In feudal Japan, women are vulnerable, in need of protection, and capable of deception. Jokichi of Mikogami, a drifter, has not yet fully revenged the death of his wife and son. He searches for Kunisada Chuji, who in turn has hired the knife-throwing Windmill Kobunji to kill him. Kobunji and Jokichi meet in the winter, near Sasago Pass, when both have rescued women: Jokichi has saved the lute-playing Oyae whose clan and whose lover want her dead; Kobunji has rescued Oharu, a well-born woman married to an innkeeper. Is this rescue a whim or something deeper? And why does Jokichi become the consumptive Kobunji’s protector? What ultimately will Jokichi do about Oyae?
Tag Archives: japanese
Bakuto Kaisan-shiki / Gambler’s Farewell (1968) Kinji Fukasaku, Kôji Tsuruta, Fumio Watanabe, Tetsurô Tanba, Action, Crime
Abe ichizoku / The Abe Clan (1995) Kinji Fukasaku, Yumi Asô, Mariko Fuji, Renji Ishibashi, Drama, Action
A Choice between Loyalty or Duty of the Samurai! Can the heartlessness of society crush the honor of an individual? In the spring of the 18th year of Kanei (Feb/30/1624 – Dec/16/1644), Hosokawa Tadatoshi, feudal lord of the Higo area, died. Although Tadatoshi forbade his vassals to follow him in death before he died, they still committed seppuku one after the other. The new feudal lord, Mitsunao, Tadatoshi’s son, also gave the order forbidding seppuku. Abe Yaichiemon obeyed his former lord’s last wish but is now being called a coward by his comrades and finally decided to follow Tadatoshi in death in order to save his family’s honor. Mitsunao, upset by Yaichiemon actions, punished the Abe family unfairly. Objected to this, the Abe family shut themselves up in their manor as the lords troops moved in… This is the true story of what happened within the Hosokawa clan in early Edo era. A masterpiece by director Kinji Fukasaku that boldly depicts the struggle between humanity and the code of the Samurai.
A Woman’s Testament / Jokyo (1960) Kon Ichikawa, Yasuzô Masumura, Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Jirô Tamiya, Drama, Romance
The first story concerns an attractive young woman who works in a Tokyo nightclub. Her plan for a solid financial future has a double whammy. She is investing in a company on the one hand, and on the other, taking action to snare the son of the company’s owner in matrimonial bliss. In the second story, a beautiful young woman is employed by an unscrupulous real estate agent to convince male clients to invest in worthless property. A scrub in the tub usually does the trick. The last story is about a widowed geisha who has no real financial worries and when she falls in love with a forger, she opts to wait for him after he is sent to prison, rather than follow societal or family dictates.
Trail of Blood / Mushukunin Mikogami no Jôkichi: Kiba wa hikisaita (1972) Kazuo Ikehiro, Yoshio Harada, Atsuo Nakamura, Kayo Matsuo, Action, Drama
Can a sinful man change and find peace? It’s unlikely in gang-plagued Japan. Jokichi of Mikogami, a drifter (and hired sword), goes straight after protecting a woman in distress: they marry, have a son, and Jokichi pursues his father’s craft. After three years, the gangs he embarrassed when he saved his wife find the family and leave Jokichi in grief, vowing revenge. To parry his terrible swift sword, rival gangs join forces, hiring a prostitute to pose as a woman needing help and breaking the code of honor to double cross the drifter. He finds unlikely allies: a thief who aids him for fun and a one-eyed swordsman who may be Jokichi’s equal in skill and honor.
The Fearless Avenger / Mushukunin mikogami no jôkichi: Kawakaze ni kako wa nagareta (1972) Kazuo Ikehiro, Tôru Abe, Yoshio Harada, Akio Hasegawa, Action, Drama
Thirsting for revenge, Jokichi rashly attempts to assassinate the evil Chogoro but ends up being captured by Yakuza. His life is spared by Boss Juzaburo, in order that the harmony of an important commemoration not be further disturbed. Though now even more of an outcast, Jokichi is asked by another Yakuza boss, Umezo, to guard Oyuki, the wayward daughter of Juzaburo. The tragic consequences of this assignment will lead him into a deadly trap and a final confrontation with Chogoro.
Akira, a teacher from Tokyo, has just arrived in a small rural town to begin his new job. Soon after arriving, he meets, and begins to fall for, Miki, a papermaker and part of a large and unusual family. When he learns of an ancient legend that the family carries the curse of the Inugami, or Dog God, he brushes it off as silly superstition. After a series of mysterious deaths, however, the townspeople begin to grow restless, and Akira must confront the truth about Miki and her family.
Kwaidan (1964) Masaki Kobayashi, Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe, Art-house, Fantasy, Horror
After more than a decade of sober political dramas and socially minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted.
The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family / Todake no kyôdai (1941) Yasujirô Ozu, Mieko Takamine, Shin Saburi, Hideo Fujino, Drama
When the patriarch of the Toda family suddenly dies, his widow discovers that he has left her with nothing but debt and married children who are unwilling to support her–except for her most thoughtful son, just returned from China.
The Twilight Story / Bokutô kitan (1960) Shirô Toyoda, Fujiko Yamamoto, Hiroshi Akutagawa, Michiyo Aratama, Drama
A village girl goes to Tokyo and becomes a hooker to support her ailing mother. While there she meets an unmarried teacher (at least he says he’s unmarried) and falls in love. When she learns that he lied and is married to a woman whose child was fathered by another man, she is crushed. He returns to his wife. The woman becomes more distraught when she learns her uncle has misused the money she has sent. As the final straw, her mother dies, and the girl becomes sick.