When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)
Keiko, whom everyone calls Mama, narrates her story: she's a hostess on the Ginza, 30, a widow. She describes life's vicious cycle: acting cheerful around drunks, dressing and living well to convey confidence, needing money for these expenses and for her demanding mother and brother, and knowing she's growing older. She's of an age when she must choose: to seek marriage (difficult given her tarnished occupation), to be a kept woman, or to borrow money to buy a bar of her own. Each route has dangers, including investors demanding a return on their loans. Keiko has a quiet dignity that attracts men, but are they what they seem? Does she actually have choices?