A black-and-white photo of a Japanese girl in a low-cut gown, looked anxiously off to one side

A Hole of My Own Making (Jibun no ana no nakade; 自分の穴の中で), 1955

Alternative titles: In My Hole (alternate English title); Chacun dans sa coquille [Each in his shell] (alternate French title); Önhibámból [Through my own fault] (alternate Hungarian title)

Production CompanyNikkatsu
ScenaristYagi Yasutarō
SourceIshikawa Tatsuzō (novel)
ProducerIwai Kaneo
CinematographerMine Shigeyoshi
Art Director Kimura Takeo
MusicAkutagawa Yasushi
EditingTsujii Mananori
PerformersTsukioka Yumeji (Shiga Nobuko); Mikuni Rentarō (Dr. Ihara Shonosuke); Kitahara Mie (Shiga Tamiko, Nobuko’s stepdaughter); Uno Jūkichi (Komatsu Tetsutaro); Kaneko Nobuo (Shiga Junjiro, Tamiko’s brother); Tone Harue (Keiko, Junjiro’s wife)
PhotographyBlack and White
English SubtitlesYes
Original Release DateSeptember 28, 1955
Length125 minutes
Awards and festival / retrospective screeningsBBC online poll “The 100 greatest foreign-language [i.e. non-English] films” (2018): voted #2 by Saito Atsuko (Japanese film critic); Tokyo FILMeX (2004); BFI (London, 2007); Jeonju [South Korea] International Film Festival [no date]; MOMA retrospective (New York, 2016)


In a hillside cave, a man wearing boots lies motionless in the dark. Passers-by, fearing that the man is dead, surround the entrance, with no one daring to investigate until a policeman is called in. Suddenly, the legs of the “corpse” move, and the policeman orders the man to step out of the cave. He is Komatsu Tetsutaro, an employee of a company that manufactures machine guns. On a hiking trip, he’d gone into the cave near a U.S. air base to escape the rain, and had fallen asleep there. Although he was not authorized to be in the cave, the policeman lets him go.

Komatsu goes to a bar in Tokyo, where he meets his friend, Dr. Ihara Shonosuke, a biological research scientist. Ihara is telling one of several women at his table that he has no intention of marrying again because, after his wife left him, he no longer trusts women. Later, walking away from the bar, Komatsu calls Ihara out on his lies, and the doctor admits that he was just saying what he thought would most likely get the woman to whom he was talking to sleep with him. Ihara asks Komatsu if he will be marrying the young Shiga Tamiko, the orphaned daughter of a “real gentleman” they had both known. Komatsu tells the doctor that he, Ihara, would be Tamiko’s more likely suitor.

At the Shiga family home, Nobuko invites Tamiko to share tea with her. They discuss a memorial service for her father to which Nobuko wants to invite both Komatsu and Dr. Ihara, but Tamiko doesn’t wish to invite either man. Nobuko talks about Tamiko’s future wedding and praises Komatsu as a good man, but Tamiko informs Nobuko that she has resolved to stay single all her life.

Tamiko reports this conversation to her brother Junjiro, a bedridden invalid. He shares with her his belief that their stepmother is in love with the handsome Ihara, which Tamiko finds scandalous. He guesses that Tamiko is in love with Ihara herself, and she doesn’t deny this. Her brother advises her to allow their stepmother to invite both men to the ceremony, in part to gauge Nobuko’s reaction. Junjiro admits that he still thinks about Keiko, the wife who left him years ago, and whom Tamiko hates. His broker arrives to consult with him: Junjiro has invested much of his considerable fortune in the stock market.

After the memorial service, Nobuko informs Komatsu that he was the man her late husband wanted Tamiko to marry, but that everything depends upon whether he will act upon this knowledge. In the car on the way back, Ihara, with Komatsu present, asks Tamiko about her own marriage plans. When Tamiko calls him “one of the front runners” among her potential suitors, Ihara says he’s “not qualified” to marry her, but claims that he’s been in love with her for seven years. When she tells him that she thinks her stepmother is in love with him, he admits that Nobuko is “an outstanding woman.”

Ihara sends Nobuko a letter in which he asks her to meet him at a music recital so they can discuss Tamiko’s marriage plans discreetly. After the concert, over drinks in the Ginza, Ihara admits that he is not attracted to Tamiko, claiming that he is far more attracted to a mature woman such as her, an admission which startles her. She answers that he seems to be looking for any widow in her forties, not her in particular. He suddenly grasps her hand in his, but she stabs his hand with his own lit cigarette. He is surprised, but says that, until his hand wound heals, he will constantly think of her.

