Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Final Salute to General Norman Schwarzkopf

General Norman Schwarzkopf, the retired Four Star General & US Army Commander of Coalition Forces during Desert Storm has passed away at his home in Tampa Florida at the age of 78. Had I served during what would have been my war, he would have been my commander. None the less, we found him to be one of the most charismatic admirable generals since George S. Patton who was reputed to have had a short temper earning him the nickname "Stormin' Norman" which he detested yet liked to be known as "The Bear." Son of a West Point Graduate & Army General, Norman Schwarzkopf went on to follow his fathers footsteps and graduated from West Point following which he served with distinction in two tours in Viet Nam earning him Two Bronze Stars. He was such a larger than life figure and the right man to command what Saddam Hussein called the "Mother of all Battles," aka Desert Storm, a war he successfully concluded in three days ending in one of the most overwhelming lopsided victories in history. American Mishima Salutes General Schwarzkopf and thanks him for his service to a grateful nation. To sum up the last words, we'll leave you with this quote from his own post war autobiography It Doesn't Take A Hero: "I like to say I'm not a hero. I was lucky enough to lead a very successful war."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Life and Death of a Tea Master

Earlier this month, American Mishima reviewed the NHK Taiga Drama Gou: Himetachi no Sengoku -aka Princess Go. In that historically based drama we were introduced to the character of the real life 16th Century Tea Master Rikyu who served Oda Nobunaga and later Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Warring States Era of Japan. Intrigued by the fascinating tale of the many famous people in Gohime's life, we looked to see who else had a movies based on these figures to gather further insights. One such character, Rikyu had been the subject of such a film and through our man over at we were able to view it and share with you our findings.
The real Rikyu was known by the Buddhist name Sen no Rikyu who lived between 1522 to April 21st 1591. Having come into the service of Lord Oda Nobunaga as his Tea Master he later became Tea Master to his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi who would bring him into his inner circle and have the unique privilege to influence policy something history says he refused to do. None the less, in the unstable temper of Hideyoshi, the founder of the Chanoyu (Way of Tea) or Tea Ceremony would suffer his fate. This part of the tale was featured in Princess Go and became the subject for the 1989 film Rikyu directed by Teshigahara Hiroshi.
As we had seen before, Rikyu (Mikuni Rentaro) was a favorite of Oda Nobunaga (Matsumoto Koshiro) and other powerful warlords of the Warring States Era. The film briefly introduces us to their relationship before fast forwarding to the swift succession of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Yamazaki Tsutomu). In this film we are introduced to his wife Rikki (Mita Yoshiko) who also teaches high ranking Samurai women tea ceremony most particularly Toyotomi Hideyoshi's wife and favorite concubine Cha-cha (Yamaguchi Sayoko) who was heavily featured in Princess Go and is the subject of the 2007 Toei film Chacha Tengai no Onna.
 As Toyotomi Hideyoshi ascends to Regent his moods and erratic behavior become more unpredictable. He confides in Tea Master Rikyu and is shown how to make tea and has him attend Noh plays in which Hideyoshi himself stars in commemorating his attack on the Akechi. Hideyoshi further has Rikyu assist him at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto so Hideyoshi can make tea for the Emperor. 
