Japanese Modernism Across Media

The Unmarried Woman and the Widow

Noriko might be the most predominant heroine in Ozu’s post-war films. He used the name Noriko in several films and pictured a life story of this character and her relationship with her family. In Late Spring, Noriko is the unmarried daughter of the widowed professor who wants to live with her father instead of getting married. In Tokyo Story, Noriko is the widow of the second son in the family. She does not have any relationship with the family by blood, but she still holds respect to her husband's parents while other relatives avoiding their responsibilities of taking care of their parents. The character Noriko lies in the dichotomy between an independent modern woman and a traditional Japanese woman following the social expectation of a “good wife, wise mother” of the family.[1]

In these proclaimed films, Ozu playfully put his characters as victims of his pillow shots and low angle shots. These shots offer profound meanings not only to the visual aesthetics but also to the characters. 

[1] Dina Lowy, The Japanese "new Woman": Images of Gender and Modernity (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 2.

Late Spring Storyline

Noriko (Setsuko Hara) is the only child of professor Shukichi Somiya (Chishu Ryu). Noriko’s mother passed away and she takes full charge of caring her father. On a shopping trip to Tokyo, Noriko encounters one of her father's friends, the widowed professor Jo Onodera (Masao Mishima) who remarried recently. Noriko thinks Onodera’s remarriage is distasteful, even “filthy”.

Shukichi's sister, Aunt Masa (Haruko Sugimura) and Noriko’s divorced friend Aya (Yumeji Tsukioka) convinces Noriko to get married, but Noriko seems satisfied about her life. She expresses her willing of living with her father and taking care of him.

Undaunted, Masa pressures Noriko to meet with a young man named Satake. Noriko declines, explaining that she doesn't wish to marry anyone. Masa pushes Noriko saying that she is trying to arrange a match between Shukichi and Mrs. Miwa (Kuniko Miyake), an attractive young widow known to Noriko. If Masa succeeds, Noriko would have no excuse.

At a Noh performance, Mrs. Miwa meets Noriko’s father. When her father later tries to talk her into going to meet Satake, he tells her that he intends to marry Mrs. Miwa. At last, Noriko consents to the arranged marriage. 


Tokyo Story Trailer

The Unmarried Woman and the Widow