Just a half century ago, though, the country was brought to its knees after becoming the first - and only - country to ever be attacked with nuclear weapons. While the pundits continue to debate whether the two atomic bombs used to end World War II were truly necessary, the fact remains that they were used because policymakers in the West believed that the Japanese people would defend their homeland to the last Japanese citizen, resulting in perhaps millions more casualties than those experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This spirit of defending the homeland to the death was the proximate result of the bushido spirit engendered throughout Japanese society by the samurai tradition that had such a profound impact on the country's culture over the years. Other aspects of Japanese culture were also shown to have been influenced by the samurai, including arts and theatre, as well as the popular press.
Works… [Read More]
This film is distinguished from the average samurai film by the director's "masterful handling of cinematic technique," in which he captures the essence of a scene in a mere few moments with a series of glances rather than dialogue and special effects.
Moreover, Kurosawa creates a moral complexity of good and evil, creating sympathy for both the samurai and the farmers, and although the samurai are portrayed as heroic while the farmers are weak, he "also points out that heroic deeds are not always performed for noble reasons, and that there are different kinds of heroism." Kurosawa creates a "delicate juxtaposition between the samurais' graceful art of combat and the barbaric reality of war."
At the end, Kambei, the leader of this small group of samurai, realizes that the farmers, although weak, are the lucky ones, for they are at one with nature, "participating in the timeless ritual of life, death, and rebirth, symbolized by the communal rice planting," something which the samurai cannot participate. The farmers have roots, a community of family and friends who grow their own food and raise their families, "all of which are intergenerational, cyclical activities," while the samurai are rootless, destined to wander from one battle to the next.
This movie is surprisingly stunning, a visual masterpiece. The use of light and shadow creates a beautiful film that is comparable to any of Hollywood's great black and white movies from the 1930's and 1940's, such as "Citizen Kane" and "How Green Was My Valley." Ironically, it was Hollywood who imitated Kurosawa's film by remaking it into the 1960's John Sturges classic, "The Magnificent Seven." Kurosawa has created a timeless piece that will be remain as one of the great films in cinema history. The DVD contains the full-length version, 208 minutes, of the film, along with commentary by Michael Jeck. "Seven Samurai" is a classic film that will continue to influence film-makers everywhere.
Works… [Read More]
The war is driven by the modern military which has abandoned its warrior ethic and now fights with guns -- a theme repeated in The Last Samurai. Again Funakoshi represents this position. He tells the Japanese military captain, "Who I challenge to Kung Fu and what I do is no business of the military. . . . I am not a politician." The distinction between colonial imperialism and true warrior ethic is pronounced. The military captain is disappointed in Akutagawa's failure to destroy the rival sect, and kills him, although he has the true spirit of the Samurai about honest fights and honor. The military leader can only say, "To best serve the Japanese emperor, you'd better forget what is right or wrong." This highlights the contrast between new imperialist might, technology, and economic power and the old warrior system.
The symbolic struggle between national identities is epitomized in the division within the Jing Wu Men in two ways. The first breach is in the search for whoever poisoned the master. Chen Zhen breaks with filial piety and respect when he disinters the master and performs an autopsy on him. They find evidence that he was poisoned, and they come to think it was an inside job. This is unsettling for the group. The cook is under suspicion. Chen Zhen shows his influence by telling the cook, "If your food killed Master, we would all be dead by now." He further takes it upon himself to instruct the others without permission, teaching them the Japanese side-kick under the glare of Ting'en. Thus, Chen Zhen becomes a rival to Ting-en for the group's leadership. This is an important rift. It comes to represent two ways to approach the dilemma -- conflict or reconciliation. It is not until Chen Zhen's lover is found to be Japanese that tensions escalate. It casts suspicion on Chen Zhen's group and ethnic loyalties. Ting'en demands that he leave her or leave the group. This shows an obvious bias against the…… [Read More]
Nutrition, Rituals, Spirituality, And Health Care Practices of the Samurai Culture, As Depicted Within the Movie The Last Samurai
According to Tom Stovall and Dustin Granger, "The ancient Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi wrote in his "Book of Five Rings,": "It will be difficult for you to succeed unless you look at things on a large scale'" (PharmaCafe). Similarly, within the movie The Last Samurai (2003), director Edward Zwick shows various ways in which the Japanese Samurai of the late 19th century looked at and holistically practice nutrition; prayer, war, and death rituals; spirituality, and health care practices, all on a scale with nature. These holistic practices, in turn, promoted the Samurai's own inner harmony: mentally, physically, and spiritually. For example, The Last Samurai depicted various nutritional practices, prayer, pre-war, death and other rituals; attitudes about spirituality and the meaning of life, and medicinal philosophies and practices within the Samurai culture. All of these were always natural, profound, and in harmony with the external forces of nature. Several of these practices of the Samurai came into focus within the film, after the capture, by the Samurai, of Captain Nathan Ahlgren.