While still in his favor Rikyu is given enough gold to make a golden tea room but on a whim reacts angrily over the color of tea wear. So much so he banishes Rikyu's most trusted disciple Soji to the Hojo Clan who Hideyoshi declares war on. With no hope for the Hojo's survival, Soji returns to see his master Rikyu who hopes he can restore him good favor with the Regent. 
At first the Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi is happy to see Soji return and offers him his old job back. So far so good right? But Wait for it....and watch what not to say to an erratic War Lord with a bad temper....
Soji begs to decline out of obligation to Lord Hojo. Bad move! Hideyoshi instantly flies into a violent rage and kicks Soji before ordering his immediate beheading. Nice Warlord! Not.
Soji's death made Rikyu's position more delicate. Tragically, this is only the beginning of Rikyu's troubles. 
In his solace Rikyu spends time at a local temple where is has donated considerable funds. As tradition, donors are commissioned a statue to be placed over a gate. 
The ever conniving Toyotomi Vassal we learned to hate on Princess Go Ishida Mitsunari(Bando Yasosuke) uses this otherwise non-issue to plot against Rikyu who he suspects is using his position as Tea Master to influence Hideyoshi. He conjures a convoluted a plot by Rikyu to have the statue placed above the gate so that he is always standing over Hideyoshi. 
Worse he gets word acquired by eavesdropping of his opposition to the invasion of Korea noting that it would not be as easy as avenging the Akechi who assassinated his lordship Oda Nobunaga. Ishida Mitsunari fans the flames of distrust and sets Rikyu up for a major fall.
There is more colder was to destroy a man than to meet him first as your friend. Rikyu being aware of his precarious position prepared tea for the Regent who came to see him and confide in confidence when out of nowhere the subject of the statues placement is brought up. Hideyoshi backed Rikyu into a corner as he tried to insist that he had no part in the statues commissioning or placement and denied any offense or such intent. But no doing! Hideyoshi's agenda becomes quite clear as he next confronts the tea master in the tiny tea room with the Rikyu's statement regarding the planned invasion of Korea. Not seeking to deny or admit to any wrong doing Rikyu tries to reason with the Regent stating that China is a vast foreign country and will not be as easy to defeat as the Akechi. Instantly the mere suggestion that the Akechi vengeance was by any means easy sends Hideyoshi into another rage and orders his banishment.
A simple Buddhist Disciple and master of the Tea Ceremony has just been accused of treason for having his own honest opinion. Ishida Mitsunari ensures that Rikyu's statue is confiscated and disfigured before publicly hung like a common criminal. Under confinement, Rikyu knows the end is near yet his wife Rikki appeals to Hideyoshi's wife and concubine turned wife Chacha historically known as Lady Yodo who is now the mother of the Toyotomi heir Hideyori. Her letters reach Chacha but is also read by Hideyoshi who rejects her appeals to save the humble tea master accused of arrogance and treasonous corruption. 
History is not clear why Hideyoshi did this but while Chacha watched the Regent play with his son & heir Rikyu was led away to be forced to commit Hari-Kari. It is said that a year after Rikyu's death that Hideyoshi regretted his treatment of Rikyu. Toyotomi Hideyoshi would be dead five years later. A dark and tragic end to a simple tea master. When writing about such historically based films there should be no surprises to any student of Japanese history. As said in Rikyu by Hideyoshi as is said so coldly in many films of that era: This is the Warring States Era. Actions tragic as they may and difficult for us to understand in the Heisei Era, these were the lives of such people where only the powerful survived. We at American Mishima recommend Rikyu in large part because it offers a different window into the life of this remarkable man and added facets of his life who is still honored today.

