When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)
"Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  25 June 1963 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 2,391 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 42 critic

A middle-aged bar hostess, constantly in debt, is faced with numerous social constraints and challenges posed to her by her family, customers and friends.


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Credited cast:
Keiko Yashiro
Nobuhiko Fujisaki
Reiko Dan ...
Junko Inchihashi
Kenichi Komatsu, the manager
Daisuke Katô ...
Matsukichi Sekine
Ganjirô Nakamura ...
Eitarô Ozawa ...
Keiko Awaji ...
Jun Tatara
Yû Fujiki
Masao Oda
Ken Mitsuda
Chikako Hosokawa
Sadako Sawamura
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Toshiko Higuchi


This is the story of Mama, a.k.a. Keiko, a middle-aged bar hostess who must choose to either get married or buy a bar of her own. Her family hounds her for money, her customers for her attention, and she is continually in debt. The life of a bar hostess is examined as well as the way in which the system traps and sometimes kills those in it. Written by PastaQueen

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

bar | money | bar hostess | widow | ginza | See All (12) »




Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 June 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Perspecta Sound encoding) (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Matsukichi Sekine: [to Keiko] Would you laugh if I proposed to you?
Matsukichi Sekine: [Keiko appears uncomfortable, remains silent] I know. No need to answer. I just wanted to say it once. Pretend I never said it. Bye.
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User Reviews

A neo-realist feminist drama worth watching
23 September 2014 | by See all my reviews

This film reminded me most of Italian neo-realist films like "Umberto D" and particularly, "Nights of Cabiria," because it focuses on the struggles of average people who are perhaps on the fringes, the subject being a bar hostess. While Keiko's not exactly a prostitute, she is paid to entertain men, a lucrative but soulless career.

As she comes to grips with aging, Keiko struggles to decide between striking out on her own or giving up the business completely. While Fate naturally deals her some ups and downs, I found it to be ultimately quite a cynical story, lacking the hope of "Cabiria." Perhaps that makes it truer to life.

Regardless, there are some outstanding performances by Hideko Takamine and Tatsuya Nakadai. This is the first Naruse film I've seen, and look forward to watching more of his films. Unfortunately, they are quite difficult to get your hands on.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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