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You wouldn’t think that bringing up the struggle of caring for a parent with severe dementia would be an effective sales technique, but sushi chain Gin no Sara has decided to go that route with this touching spot about what Alzheimer’s patients do remember.

I’m not sure if it will increase sushi sales, but boxes of tissues will definitely be flying off the shelves.

The commercial starts with a family sitting around the dinner table eating sushi and making small talk. Suddenly, the grandmother gets up to leave.

Grandma: Well, I should get home.
Father: This is your home.
Grandma: I’m sorry, who are you?
Father: I’m Satoshi. I’m your son.

We then see the grandmother, distraught and disheveled, banging on the door of a hospital in the middle of the night. She’s confused about where she is. The father and son gently try to take her home, though she doesn’t recognize them and screams for them to let her go.

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Cut back to the previous scene where the grandmother seems to remember her child, but then calls him Mr. Tanaka and speaking as if to a stranger, returns to her seat. The family looks uncomfortable. Satoshi reaches for a piece of sushi, when suddenly…

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…his mother grabs his hand, stopping him from taking a piece of toro.

Grandma: Could you please leave that for Satoshi, for my son Satoshi? He really loves toro. Even when we didn’t have much money, I worked hard to be able to at least give him some toro. But, that kid, his health is really not that great. You know, if he grows up to be healthy, I don’t need anything else in this life.

Meanwhile, we see flashbacks of Satoshi’s childhood with his mother, him eating toro and goofing around, his drawing of them playing on the playground together, and her carrying him on her back to the hospital in the middle of the night.

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For the first time, the grandson pipes up.

Grandson: Satoshi’s going to grow up healthy, you know. He’s so kind and strong, I just know it.
Grandma: You think so?! That would make me so happy!

In another flashback, we see the grandmother and Satoshi playing together.

Satoshi: What would you do if I died?
Mother: Well, I’d just have to give birth to you all over again.

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Back at the table, the grandmother smiles and pulls a piece of paper out of her pocket. It’s the playground drawing we saw before, creased and tattered from age.

The spot closes with an overhead shot of the dinner table and the tagline When a family gathers around, they’re stronger, a pun on the shape of the traditional sushi trays.

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If you’ve ever spent time with a person suffering with dementia, you’ll know that their memory works in weird ways, and while their view of the present is sometimes confused, their recollections of events long ago can be crystal clear. As this commercial shows, these memories can be a way to still connect with them.

I’m not sure that the commercial will sell raw fish, but I think it is a brave choice and a sweet portrayal of an everyday family drama that is playing out more and more in aging Japan.

H/T: Grapee
Video and images: NiceCM