We hope you enjoyed this article. It has been our pleasure at American Mishima to continue to write this blog. We hope to offer you many more articles and possible publications in the coming Year of the Snake. Please continue to support American Mishima. ども ありがとうございます!

To get a copy of RIKYU-REMASTERED with English Subtitles please visit

一日の画像 - Picture of the Day

Wishing Emperor Akihito a Happy 79th Birthday!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Seasons Greetings from American Mishima

May you all have a wonderful and safe holiday season onegaishimasu!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

大河ドラマ American Mishima looks at Princess Go of the Warring States Period

When it comes to historical dramas, nobody compares to NHK Taiga Dramas. To sit through and watch some 46+ hours of drama takes time and alot of effort that we at American Mishima must make in order to write articles such as these to share with you the remarkable world of NHK Taiga Dramas. Thanks to our man Eddie over at JapaneseSamuraiDVD we were able to watch the 2011 50th NHK Taiga Drama Go: Hime-Tachi no Sengoku shown here as Princess Go. Go: Hime-Tachi no Sengoku (The Princess of the Warring States) tells the story of a most remarkable outspoken princess named Oeyo or Ogo who really lived during the height of the Sengoku Jidai – The Warring States Period of Japan from 1573 to September 1626. The series is narrated by Go-hime's mother Lady Ichi (Honami Suzuki) who was the sister of the powerful warlord Oda Nobunaga (Etsushi Toyokawa) who sent Lady Ichi to marry into the Azai Clan to marry Azai Nagamasa to serve as Oda Nobunaga's eyes and ears. 
But of course, just as our own everyday lives today in the Heisei Period, life then too had other plans. Lady Ichi and Nagamasa fall in love and have two daughters born Cha-Cha and Hatsu. But soon their idealyc life is disrupted by war. The Azai are drawn into obligation to support the Asakura Clan whom the Azai have had deep alliances with who are now at war with the powerful Oda Clan. Having chosen to honor the Asakura, Nagamasa finds himself under seige by the Oda's vassals the Toyotomi which during this time Lady Ichi gives birth to Princess Go.
Go is born into this world during the siege of Odami Castle. Her father Azai Nagamasa having defied Oda Nobunaga is defeated by Oda's trusted general Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Goro Kishitani) and sends Lady Ichi and her three daughters Cha-cha (Miyazawa Rie), Hatsu (Mizukawa Asami), & infant Go whose lives have been spared to go live with their uncle Oda Nobunaga. Princess Go (Juri Uneo) will grow to be an outspoken princess who unlike her older sisters bears no malice towards her uncle Oda Nobunaga who she grew to admire and it is her Uncle Nobunaga himself who gives her his advice “To only believe in yourself,” a motto she will grow to live by. 
Through her uncle Nobunaga, Go is given access to some of the most powerful warlords of the Warring States Period. But when her uncle Oda Nobunaga is betrayed by his vassal Akechi Mistuhide (Masachika Ichimura) during the Honno-ji Incident in 1582, Go's world is uprooted once again by the man Oda Nobunaga named “Saru” or monkey known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi because of his monkey like mannerisms.
Under the rule of the Toyotomi, Lady Ichi and her three daughters are sent away to marry Oda's trusted rough looking yet stout General Katsui “Oni” Shibata (played by Yasuo Daichi),” Life in Echigo is harsh in the cold winters of Kitanoshō castle but in the short time Go learns to accept her new step father.
 As soon life became bearable, the battle for who would succeed Oda Nobunaga places Shibata at war with “Saru” Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Once again Lady Ichi and her three daughters are trapped in a castle under siege by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the very man her uncle sent to destroy her father Nagamasa. And just like before, the call to spare Lady Ichi and her three daughters is given quarter. But having fallen in love with Shibata, Lady Ichi refuses to go and instead chooses to make her last stand with her second husband Shibata entrusting eldest daughter Cha-cha to take care of her siblings and for middle daughter Hatsu to bring Go and Cha-cha together. This was her final wish before Lady Ichi joined Shibata in the burning confines of their castle and perished together. 
The loss of Lady Ichi devastates the three sisters and disgusts them to be in “Saru's” care to whom knowing he had lusted after Lady Ichi and now turned that lust to her eldest daughter Cha-Cha to whom on her death Lady Ichi warns Saru not to lay his hands on her. Of course, Saru ignores their sufferings and tries to buy the three grieving sisters off with beautiful kimono and the luxuries only a precious few outside of Kyoto would know at that time. While sister Hatsu has easily accepted Saru's gifts of sweets and colorful new Kimono, Cha-Cha and Go resist. More so Go's anger is unleashed on Saru who see's in her the face of his angry Lord Nobunaga to whom he still feared even in death.
