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

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