This is one of those films everyone wants to watch but most have not got round to doing it in Japan.
The film is so old that I (who is Japanese) needed to use English subtitles from time to time to understand the storyline fully. When I was watching the film, I felt like I was watching a foreign film as it is so different from modern Japan. It starts with a portrait of a good old peaceful country side in west Japan, but the dark shadow of the war creeps in...
It is a long film, and unless you are in the right mood you won't enjoy it. Set aside a rainy afternoon when you just want to curl up on a sofa with a nice drink to warm your hands to watch this one.
The main actress, Hideko Takamine, plays the heroin from her early 20s into late 40s. Imagine, this film was shot in 1954 - Takamine who was 30 years old at that time played 40-something without any help from special effects whatsoever. In one of her books, she recalls that she tried to express the age by mere her facial expressions and her posture.
Takamine is still very well and now mainly writes columns on travels, her life after retirement and cooking (her self-written biography won an equivalent of Booker Prize). She is happily married with a famous director who she met when she was filming Twenty-Four Eyes. And she is still in touch with the people who played the kids!
(P.S., Takamine passed away on the 28th December 2010. She was a fulfilled happy person until the very end)