The first of these natural practices that became apparent were the healing and recovery practices of the Samurai from war. Within the film, women, and one woman in particular, the widow of the Samurai killed in battle by Nathan Ahlgren, took responsibility for tending to Ahlgren's battle wounds and recovery. She was shown sewing stitches in his shoulder, apparently with only the aid of some sort of balm or ointment. Interestingly, Ahlgren seemed not to be at all in pain during this procedure. In terms of pain sick roles, the role of the healer is to promote natural healing. The role of the healing individual is to endure what pain and suffering are necessary, in order to be restored, in a natural way, to purity of physical and mental health. There were no shortcuts, anesthesia, or "quick fixes" of any kind within the Samurai healing process: one must endure pain and suffering, i.e., feel one's sickness, in order to truly become healed or cured, that is, feel one's wellness.
The woman who cared for Ahlgren when he first came to live with the Samurai also would not give in to Ahlgren's alcoholic requests for more and more sake (Japanese wine made from rice) once she realized he…… [Read More]
movie industry in America has been controlled by some of the monolithic companies which not only provided a place for making the movies, but also made the movies themselves and then distributed it throughout the entire country. These are movie companies and their entire image revolved around the number of participants of their films. People who wanted to see the movies being made had to go to the "studios" in order to see them. They made movies in a profitable manner for the sake of the studios, but placed the entire industry under their control and dominated over it. The discussion here is about some of those famous studios inclusive of that of names like Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Culver, RKO, Paramount Studios, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Universal Studios, Raleigh Studio, Hollywood Center Studio, Sunset Gower Studio, Ren-Mar Studios, Charlie Chaplin Studios and now, Manhattan Beach Studio. In the past there were different kinds of movies being made by different kinds of studios. A Warner's picture looked completely different from a Paramount picture, which again looked very different from a MGM picture, which was also very different from a Republic picture, and again different from an RKO picture. Now, you go and you see the same people in the same movies. The stars may be in a Miramax movie this week, but two months ago may have been in a 20th Century Fox picture. Thus there is no longer that kind of differentiation of expression. The usage of the studios has also changed from the times that they were set up in, and that is probably expected.
At one stage, the history and culture of United States spread all through the world, and one of the main instruments of this "cultural expansion" was Hollywood. The entire production of films was being controlled by some studios and they had total control over the industry. In casual usage, the term has become confused with production companies as in the United States, the important well-known production companies…… [Read More]
Because Scott McCloud's focus is exclusively on comics as an art form, his discussion of Japanese comics in chapter 2 -- while interesting -- does not draw some obvious connections between the style and method of Japanese comics and other forms of art. This is what seems most interesting and obvious to me. McCloud discusses the rise of the "masking" style in Japanese comics -- this involves a use of "iconic" (or heavily stylized) central characters acting out the drama of the comic in front of a backdrop which is more realistic. As McCloud notes, this device -- rather than being artistically disjunctive -- "allows readers to MASK themselves in a character and safely enter a sensually stimulating world" (43). In the case of Japanese comics, McCloud notes that readers in Japan have more recently "developed a taste for flashy, photorealistic art" which leads to a further refinement of the stylistic melange used in the masking technique: now we see how a sword which "might be very cartoony in one sequence" can then -- for reasons of plot -- be represented in the photorealistic fashion "not only to show us the details, but to make us aware of the sword as an object."
