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When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

Criterion Collection DVD cover
Directed by Mikio Naruse
Produced by Ryuzo Kikushima
Written by Ryuzo Kikushima
Starring Hideko Takamine
Masayuki Mori
Daisuke Kato
Music by Toshiro Mayuzumi
Cinematography Masao Tamai
Editing by Eiji Ooi
Distributed by Toho
Release date(s) Japan January 15, 1960
United States June 25, 1963
Running time 111 min
Country Japan
Language Japanese

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (女が階段を上る時 Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki ?) is a 1960 Japanese drama film directed by Mikio Naruse.

Keiko, a young widow, becomes a bar hostess in Ginza to make ends meet. Now 30, she must decide whether to open her own place or get married. She struggles to maintain her independence in a male-dominated society. ' She is a widow beginning to lose her looks. She has dependents, including a feckless brother and his young son, who needs an operation. Every decision carries a financial consequence. Keiko is obliged to live luxuriously and to invest in expensive kimonos. If she sleeps with a customer, she risks losing her good name. She projects ease and grace but the audience knows how tormented she really is - they also know how much rent she has to pay and the cost of her nephew's operation.'[1]




Naruse once remarked; ' From the youngest age, I have thought that the world we live in betrays us; this thought still remains with me.'

DVD Release

In 2007, The Criterion Collection released a one disc Region 1 edition. Special features included audio commentary by Donald Richie, a new interview with Tatsuya Nakadai, the theatrical trailer and new English subtitle translation. The edition also included a booklet containing essays by Phillip Lopate, Catherine Russell, Audie Bock, and Hideko Takamine.


  1. ^ Geoffrey Macnab "Director Mikio Naruse:An overlooked master", The Independent 29 June 2007

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