The Life of Oharu

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The Life of Oharu
Directed byKenji Mizoguchi
Produced byHideo Koi
Kenji Mizoguchi
Isamu Yoshiji (executive producer)
Koi Productions
Written bySaikaku Ihara (novel)
Kenji Mizoguchi
Yoshikata Yoda
StarringKinuyo Tanaka
Tsukie Matsuura
Ichirō Sugai
Toshiro Mifune
Takashi Shimura
Music byIchirō Saitō
CinematographyYoshimi Hirano
Edited byToshio Gotō
Distributed byShintoho
Release date
  • 17 January 1952 (1952-01-17)
Running time
148 min.

The Life of Oharu (西鶴一代女, Saikaku Ichidai Onna) is a 1952 historical fiction black-and-white film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi starring Kinuyo Tanaka as Oharu, a one-time concubine of a daimyō (and mother of a later daimyō) who struggles to escape the stigma of having been forced into prostitution by her father.[1][2]

A scene from the movie showing a daimyō palace in the Edo period

The Life of Oharu is based on various stories from Ihara Saikaku's The Life of an Amorous Woman. It was produced by the Shintoho Company, with cinematography by Yoshimi Hirano and screenplay by Yoshikata Yoda. The production designer was Hiroshi Mizutani and Isamu Yoshi was the historical consultant.

It has been claimed that this movie was one of Kenji Mizoguchi's favorite projects, even though it was under-financed.[citation needed]


Toshiro Mifune as page Katsunosuke, who courted Oharu

The story opens on Oharu as an old woman in a temple flashing back through the events of her life. It begins with her love affair with a page, Katsunosuke (Toshirō Mifune), the result of which (due to their class difference) is his execution and her family's banishment. Oharu attempts suicide but fails and is sold to be the mistress of Lord Matsudaira with the hope she will bear him a son. She does, but then is sent home with minimal compensation to the dismay of her father, who has worked up quite a debt in the meantime. He sends her to be a courtesan, but there, too, she fails and is again sent home. She goes to serve the family of a woman who must hide the fact that she is bald from her husband. The woman becomes jealous of Oharu and makes her chop off her hair, but Oharu retaliates, revealing the woman's secret. She again must leave—this time she marries a fan maker who is killed shortly after during a robbery. She attempts to become a nun, but Oharu is thrown out after being caught naked with a man seeking reimbursement for an unauthorized gift (it is made clear this is rape by Oharu's claims and distraught demeanor). She is thrown out of the temple, becomes a prostitute, but fails even at that. In the end, she is recalled to the Lord's house in order to keep secret her activities and to be exiled within the compounds to keep her secrets locked away. While being scolded for the life she chose, she attempts to find her son, and in the process, ends up running away as she chooses the life of a wandering nun over the life in exile.

Cast and main characters[edit]

Oharu and fictional daimyō lord Harutaka Matsudaira (Toshiaki Konoe)
Hisako Yamane as Lady Matsudaira


The Life of Oharu won the International Prize at the 1952 Venice International Film Festival and was nominated to Golden Lion.[3] The film (include 1952 films Himitsu, Inazuma and Okaasan) won 1953 Mainichi Film Concours for best film score (Ichirō Saitō).


  1. ^ "西鶴一代女". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  2. ^ "西鶴一代女". Kinema Junpo. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  3. ^ "西鶴一代女". kotobank. Retrieved 27 December 2020.

External links[edit]