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 2,395 users  
Reviews: 16 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: What a nice fragrance. What's your perfume?
Keiko Yashiro: Black Narcissus.
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User Reviews

A Masterpiece from Naruse
8 July 2003 | by (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) – See all my reviews

Finding Naruse Mikio films has been very, very tough, and after seeing this I'd say it's a tragedy. This is among the most gorgeous dramas I've seen - a brooding and dark melodrama, shot in velvety black and white, with stunning widescreen photography.

Based upon my viewing of this and one other Naruse film (to date), I'd say that Naruse's worldview is considerably more cynical than Ozu or Mizoguchi (both of whom he seems to often draw unfavorable comparisons with, from the relatively few critics to have dug into his work) - the strength of women will be taken for granted, or abused by a hostile world regardless of shrewdness, intellect or beauty, and there is a shy jaded quality to this film that gives it an engaging intensity, that while not nearly as subtle, objective or cerebral as Ozu, IS definitely more passionate. Here, and also in the earlier LATE CHRYSANTHEMUMS, Naruse's women are idealized, heroic - symbolic in a larger sense of outsiders or rebels (of any variety) in a social milieu that values discretion and certain forms of conformity above all else.

If you can find this film, I highly recommend it - more of Naruse's work should be made available outside of Japan.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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