What McCloud does not discuss here -- but what seemed obvious to me as a reader of McCloud -- is to what extent Japanese artists and readers are merely extending their expectations as people who have learned to get complex aesthetic satisfaction from film. In terms of the two elements of the Japanese masking technique that McCloud illustrates, it strikes me that there are precise parallels in film -- and to compare these to comics is actually quite useful. For a start, we might consider the way that the masking technique works: McCloud thinks it is essentially an aid to reader identification with the narrative, maintaining an element of easily-assimilated familiarity (the cartoony protagonist) within a heavily…… [Read More]
Why Is Angst So Universally Appealing?
The course of true love never did run smooth according to the Bard of Avon. Certainly any relationship involving at least two people must allow for at least a good chance of turbulence. But surely true love might indeed run smoothly within the pages of a novel or the rolls of an epic? Well, yes, if that were what the author wanted and (at least as importantly) what the audience wants and expects. But the idea of love that we as humans in different eras and different places often seem most content to embrace as we follow fictional lovers is one in which there is confusion and angst. Fictional lovers are often those who do not know their own minds about what will make them happy and must be forced by fate and the gods to acknowledge the love simmering within them.
This paper examines the ways in which love is presented as a function of the gods and of fate rather than of the human heart in two of the world's most enduring love songs, The Tale of Genji and The Mahabharata. The fact that these two love stories (although it should be noted that both of these epics are much more than only love stories) originate outside of classically influenced European narrative traditions is key because they reflect ideas about love that emphasize a different balance between personal desire and the social construction of love.
Greek and Roman precedents of modern Western literature often focus on the ways in which there are external barriers to true love. Shakespeare -- to bring us back to the opening line of this paper -- created the archetypal Western lovers as the star-cross'd Romeo and Juliet. The two fall in love the moment that they first meet each other: They are embodiments of the Greek idea that lovers who experience such true love are in fact two…… [Read More]
Disorder does not descend from Heaven,
It is the spawn of a woman. 10
Contemporaneous with relocating the capital from Edo to Tokyo was the drawing up of the 'Memorandum on Reform of the Imperial Palace' in which Article 1 states that the emperor would 'deign to hear about all political matters' in the front throne room adding that 'women are to be prohibited from entering the front throne room' 11.
Yoshii Tomozane, Senior Secretary for Court Affairs peremptorily dismissed all court ladies, after which a rare few were reselected for appointment. In his dairy, he noted: 'this morning, the court ladies were dismissed in their entirety… the power of women already lasting for centuries has been erased in a single day. My delight knows no bounds." 12.
In this way the power of the 'hens' was removed from the 'Enlightened regime' of Meiji rule and suppressed throughout the country. Acquiring and reinforcing the classical masculine stance from the West (as will be seen in the coming section), the Meiji male affirmed his masculinity in his treatment towards his wife and daughters -- in fact to all females in particular -- demoting them to an inferior position whilst he promoted himself as master of the 'Enlightened Nation'.