To rid himself of Nobunaga's ghost he sends Go who is still a teenager to marry Saji Kazunari but the marriage is short lived as Toyotomi changes his mind after 30 days ordering her divorced and back to Osaka Castle. 
Having endured much at the hands of Saru, Go seeks the solace of the famed great tea master Rikyu a favorite of Oda Nobunaga who is now forced to make tea for Hideyoshi until death. 
But as Toyotomi's schemes become more despicable it becomes apparent to Go he has been getting help from his trusted Toyotomi Vassal Ishida Mitsunari (played by Masato Hagiwara) who plots against Rikyu who is later forced to commit seppeku. 
For this Go will never forgive Hideyoshi who plans to marry her off again to his nephew Toyotomi Hidekatsu who oddly enough is a match made in heaven. Anything to keep the ghost of Nobunaga at bay so Saru can get his monkey paws on Cha-cha right? 
Well after failing to attain the position of Shogun, Toyotomi goes for the position of Regent in a move to control Japan. Lustful intent for Cha-Cha and unlimited power corrupts Hideyoshi to wage war in Korea and once again sends Go's husband away causing her pain. 
Hidekatsu fights a dreadful war in Korea and dies in there shortly after Go gives birth to her daughter Sada. This is yet another instance that Go will hold Toyotomi Hideyoshi for. Meanwhile, Go's sister Hatsu has fallen in love but can not marry without Saru's permission. Hideyoshi's terms is to force Cha-Cha to become his concubine. 
Still like that Toyotomi Hideyoshi? This is yet another unforgivable attempt by Hideyoshi to destroy Go. Seeing Hatsu happy Cha-cha sacrifices herself to become Lady Yodo and doing what her mother Lady Ichi objected to. Go becomes even more infuriated with Hideyoshi who she still calls by her uncle Oda Nobunaga's demeaning moniker for Toyotomi Hideyoshi: Saru. 
No matter what Saru does, he can not get past Go's anger and the memory of his old Lord who he still see's in her eyes. In a move to rid himself of this problem, Hideyoshi arranges with Tokugawa Ieyasu for Go to marry his son Hidetada (played by Osamu Mukai) who is six years her junior and is heir to the Tokugawa family. An age difference that Hidetada is more than happy to remind her of. 
But before Go is to depart for Edo Mitsunari prompts Hideyoshi to order Go's daughter Sada to stay behind at Osaka Castle because she is a Toyotomi. This brings more hardship to Go at the hands of her parents harbinger of death Toyotomi Hideyoshi is is now old and eccentricly doting on his son with Lady Yodo Toyotomi Hideyori who Hideyoshi instills as Regent and himself as Grand Regent. Remember these events really did happen!
At this point you can't wait for Toyotomi Hideyoshi to kick the bucket and for his conniving henchmen and trusted Toyotomi Vassal Ishida Mitsunari to make a fatal mistake and get what was coming to him. But not so fast! Old Saru had much chaos to inflict upon Lady Ichi's daughters before he left his life which will carry on way past his death to the battle of Sekigahara and through to the Seige of Osaka Castle that will seal the fate of his heir Hideyori and his mother Go's sister Lady Yodo with the destruction of the Toyotomi Clan!
Honestly, I don't how Princess Go survived all this! The ladies of the Warring States Period had to have been some tough women as such indicated by the advice of their mother Lady Ichi when she said "Women must fight their own battles." Meanwhile in Edo Castle both Go and Hidetada face new challenges as they both rise to prominence to survive the political positioning between the powerful Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the emerging power of Ieyasu Tokugawa (Kitaoji Kin'ya) which is solidified after Toyotomi Hideyoshi's death and culminated at the Battle of Sekigahara paving the way for Ieyasu to become the future Shogun in this 2011 50th NHK Taiga Drama brilliantly written by Tabuchi Kumiko who brought you Atsuhime.
Ok if you're not hooked by now there's nothing more I can do but say get your own copy and write your own review! Baka! - Just kidding. Of course we'd like to continue following American Mishima and continue to enjoy these riveting historical dramas from Japan. In America we like to say these aren't your grandma's soap operas but if you are lucky enough to have had an Obachan chances are these are just as good. As with all NHK Taiga Drama's you will be both educated as well as entertained. It may even change your veiw on a few historical figures as this has with us concerning Lord Oda Nobunaga. If you have never seen a Taiga Drama you will become addicted and want more. We can honestly say, Princess Go does not disappoint and has become one of our favorites which we believe will become yours too. Enjoy!
To get your own copy of Princess Go with English Subtitles 
Please visit - You'll be glad you did!

