English Title:

Forever a Woman

Original Title:


110 min.
Kinuyo Tanaka
Yumeji Tsukioka Masayuki Mori Ryoji Hayama Yoko Sugi

Kinuyo Tanaka’s third film as a director tells the story of Fumiko Nakajo, an ill-fated female tanka poet whose life was brought to a premature end by breast cancer. Set on the plains of Hokkaido, it features a fully-committed performance from star Yumeji Tsukioka, whose character deals with the pain of being separated from her son, then suddenly finds herself forced to confront her mortality, yet still invests herself wholeheartedly in one last love affair. The supporting cast includes Masayuki Mori, one of the most revered actors of Japanese cinema’s golden age, as well as Ryoji Hayama in his first film role, Yoko Sugi, and Shiro Osaka. The screenplay was penned by Sumie Tanaka, further consolidating the “films for women, by women” outlook that Kinuyo Tanaka strived to advance.

Digitally restored in 4K in 2021, based on a 35mm master positive preserved by NIKKATSU CORPORATION.
Restored by NIKKATSU CORPORATION, The Japan Foundation
Digital Restoration Services: Imagica Entertainment Media Services, Inc.


Mother-of-two Fumiko Shimojo lives in Hokkaido, and has grown weary of marriage. Her husband Shigeru has become addicted to sleeping medicine due to work problems, and is having an affair. One day, Fumiko is invited to a poetry club meeting at an acquaintance’s home and presents several of her own works, to great acclaim. Fellow poet Taku Hori, the husband of Kinuko, her old friend from girl’s school, becomes aware of the hardships Fumiko faces at home through reading her tragic poems expressing her daily life, and offers encouragement.

She succeeds in divorcing Shigeru, but is unable to gain custody of both of her children, Noboru and Aiko, and is heartbroken when Noboru is taken away to live with Shigeru. Making matters worse, Aiko goes to visit her father without telling her mother. What’s more, on the wedding day of Fumiko’s younger brother Yoshio, she happens to spot Noboru walking in town with Shigeru and his new wife, filling her with sorrow.

Not long after that, Taku’s chronic illness worsens, and he suddenly dies. Although he was her best friend’s husband, she had secretly been in love with him for many years, and his loss plunges her deeper into despair.

Fumiko takes Noboru from Shigeru’s home without him knowing, and they live together again for a brief time. However, the specter of cancer looms over Fumiko, leaving her with no choice but to undergo a mastectomy. Meanwhile, ironically, a selection of Fumiko’s poems that Taku had sent to a magazine before his death are chosen for publication, making her instantly known in literary circles as a female poet on the verge of death.

Reporter Otsuki travels from Tokyo to interview Fumiko, but she initially refuses to meet him. Eventually, she yields and agrees to see him another time, then realizes she was mistaken about his motivations: Otsuki is not waiting for her to die, but rather wants her to live. Fumiko finds herself rapidly falling in love with him, and they ultimately spend a night together. Otsuki is called back to head office the next morning, leaving Fumiko to shed lonely tears.

A few days afterward, as a music box that belonged to Taku plays a resonant melody, Fumiko passes away. Later, on the banks of a lake in early summer, her loss is mourned by Noboru and Aiko, who knew her as a mother, and Otsuki, who knew her as a woman.