Nagasaki Bura Bura


This is basically a romance story between Kago, a playboy, and Aihachi, a successful geisha. There's is a love that can't be fulfilled, however, since he is married. There are also subplots about two girls in specific that she helps, but, in my opinion, the two plots only serve to complicate the movie, not help it. They should have kept the subplot about the girl that eventually becomes her successor, and dropped the other girl from the storyline.

In addition, there's yet another subplot about gathering songs from Nagasaki. This plot is tied in to the main only eventually,but by now we have one major plot and three subplots, not counting the normal rivalries between Geishas which are also featured.

I think that, essentially, the film is a fairly good one, and some of the scenes in it are quite beautiful, but the movie suffers by an excess of subplots that detract from the film rather than enhance it.

The film is worth watching, but it isn't one of my favorites.


Summer, 1883. A man and a young girl (Aihachi) walk along, the man singing a song about Nagasaki.

The parents sold their daughter. She's going to the pleasure quarters section of Nagasaki.

Geishas performing. Afterwards the movie goes on to 1922.

There's going to be a big party.

Apparently there's some kind of feud between two groups of geishas. Apparently the uppity geisha are urban geisha, and the others are more rural in nature. The guy they are there to entertain shows up and suggests that, instead of fighting physically, they fight with their artistic skills instead.

One of the geisha is dancing. There's a lot of really neat scenes here with all the beautiful kimonos. The guy ends up throwing money around, reminding me of the scene from Spirited Away where No-Face throws gold around.

This is Aihachi grown up. Her side lost the competition.

On the way home she sees a girl selling flowers and agrees to buy them all to save the girl from being yelled at by her mother.

A sumo wrestler comes to visit. She has food fixed for them. (There is just so much going on in this film, so much to see, that I'm going to limit my scans; there's no way I can do justice to so many interesting scenes.)

They are mad at the US for the naval reduction pact that is requiring them to destroy a relatively new battleship. This is an agreement that arranged British/US/Japanese ship tonnage at a ratio of 5:5:3, effectively allowing Japan to only have 60% of the tonnage capability of the US or Britain. It's one of the early things that helped sour Japanese attitude toward the US. Although the movie doesn't mention it, this is also around the time when the anti-Japanese-immigrant movement was getting under way in the US and that didn't go over well, either.

She sings a song for the ship that is going to be destroyed the next day.

Just about next door is the playboy from earlier and the urban geishas who are entertaining him, though he's paying attention to Aihachi's singing.

She does a dance about sumo.

She goes to a spot to watch the destruction of the ship and meets the playboy who is singing a song about the ship. He has lost all his money and his house.

It turns out the playboy is Koga Jujiro, who is really a scholar after all. He says Nagasaki used to have a lot of songs until songs from Tokyo replaced them, and he wants to find the Nagasaki songs.

They have constructed ships to be a spiritual offering-type of thing to commemorate the destruction of the large ship.

Koga is cleaning some of the gravestones and writing down their inscriptions while the bankers are taking away everything he has which is of any value in their eyes. (He is married, by the way.)

He wants to record the inscriptions on the graves before they are weathered away.

Much like cultural anthropologists, they listen to an older guy sing a song and then write it down. (Recording equipment like tape recorders didn't exist at that time.) Aihachi writes the song down and then sings it herself to make sure she got it correct.

She gets told she's supposed to stop seeing Koga.

She asks her patron to set her free.

The woman on the left bought another woman's daughter for 200 yen, about $2 (although in 1922 that was probably more than that.) Aihachi doesn't want the girl to become a prostitute, so she offers to train her to sing and train her in dance.

Koga describes a song that a geisha sang for his father; it was also called Nagasaki Bura-Bura. They find the old woman and she has the words written down. It turns out to be the same song the buy was singing who had Aihachi on his shoulders when she was first taken to Nagasaki.

He knows she's attracted to him. (They have been collecting songs for two years.)

The movie then moves to 1930.

She's still teaching the girl who was sold various songs. It turns out, though, that the girl has TB.

Her brother had gone around collecting money in Aihachi's name and using it for gambling debts and drinking. She also finds out from him that she was a foundling.

A famous poet has come and wants to see her. (Aihachi is in the latter stages of her career and doesn't earn much money any more.) He wants to hear local songs. She sings “Nagasaki Bura Bura” for him.

Somehow (I assume through the poet's doing) she ends up recording the song and it's published.

Apparently she has become extremely popular with her recording.

She meets someone else she once knew. The girl she is looking for has been sent to Shanghai.

Koga's wife brings Aihachi a copy of a book he wrote on Nagasaki.

The girl with TB fully recovered, but Aihachi wants it kept a secret that she paid for the girl's hospital expenses.

The girl Aihachi wanted returned has come back from Shanghai.

This is the girl that once had TB.

In the end she doesn't go to see Koga, who has come to the place to see the other girl's debut. Aihachi has a heart attack and apparently dies.

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