Monday, December 10, 2012

145 Years - Remembering Sakamoto Ryoma

December 10th marks the 145th anniversary of the assassination of the  visionary Samurai-Statesman Sakamoto Ryoma of Tosa. He was  indisputably the architect and founding father of modern Japan. He is immortalized in books, films, NHK Taiga Dramas (such as the recent Atsuhime & Ryomaden), and in bronze statues throughout Japan. What a different Japan would be had he not sought to kill Katsu Kaishu and by chance listened to what he had to say that opened his eyes and made Ryoma his disciple who inspired by the United States envisioned a new Japan where people were equal. Through Katsu Kaishu he realized in order for Japan to survive it had to modernize but to do that he needed to unite the various clans seeking to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate to work for this new Japan. He assassinated by members of the pro-shogunate Mimawarigumi at the age of 33 on his birthday at the Omiya Inn in Kyoto with Nakaoka Shintaro. He is still beloved by many in Japan 145 years after his untimely tragic death and will continue to live on in both popular culture and the hearts of many for generations to come.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

仏教 LA Koyasan Buddhist Temple Welcomes New Sensei!

よこそ! Two nights ago, the Los Angeles Koyasan Buddhist Temple welcomed new head minister Kanai Sensei from Japan. He will be presiding over the Koyasan Tenmple in Little Tokyo which has lacked a head minister for the last two years. Kanai Sensei will be assisted by the current residing ministers Higashi Sensei & Kaku Sensei and will resume morning family services as well as the major services including the monthly Goma Fire Ritual. If visiting for end of year service or Shogatsu aka New Years service, please make Kanai Sensei feel welcome おねがいします. We're sure he will appreciate it. ども ありがとう ございます.

Friday, December 7, 2012

サムライ映画, A Real Officer and a Movie Part III - Hanjiro

In continuing with our series inspired by The Military Channel's “An Officer and a Movie,” we would like to introduce to you another Real Officer and a Movie. While many of the great Samurai films we have featured take place during the Sengoku Jidai – The Warring States Period or the Boshin War, little has been made of The Satsuma Rebellion which was the basis for the Tom Cruise movie “The Last Samurai.” Some will say there is Hollywood and then there is History. When it comes to Japanese History, we at American Mishima could not argue more.So let us introduce you to our featured Officer Kirino Toshiaki aka Nakamura Hanjiro who is the subject of our feature 2010's Hanjiro starring Tataaki Enkoki as who recently appeared as Takeda in the Sakuradamon Incident but for Samurai fans best remembered as Kagetora in 1990's Samurai Epic Heaven & Earth. 
Kirino who was born in Kagoshima December 1838, was a low ranking Samurai from Satsuma whose lethal Ko-Ji-Gen-Ryu sword style distinguished him as one of the four Bakumatsu Shidai Hitokiri or man slayers who were considered to be undetectable during the Boshin War. His most famous action was against the retreating Shinsengumi during the Battle Toba-Fushimi in 1868. Near the end of the Boshin War he rose to become a senior commander of the Satsuma forces battling the remaining Tokugawa Loyalists and it is Kirino who accepted the Lord of Aizu Matsudaira Katamori's surrender at Wakamatsu Castle. At the conclusion of the Boshin War Kirino became an officer in the newly formed Japanese Imperial Army and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. But life wasn't so happy in the New Meiji Era for those who fought for Satsuma. The loss of stipends and Samurai Privilege led former Satsuma Commander and then current commander of the Army Saigo Takamori to resign his commission and return to Satsuma. Feeling this sense of dissatisfaction with the New Meiji Government and their policies governed by former Satsuma Samurai Okubo Toshimichi, Kirino joined with other officers to follow Saigo Takamori back to Satsuma where they would form private military academies teaching the Chinese Classics such as Confucius but also military hardware and tactics. This of course did not sit well with Okubo Toshimichi who dispatched government troops to Kagoshima which had all but declared itself a free state. From the outset, the valiant Satsuma Samurai fought with antiquated rifles and cannon against the better armed professional army of the New Meiji Government. Unlike in the last Samurai there were no Americans present. This was strictly a Japanese affair only with western uniforms and deadly Gatling Guns. On September 24th, 1877 Kirino was killed along with Saigo Takamori in the last battle ending the Satsuma Rebellion. He was left with a wife Hisa who lived on well until the Taisho Era in 1920.