Part III. Western Influence
The Meiji period were differentially influenced by the West. On the one hand, there were those who perceived Japan as being effeminate in its dandy ways and the west as masculine in its logical and analytical mannerisms and endeavored to simulate the West. On the other hand, there were those who maintained that Japan, by imitating the West, was demeaning itself and ruining its tradition. They tried to rejuvenate their country by rearing a vigorous masculinity that rejected Western materialism and instead extolled sumarai-like notions such as those of physical courage, chivalry, and the national spirit. Either way, these two opposing representations of masculinity imbued the Meiji regime with a national identity that was articulated in the idiom…… [Read More]
The British Empire gained significant land share within North America through its conquests and emigration. From the founding of Jamestown to the growth of the greater New England region, the North American territories represented a significant portion of the British Empire. Following the Seven Years War, England won the entire territory of New France and doubled the territory possession within North America. Although from a trade perspective North America was not the furtive economic zone that Britain originally envisioned, it did become a several exporter of tobacco, cotton and rice to the British Empire, as well as naval material and furs from the northern region. The American Revolution affected the British Empire in several different ways, it proved to be a symbolic blow the largest empire of the European Continent, and it provided a model for liberation and freedom throughout the rest of the colonial territories. The American Revolution occurred as a result of strict British rules against trading outside of defined British parameters. It resulted in the Boston Tea Party and a plethora of legislative attempts to control colonial trade. In the ensuing military defeat of the trained British army at the hands of George Washington was a severe blow to the invincibility of the British military. At the same time, the alliance that was created between the colonies and other European allies showed that colonialism was no longer a model that could be completely trusted. In a territorial sense, the loss of their North American territories did not significantly weaken the British Empire; it still had control over many other intercontinental territories. However, from a psychological perspective, it symbolized an important turning point within colonialization in general and the ultimate collapse of an Empire.
The modern world has changed substantially within the past century, not only has the world seen two world wars, but it also saw the advent of…… [Read More]
Yukio Mishima's "Patriotism"
Japanese society has always been bound by tradition, and many of the traditions that are utilized influence the feeling of nationalism the Japanese people have. This was especially true in Japanese society before the Second World War and this paper looks specifically at the code of the samurai, seppuku, and arranged marriage. Other issues that will be touched upon included the historical background, cultural context, imagery, symbolism, character type, and stylistic devices that Yukio Mishima utilizes in his short story "Patriotism." These are all very important issues to look at, as Mishima's story gives a strong indication of what type of patriotic beliefs individuals had during this time. This was not only true of soldiers and other individuals that were expected to have these feelings, but of these soldiers families as well. In "Patriotism," Yukio Mishima used many different Japanese traditions to show how they influenced the feeling of nationalism.
The concept of arranged marriage still continues in many parts of the world today, and in Japan before World War II arranged marriage was extremely common (Pascale & Athos, 28). Often, the individuals that were to marry did not know each other before the marriage ceremony took place and marriages were arranged by the families of these individuals. It was believed, in time, that the husband and wife would grow to love one another but this was not considered as important as the respect that they had for each other and the duty that the wife had to the husband. The husband was always in charge and the wife was to defer to him in every aspect. She was expected to be polite, reserved, and quiet, and she was expected to do what was asked of her by the husband without complaint or criticism (Van Wolferen, 277).
In the story…… [Read More]
Akutagawa uses perspectivism in his story In a Grove here the main focus is on the incident that is being investigated by the high police commissioner. Here Takehiko is found murdered and the police highly suspect Tajomaru "The man that I arrested? He is a notorious brigand called Tajomaru." Tajomaru, confesses to the murder and gives a detailed description of the occurrence of the incident he began with agreeing and the "…when I disposed of him, I went to his woman and asked her to come and see him… (6)" then "...I was about to run away from the grove, leaving the woman behind in tears, when she frantically clung to my arm…"(6) and finally "…Then a furious desire to kill him seized me.(6)" As much as this appears to be an easy case to solve, matters get complicated when the wife of the slain Samurai testifies. She confesses to the same murder she claims "….neither conscious nor unconscious, I stabbed the small sword through the lilac-colored kimono into his breast."(7). Interesting is the strange turn of events as the murdered samurai through a medium also takes responsibility for his death. He confesses, "In front of me there was shining the small sword which my wife had dropped. I took it up and stabbed it into my breast" (8). It appears the motive behind the different accounts is to let the reader decide who did it. This is further complicated by Tajomaru's assertion that everybody is guilty of murder. Nonetheless, truth here is evasive, the reality of the circumstances that led to the death of the samurai is a matter of perception and the truth therefore is a matter of convenience. In the film, things appeared biased against the wife. There were uses of words such as "woman use their tears to fool everyone" and in addition to this, it appears the woodcutter's testimony supported Tajomaru's claim that she lured the men into sword fights.
