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Film: Kwaidan

A 1964 film directed by Masaki Kobayashi, based on the Japanese ghost stories collected and translated by Lafcadio Hearn. The spelling "kwaidan" for "ghost story" is deliberately old-fashioned; the current romanization would be "kaidan."

The film is an anthology of four unrelated stories.

  • "Black Hair": A samurai divorces his poor but honest weaver wife to marry the daughter of a prominent family and thus advance his position.
  • "The Woman of the Snow": A woodcutter encounters the yuki-onna spirit and is spared on the condition that he tell no one of his experience.
  • "Earless Ho'ichi": A blind musician who specialzes in the historical saga "The Tale of the Heike" has to make a command performance.
  • "In a Cup of Tea": An unfinished story about a samurai who sees someone else's reflection, and a possible reason the story was unfinished.

Kwaidan won a special jury prize at Cannes in 1965 and received a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination.


Tropes seen in this film include:

  • Adaptation Expansion: "Earless Ho'ichi" begins with a retelling of the final Genji-Heike battle, only alluded to in the literary version.
  • An Ice Person: The yuki-onna.
  • Bed Mate Reveal: In "Black Hair," the samurai finally returns home to his former wife, and they share a night of passion. The next morning, he awakens to find that he's lying next to a long-decayed corpse.
  • Book Ends: The man's expression as he looks at the reflection at the end of "In a Cup of Tea" echoes that of the samurai at the end of "Black Hair."
  • Forbidden Fruit: The woodcutter must tell no one of his encounter with the yuki-onna, not even his wife. Eventually, he feels compelled to do it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: "Earless Ho'ichi."
  • Gold Digger: The samurai in "Black Hair" is a male variant: he abandons his first wife to marry a woman who can give him access to more wealth and power.
  • No Ending: The samurai's story in "In a Cup of Tea.'
  • Our Ghosts Are Different
  • Our Souls Are Different: "In a Cup of Tea."
  • Prehensile Hair: The samurai in "Black Hair" is obsessed with his former wife's hair, so it shouldn't come as a shock that he sees the hair coming after him at the end of the episode.
  • Rule of Three: "In a Cup of Tea", the samurai tosses away the water when he sees the stranger's reflection twice, but the third time he drinks.

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