And now to 2010's Hanjiro. The film is set in the Satsuma Domain 1862 present day Kagoshima, Japan. A lone upstart sweet potato farmer named Nakamura Hanjiro (brilliantly played by Tataaki Enoki) seeks an audience with the Satsuma Domain military Commander Saigo Takamori (played by Tanaka Seiji) to present him with the gift of sweet potatoes. With Saigo seated, Nakamura becomes intimidated as Okubo Toshimichi joins Takamori to see his skills he had obviously came to demonstrate to curry favor. Before Saigo can say anything a subordinate laughs at the notion of sweet potatoes which not only embarrasses the gracious host but offends Saigo to force him to apologize to Nakamura pointing out that sweet potatoes are hard to grow so best show some appreciation for this humble gesture. Humble or not, Nakamura's ulterior motive was indeed to be given the opportunity to demonstrate his sword skills in hopes that he could be made a Samurai. Impressed by both his skill and utter audacity, Saigo grants his wish and sends him to Kyoto to join other Satsuma Samurai in their quest to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate. 

Nakamura quickly distinguishes himself with his lethal sword skills defeating scores of pro-Shogunate Shinsengumi forces and quickly rises to become a senior commander for the Satsuma forces ultimately rising to the rank of general in the new Japanese Imperial Army. But years following the end of the Boshin War that toppled the Tokugawa Shogunate, Saigo Takamori is unhappy with the policies of New Meiji Government and at odds with his fellow Satsuma Samurai turned politician friend Okubo Toshimichi. Saigo quietly resigns his post as military commander and returns to Satsuma. Philosophically united, Nakamura Hanjiro joins with other officers and resigns from the army to go join Saigo Takamori in Satsuma where they formed private military academies. The fever to rise up runs ramped among the young Satsuma Samurai who seize weapons and munitions from the New Meiji Government. Despite warnings from his friend, Kirino takes command as the passive Saigo Takamori gives little support to what becomes a doomed rebellion. This does not go unnoticed by Okubo Toshimichi who dispatches the army to restore order in what would become The Satsuma Rebellion. 
As any student of Japanese History knows, this does not go well for Satsuma. In each battle they are overwhelmed by government forces in their failed attempt to revolt against a government for the second time in the span of a decade. 
Directed by Igarashi Sho and also featuring J-pop idol Akira, 2010's Hanjiro is the first real film to cover the tragic events that led up to and ultimately became the Satsuma Rebellion at length since Kenji Misumi's 1974's remastered classic The Last Samurai which featured legendary actor Ken Ogata as Hanjiro the Slayer. This is the real story of Nakamura Hanjiro and the real Last Samurai of Japan. Please Enjoy!
 Please Enjoy!

To get your copy of Hanjiro or any other great Samurai Films with English Subtitles please visit our man Eddie at Japanese Samurai DVD

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

サムライ映画, The Floating Castle to Screen in Hollywood.

The 2011 film Nobo no Shiro-aka The Floating Castle will be part of this years LA EigaFest at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater on Sunday December 16th. Originally slated for release for September 17th, 2011, this film had to be postponed in part due to the Tohoku Disaster one scene had to be considered for sensibilities. Nani? You see this film is set in 1590 during the Sengoku Jidai - The Warring States Period where Toyotomi Hideyoshi has all but unified Japan but one remote castle had yet to submit his authority. It is at Oshi Castle that the last holdouts comprised of one self depreciating lord and 500 Samurai whose respect he has yet to earn must muster the courage to defy Hideyoshi's right hand man and uber henchman Ishida Mitsunari and his 20,000 Samurai poised to assault Oishi Castle. This is perfect timing for us being that we are at Episode 36 of Princess Go where we see the demise of Hideyoshi and Ishida Mitsunari so as you can imagine we'll have fun rooting against them. We originally saw Nakadai Tatsuya's Kiru there during a similar Samurai film fest years ago and enjoyed seeing Samurai in a real theater. Billed as part Samurai Drama and part Slapstick Comedy complete with English Subtitles, this should be worth this rare opportunity to see a newly release Samurai film on the big screen. Please enjoy!
To find tickets and information about other films please visit LA EigaFest.