The Scent of Incense (1964)


Spanning half a century in the turbulent history of 1900s Japan, from the Russo-Japanese War to the post-World War II era, "The Scent of Incense" chronicles the complicated relationship between selfish Ikuyo and her self-sacrificing daughter, Tomoko. The Meiji era. Planning to remarry, young widow Ikuyo negotiates over the custody of her five-year-old daughter, Tomoko, an annoying inconvenience, with her mother, Tsuna. The Taisho era. After the cruel decision that defined the girl's life and years of neglect, the estranged mother and daughter reunite: Tomoko is now a young geisha, while defeated Ikuyo is a high-ranking courtesan. The pre-World War II era. In the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake, successful Tomoko embarks on a passionate affair with Ezaki, a young military cadet, only to pay a heavy price for the transgressions of Ikuyo, who considers getting married a third time, this time, with the former servant, Hachiro. The post-World War II era. Having lost everything in the Bombing of Tokyo, Tomoko is determined to persevere; however, she still seems unable to sever ties with cold Ikuyo, the mother who abandoned her daughter. —Nick Riganas
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