A letter arrives from Tamiko’s aunt in Kyoto, informing her that a buyer will soon be purchasing the family’s land – their last remaining asset. Nobuko suggests to Tamiko that she go to Kyoto herself to handle the transaction, which she initially refuses. Tamiko informs her stepmother that she knows about her meeting in the Ginza with Ihara. Nobuko admits to the meeting, and reveals that its purpose was to discuss a possible marriage for Tamiko. The latter becomes angry that her stepmother discussed with Ihara her marriage plans without consulting her first. She suddenly agrees to go to Kyoto after all.

Tamiko calls Ihara and asks to meet with him. She invites him to accompany her on the train trip to Kyoto, but he says that he has surgery scheduled and could not return in time if he went with her. She then requests that he accompany her only as far as Yokohama. Later, on the train, Ihara informs her that Komatsu has just lost his munitions job: Pentagon contracts have adversely affected business in Japan. As the train pulls into Yokohama, he takes her hand to say goodbye, but she will not let go of it.

Later, at a hotel in Yokohama, Ihara tries to embrace her, but she only wants to know why he met with her stepmother. He lies that he did so only to ask Nobuko what she, Tamiko, thought of him. He asks Tamiko to marry him; she in turn asks if he expects to be promoted to hospital chief. She then insists that he stop meeting with her stepmother. He embraces Tamiko and she tells him to stop, but doesn’t resist.

During his wanderings, Komatsu relates in a letter to Junjiro how the US and the UK are trying to corner the Japanese oil market. On the train trip returning to Tokyo, he coincidentally meets Tamiko, who appears to regard him favorably, despite his unemployment.

Ihara arrives for dinner at the Shiga household at Junjiro’s invitation. Junjiro asks Ihara why he will not marry Tamiko, and he falsely claims it is because she doesn’t trust him. Ihara also claims that he has lost interest in younger women, and is more interested in mature women, giving Nobuko as an example – though she’s present in the room. She half-jokingly threatens to poison him. Before Ihara leaves the house, Ihara rudely touches her, and the humiliated Nobuko looks at him bitterly as he goes.

At the same Tokyo bar as in the earlier scene, Ihara is relaxing with his lady friends and Komatsu, who’s just returned from his trip. Ihara relates to them all the story of how, on the train ride to Yokohama, as he was about to depart, Tamiko wouldn’t let go of his hand. He then reveals that they went to a hotel together, jokingly claiming that Tamiko “kidnapped” him.

Komatsu accuses his friend of cowardice, but Ihara insists that Tamiko seduced him rather than the other way round, and as men and women now have equal rights under democracy, he has no obligation whatsoever to her. The drunken Komatsu accuses Ihara of having cynically used Tamiko and begins beating him, to the astonishment of Ihara and the women. The taller and more powerful doctor knocks Komatsu to the barroom floor. The bar’s employees separate the two men and escort Komatsu out of the building.

A few minutes later, Komatsu returns to apologize to his dumbfounded friend. He adds that he, Komatsu, has no right to criticize him, but that they shouldn’t see each other anymore. The doctor asks him to leave and he does so, with Ihara making a dismissive gesture as he goes.

Back in Tokyo, her brother tells Tamiko that Ihara had visited them while she was gone. He criticizes the doctor for going too far, as he was flirting with Nobuko right in front of him. When Tamiko asks how her stepmother reacted, he replies, wrongly, that she was secretly pleased. Tamiko decides to withhold her stepmother’s share of the Kyoto land money from her. Junjiro asks if she’s prepared for a “confrontation,” as the law requires that Nobuko receive a third of all their late father’s assets, but Tamiko refuses to yield.

When Nobuko asks about the land money, Tamiko is evasive. Both Tamiko and Junjiro refuse her demand to hand over the proceeds from the sale to her. Tamiko accuses her stepmother of having slept with Ihara on the night of their dinner in the Ginza. Nobuko then realizes that Tamiko herself has slept with Ihara, and she doesn’t deny it. Tamiko calls her “as unsettling presence” in the siblings’ lives. Nobuko points out that she worked very hard to bring them up, and that she had never tried to interfere in their lives. She warns Tamiko that Ihara isn’t a good man and advises her to forget him, but the angry young woman runs out of the room.

Ihara agrees to meet with Tamiko at Shimbashi Station. Later, back home in the kitchen, Tamiko hands her stepmother a letter she received from him addressed to her, Nobuko. The older woman puts the letter in her pocket without opening it. Tamiko asks why she won’t read the letter in front of her, and Nobuko points out that she is still, after all, her mother and the young woman has no right to talk to her that way. Tamiko replies that she no longer wants to be considered her child, and Nobuko agrees to drop the pretense that they are parent and child. Tamiko demands that Nobuko read the letter in front of her, but Nobuko tears up the letter, unopened, and burns the pieces in the fire on the stove.

