Only Yesterday is two stories of one character. The present day (80s, when the film is set) life of office worker Taeko taking a vacation picking safflower in the Japanese countryside, and then the other story of her childhood, told via flashback. It's very emotional, just like Whisper of the Heart, in the way that it takes you back to childhood and somehow makes you understand these characters' lives, even though they are from another culture and time. During her vacation, Taeko feels a sense of greater belonging and develops strong attachments to the people she is living with, to the point that you know she won't want to leave and go back to the office life.
There's a lot of discussion about life in the country, in the context of 80s Japan, tackling organic farming, the history of safflower harvesting and Japan's obsession with construction. Ghibli's rural Japan is beautiful and Only Yesterday is so cleverly constructed that although I'm not Japanese, although I was born in the 80s, rather than lived in them, I still can relate to what is shown and feel such a strong sense of familiarity.
It's a story about love, coming of age, enjoying the countryside and understanding how people are different. Hugely worth watching.