Death of a Tea Master / Sen no Rikyu: Honkakubo ibun (1989)

Among the many mysteries of Japanese culture, the tea ceremony remains arguably the least comprehensible to outsiders. Though similar rituals began in China and continue to be observed in some form in China and Korea, the Japanese seem to have taken it to an extreme, converting the brewing and drinking of a cup of tea … Continue reading Death of a Tea Master / Sen no Rikyu: Honkakubo ibun (1989)

One-Eyed, One-Armed Swordsman / Tange Sazen: Zankoku no kawa (1963)

In 1962, Ryutaro Otomo made the last of his popular Tange Sazen films, but it was hardly the last screen appearance of the character. In 1963, Shochiku decided to try a new version with Tetsuro Tanba. Reflecting some of the sixties zeitgeist that was spreading throughout the chanbara as a whole, Zankoku no kawa is … Continue reading One-Eyed, One-Armed Swordsman / Tange Sazen: Zankoku no kawa (1963)

Swords of Vengeance / The Fall of Ako Castle / Ako-jo danzetsu (1978)

There have been so many Chushingura movies that it is very difficult to keep them apart in your mind, and equally tempting not to add another to the list of viewings of the all-too-familiar story. However, the name of Kinji Fukasaku on the credits finally persuaded me to watch Fall of Ako Castle, which turns … Continue reading Swords of Vengeance / The Fall of Ako Castle / Ako-jo danzetsu (1978)

Yagyu Clan Conspiracy / Shogun’s Samurai/ Yagyu ichizoku no inbô (1978)

After 15 years of modern-dress yakuza related movies, in 1978 Kinji Fukasaku suddenly turned to Japanese historical dramas, with a version of the Chusingura story and Yagyu Clan Conspiracy. The brutal realism and kinetic energy of his yakuza films had revived and redirected an entire genre, but Yagyu Conspiracy looks like the work of a … Continue reading Yagyu Clan Conspiracy / Shogun’s Samurai/ Yagyu ichizoku no inbô (1978)

Shinsengumi: Assassins of Honor / Shinsengumi (1969)

Throughout the 1960s, the decade after the Americans arrived became a popular topic in Japanese historical movies, as we have seen in numerous earlier posts on this blog. That interest came to some kind of peak in 1969, with Toshiro Mifune’s production of Shisengumi, in which he portrayed the group’s most significant and charismatic leader, … Continue reading Shinsengumi: Assassins of Honor / Shinsengumi (1969)