In her brother’s room, Tamiko tells him that she’s had enough of Nobuko and suggests that they pay her to get rid of her. Junjiro replies that he would prefer to be rid of her without paying anything. The young woman decides to go to her uncle’s chalet the next day.

The following evening, Tamiko is with Ihara in her bedroom in the chalet. She says that she invited him there to talk, but he clearly only wants sex. She asks if he ever intended to marry her, but he deflects the question. When she inquires what was in the letter to Nobuko, he smiles and replies, “It was a love letter.” (It’s not clear whether he’s joking.) She finally realizes that he was only using her, but he claims she only wished to marry him to be a prominent doctor’s wife, so she’d never lack for money and lovers. Infuriated, she demands that he leave and he does so, after wishing her happiness.

Komatsu pays a visit to Junjiro and reveals that he’ll be going to Kyushu soon to start a new job. Nobuko wonders if she’ll ever see him again. He reassures her that he’ll be coming home on holidays, but she replies that she herself will soon be leaving forever, as she’s no longer wanted.

Outside the house, Komatsu meets Tamiko, who’s returned from the chalet. They go to his apartment, where she finds his bags all packed for his journey to Kyushu. Tamiko suggests that she might ask her uncle to find him a job in Tokyo so that he wouldn’t have to go so far away, implying that she’s now interested in him romantically. However, he refuses the offer of a job, adding that though he had long wanted to marry her, it was an “unattainable dream,” and he now prefers to be alone. When he suggests that Ihara would make a better husband for her, she says she’ll never see the doctor again. She asks Komatsu to escort her home, and he does so.

When Tamiko gets home, Nobuko tells the siblings that she’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, adding that their actions have made any other decision impossible. Nobuko also reveals that she will consult an attorney about the land money.

Keiko, Junjiro’s ex-wife, suddenly appears at the door, much to Tamiko’s shock. She enters his room and, apologizing for having been out of touch for so long, expresses sympathy for his illness. He, still madly in love with her, reaches out to touch her, but she leaves the room. Keiko asks Tamiko if she can stay overnight and even use the bath, although Tamiko clearly doesn’t want her there. Keiko implies that she can’t go home for unspecified reasons.

Returning to Junjiro’s room, Tamiko finds him trying to rise out of bed to go to his ex-wife. Finally, he seems to calm down and Tamiko leaves the room to go to bed. However, while the women are asleep, he falls out of his bed onto the floor, and then crawls and walks until he reaches Keiko’s room, where he collapses. Tamiko drags the unconscious Junjiro back to his room.

The following morning, Junjiro’s health has taken a turn for the worse. Keiko answers a phone call and is relieved that the man on the other end (who is never seen) is all right. Keiko hurriedly departs, and Nobuko in the front yard finds a photo of his ex-wife that her stepson had angrily thrown out the window.

Nobuko returns to Junjiro’s room and offers to postpone her departure to the following day to help Tamiko take care of him, but Tamiko refuses her help. As Nobuko prepares to leave forever, she leaves the care of the household to Toki, the maid, but the latter tells her she’d rather go home, and the older woman doesn’t try to stop her. Nobuko’s taxi arrives and she departs.

Back in Junjiro’s room, he confesses to his sister that he has lost all their money (and Nobuko’s) from the sale of their land in the stock market, and then mortgaged the house to try to win it back, and lost that money as well. Their entire fortune and property are thus entirely gone. Infuriated, she calls him irresponsible and leaves the room. Alone in his bed – without stepmother, maidservant or sister to help him – he suffers a final attack and dies.

At Junjiro’s funeral, Ihara arrives to pay his respects, much to Tamiko’s embarrassment. When Tamiko’s uncle asks him how his work is going, the doctor reveals that he’s about to leave for America to publish his research, and observes that Japan has now become like an American colony. When Ihara excuses himself to catch his plane, Tamiko’s aunt insists that Tamiko see him off out of politeness.

Out in the courtyard together, Ihara observes to Tamiko that she looks good in mourning, and she replies that she wishes his ex-wife were in mourning instead. Ihara, laughing, points out that if his ex-wife were in mourning, he himself would be dead. She doesn’t answer this remark, but silently turns round to return to the funeral ceremony. Unperturbed, the doctor enters a taxi with yet another woman waiting, and departs for the airport.

Returning to the house, Tamiko makes a bonfire in the yard in which she burns various items, including the House of Shiga funeral notice, as American jets roar overhead.

(Continued on page 2)


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