Miss Hokusai (Sarusuberi)

“Miss Hokusai” refers to O-Ei, one of the daughters of famed ukiyo-e artist Tetsuzo Hokusai during Japan’s Edo period and an artist in her own right. Though the movie is primarily about their artistic escapades, one subplot involves the younger blind daughter, O-Nao. The elder Hokusai has essentially abandoned her to a convent out of his fear of illness and disease, but O-Ei visits her regularly to take her out on walks to Ry?goku Bridge. O-Ei often describes the world for O-Nae, relying on her composition skills to provide a complete picture, and bringing O-Nae’s hand to touch various objects so she can have a sensory experience.

In one memorable scene, a village boy realizes that O-Nao cannot see him, and after pondering how to handle the situation, engages her in shaking snow off tree branches. O-Ei keeps a watchful eye on them both, wary of this unknown boy teasing her sister, but ultimately decides not to intervene. O-Nao thoroughly enjoys playing with the boy, but eventually falls (or perhaps passes out) face first into the snow.

O-Nao eventually sickens to the point that O-Ei persuades her father to finally make a visit. Reminded of his love for his daughter, Tetsuzo even paints her a protective Daruma deity. In her final hours, a feverish O-Nao ventures alone from the family home and makes her way through the streets of Edo all the way to her father’s studio. The two aren’t there to witness her arrival, but a strong gust of wind coming from inside the studio implies that she has been taken up by a dragon upon her death.


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