Kurando is a retired samurai. Granted a last-second reprieve from the obligation to commit Harakiri, he decides to settle down and marry one of two kabuki actresses who helped him enjoy what he thought would be his final days.
Set on Hokkaido, the most northerly island of Japan, this film is about relations between Japanese immigrants and the indigenous Ainu. Ichitaro Kazamori is a militant Ainu, sometimes using violent methods in contrast to the more peaceful and persuasive methods favoured by DR Ike, a Japanese sympathiser and expert on Ainu culture and taking money raised by Ike and his friends for his own purposes. Also involved are Ichitaro's sister, her Japanese ex-lover, a sympathetic woman artist, Ike's Ainu ex-wife ("He loved me the same way he loved his collection of artefacts.") she explains, an Ainu who denies his ancestry and refuses to refuses to employ Ainu in his salmon fishery and his son. If it sounds very like a liberal 1950s western or a 1960s film about racialism, that isn't surprising, because it is very like them. In the end it is revealed that Kazamori is half-Japanese and the answer to the problem is miscegenation and the disappearance of the Ainu as a separate people. Hokkaido is usually depicted in winter as a snowy hell-hole (Kurosawa's version of Dostoevsky's The Idiot was set there), but here it is seen in summer and autumn and one of the most interesting aspects of the film is the widescreen portrayal of the landscape and the Ainu culture and festivals, one of which gives the film its Japanese title.
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