Call Me Chihiro Ending Explained – who was Chihiro?

February 24, 2023
Lori C. 2
Ending Explained, Film, Netflix, Streaming Service

We discuss the ending of the 2023 Netflix movie Call Me Chihiro, which will contain spoilers.

The first scene of Call Me Chihiro introduces Chihiro (Kasumi Arimura) on her hands and knees, chatting with a cat. We then watch her engage in flirty banter with a customer at the bento shop she works at. Chihiro used to be a sex worker and, in the present, seems to have gathered quite a few male fans who patronize the food stall to see her. Throughout the runtime, we see Chihiro meet and interact with various people in the small seaside community she inhabits while also getting brief snippets of her past. 

Among the people Chihiro meets is an old homeless man she starts giving lunch to (Keiichi Suzuki), a high school student named Kuniko (Hana Toyoshima) whose authoritarian father rules the family with an iron fist, a young boy raised by a single mother who works nights and rarely has time to care for him, and Tae (Jun Fubuki) – the blind co-owner of the bento shop. She also reconnects with her trans friend from the massage parlor, Basil, and her former employer, Utsumi (Lily Franky), who has since quit the sex work business and now runs a fish store. 

Call Me Chihiro Ending Explained

By the end of the movie, most of the people around Chihiro also found each other and became friends. Kuniko and Makoto share dinner with the boy’s mother, who seems to have come around and is willing to spend more time with her son, while Utsumi and Basil start dating. 

What’s Chihiro’s real name?

When Tae goes missing from the hospital, her husband is initially concerned. But then we find out that Chihiro used her real name, Aya, to visit the blind woman in the hospital. The two just went for a drive and had a meaningful conversation followed by a heartfelt hug. Chihiro was the name of a woman she had met and bonded with as a little girl, and she chose it as an alias for her sex worker persona. During the conversation with Tae, our protagonist acknowledges her mother’s death and admits to feeling nothing about her passing. 

Meanwhile, Chihiro’s former employer tells Basil about the day he first meets our protagonist. She came to him looking for work at the massage parlor with old, ill-fitting shoes, which made him feel sorry for her. 

Chihiro can’t settle down

In the present, Chihiro attends a barbecue party with Tae, her husband, and all the other characters she met along the way. It seems they’ve all come together thanks to her. But before the end of the party, Chihiro quietly walks away from her new life and all her new friends. She had one last conversation with Tae. The older woman warns her that regardless of how often she runs, she’ll never be able to outrun her loneliness. Nevertheless, Chihiro doesn’t stay. 

Several days later, the two bento shop owners discuss how much they miss Chihiro’s presence. Tae wants to know what compelled her husband to hire the young woman in the first place. And he recalls watching her gratefully enjoy the meal he offered her during the interview. 

In the final scene, we see Chihiro starting over somewhere new. Now she’s working as a farmhand. But when her new boss asks about her previous employment, instead of saying she used to be a sex worker, she only mentions having worked at a bento shop. 

What did you think of the ending of the 2023 Netflix film Call Me Chihiro? Comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Call Me Chihiro Ending Explained – who was Chihiro?

  • February 26, 2023 at 12:09 am

    A great ending meaning that she cannot be pinned down or ,so to speak, put in a box. She lives in the moment.

  • February 26, 2023 at 6:44 pm

    I think the ending demonstrates she’s working through a process. She eventually wants a clean start, but without the emotional risk of proximity to people who knew where she came from. By the end she’s fully left her original life behind, and taken only the barest bit of her most recent life. She’s also come a bit closer to having delt with the loss of her mom. It gives the feeling she will eventually “find her place”, but not quite yet.

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