baby girl. He then took the girl as his own daughter and raised her in the mountain. A sakura tree later grew from the former gingko tree - Narimichi would later name it 'Raiou', saying that it was Yu's tree.
Learning that the Shogun's son was in the village, Riemon, Yu's foster father, wanted to murder Narimichi to 'atone' for his 'sins' of not being able to kill Yu years ago. But when he wanted to slice down the young lord, Yu prevented that from happening. Narimichi escaped, leaving Riemon explaining to Yu what actually happened years ago. Riemon then left the mountain hut where he and his foster daughter had been living for years. Yu eventually returned to Seta Village and was reunited with her brothers and mother. Yu met Narimichi again, and together they shared many happy days together; riding horses, screaming and laughing in the rain, and even kissing!
By the end of the day though, Narimichi had to return to Edo. Beforehand, he gave Yu a simple but beautiful hair comb, promising that he would return again for her. Yu was happy. She waited for him patiently.
But we all know how stories like this would end. It wasn't a happy one. Back in Edo, Narimichi's father demanded that he married Lady Kiku of Kishu. I guess we can wonder why he just didn't shout, 'No way!' and stormed out of the room. But it was Edo period, where saying what you truly mean and doing what you truly desire were considered blasphemy. For all his love to Yu, Narimichi couldn't say no. He did go back to Seta to see her, and consummated their love (squeeee!!!) in her mountain hut. He changed his mind of marrying Lady Kiku and proposed to elope with Yu instead. She agreed, of course. But then some baddies attempted to kill him, and all went wrong with Yu's foster father and Narimichi's ward sacrificing themselves.
By the end of the day, Yu was left all by herself. Under Raiou, she gave Narimichi back her hair comb and left without words. Only when her mother convinced her to follow her heart did she consider to go back and fight again for him.
Oh, she fought her way back, alright. My girl, she stopped the convoy, screaming Narimichi's name out loud, and cried herself out when he didn't get out of the palanquin. Not that he wasn't said; he was in tears as well, and eventually screamed out her name too. But he couldn't go out to see her, to leave the place with her. As Sukejiro said, the palace could go and search for them, and they could kill Yu. So in the end, the palanquin left again with the young lord inside, carrying his pains with him.
It was sad, very sad. The ending was sad too, for they never got to meet again for the third time. Succumbing to illness, Naramichi died 18 years later as he hoped for the first sakura to bloom. The Lord of Kishu died holding Yu's hair comb, in Sukejiro's arms. Sukejiro would later return to Seta to return the hair comb to his sister. In the village, he met a young man who said that the eccentric woman who lived in the mountain was his mother. Dumbstruck, Sukejiro realised how similar this boy's face was to his Lord Narimichi's. The boy then led Sukejiro to Yu, who was - expectedly - standing by the Lightning Tree.
That was one lovely moment in the end.
Wait. No. That wasn't the ending scene. The ending scene was an imaginary one, with Narimichi and Yu on the horse by the sea. It was beautiful...
I don't think I will buy the DVD; too painful to see it again and again. But I can always go to YouTube and see the teasers and music video, such as this one below, to remind me of this beautiful movie.
Update 16 Sept 2012:
MAIKA (a Japanese singer) sang the Kokoro song in Raiou. She also had a cute music video with Masaki and Yu lipsynch-ing the song. Very cute! The short version is here. The longer version is here (you can click it to enlarge the screen - Masaki and Yu are so funny!). If that site is a bit slow, click this one for faster (but smaller resolution) streaming, or this one (wat tv) for even better streaming.
Update 14 Jan 2013:
I've uploaded the lyrics (Romaji and English) of 'Kokoro' by Maika here and 'Fairy' by Ohashi Torio here.
Pic 1: Poster for Raiou
Pic 2: Narimichi (Masaki Okada) and Yu (Yu Aoki) on the horse
Pic 3: The sweet kiss
Pic 4: The fight for their lives
Pic 5: the last goodbye