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Sandakan No. 8

Sandakan No. 8

is a 1974 Japanese film directed by Kei Kumai. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Plot

A young female journalist Keiko Mitani (Komaki Kurihara) is researching an article on the history of Japanese women who were sex slaves in Asian brothels during the early 20th century. She locates Osaki (Kinuyo Tanaka), an elderly woman who lives with a number of cats in a shack in a remote village. Osaki agrees to tell her life story, and the film goes into flashback to the early 1920s. A young Osaki (Yoko Takashi) is sold by her poverty-stricken family into indentured servitude as a maid in Sandakan, British North Borneo (today’s Sabah, Malaysia) at what she believes to be a hotel. At parting, Osaki's distraught and tragic mother gives her a kimono that she has woven by hand over the night before her daughter's departure. The kimono will be Osaki's most treasured possession forever. The establishment is actually a brothel called Sandakan No. 8. Osaki, who is sold as a young girl, works for two years as a maid, but is forced by the brothel’s owners to become a prostitute. Osaki stays at Sandakan 8 until World War II, and in that period she never experiences genuine affection outside of a brief romance with a poor farmer who abandons her when he comes one evening to the brothel and sees the disheveled and exhausted Osaki after an onslaught of service to a battalion of Japanese sailors recently docked at the town. When Osaki returns to Japan, her brother and his wife, who have bought a house with the money she sent them, tell her that she has become an embarrassment.