Yes, this is true; Masago is the one who creates a twist in both the text and the film. Her confessions raises more questions than answers, her confession…… [Read More]
Byzantine Architecture -- the Hagia Sophia
In all my travels, no structure can bring about as much awe and respect as that of the Byzantine Hagia Sophia, an immense temple that merges East and West in a conglomeration of buttresses and minarets. Looking back at its 1,500-year history, I can only imagine the changes that the structure has undergone through those eras, from its Byzantine origins to its Ottoman refurbishments. The full form of the Hagia Sophia had been altered after the 15th century, when the Ottomans invaded and ended the thousand-year civilization that was once Constantinople. But let me start at the Hagia Sophia's beginning.
To further illustrate the Hagia Sophia's mixture of east and west, one must look at its historical bearings, for the Greeks sought to reconcile their beliefs with their Byzantine beliefs with that of the Roman Church. Translated to "Holy Wisdom," the Hagia Sophia was eventually built to become the largest and grandest Christian church as far east as the Roman empire reached. Back at the Hagia Sophia's creation, Constantinople was a thriving Byzantine city, perhaps even the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, prior to the Byzantine break from Rome. Lasting over 1,000 years, the emperors of Constantinople experienced a bounteous explosion of culture. It is in the manifestation of the Hagia Sophia -- located north of the Great Palaces -- that the pilgrims sought to travel to the east in order to look upon its beauty. After its creation, the Hagia Sophia had become the mother church, the basis for all further churches found within Constantinople, a lasting symbol of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire.
But what makes the architecture of this temple so special? Once more, I reiterate the fact that its mixture of eastern and western architecture has made it a wonder. The Hagia Sophia has a central dome at the center with a square-ish base, supported by pendentives, structures which were not used in western constructions. To the east and west of the main structure, are flying buttresses that support more half-domes. The interior of the temple itself is oblong in shape, created from more domical elements building up to its main central dome. The top of the central dome is crowned by 40 arched windows, which allow light to shine upon the inside of the temple. The surfaces of Hagia…… [Read More]
" By getting married to Takeyama, Reiko knows that she is expected to die at the same time as her husband. Also, when reading the short story, one must consider that in early twentieth century Japan, arranged marriages were predominant. Japanese social order in which women were secondary is also illustrated by the fact that when describing the two suicides, Mishima emphasizes the lieutenant's act and ritual whereas the wife's act is rather minimized: "His wife, Reiko, followed him, stabbing herself to death." (Mishima 93)
Patriotism" can be hard to read because of its graphic language and imagery. Furthermore, the story attempts to provide the reader with a definition of the concept of patriotism. However, readers must keep in mind that the plot is written from the perspective of an Easterner who strongly believes in honor and duty. For Mishima, nothing - not even love - can ever become more important than these two values. The graphic imagery is not in vain as it serves a very clear purpose. By painting a vivid picture of ancient, traditional Japanese culture, Mishima is able to express his opinion on contemporary Japanese government. Furthermore, through the use of literary devices Mishima voices his love of imperialism, as well as his profound loyalty to the institution of the Empire. From this perspective, "Patriotism" is also a sort of historical document which testifies to the writer's very strong convictions.
Works… [Read More]
Spirit of the Samurai
I suppose I became a modern Samurai through the experience of my father's death. My father belonged to the old school of Samurai philosophy -- a way of life that I despised for one reason - he committed ritual suicide known to the Samurai as Seppuku, or Hara-kiri. I remember the day that he died. It was cold and very early in the morning when he came to me and told me about the ways of the Samurai. He told me about honor and a life dedicated towards a morality of perfection; a way of life that had the highest moral goals in attempting to achieve a perfect state of being and living. He also told me at length about the ancient Samurai who valued the warrior's aggression as much as kindness and compassion. I was a bit confused by his lecture. After all, I had heard these words and ideas all my life. But for me, then, they were ideals and words without real substance.
My father was a man who lived strictly according to the principles of the Samurai, even though it was a tradition that had died out many centuries ago and was only practiced by a few -- yet in him the sprit of the Samurai survived. I thought I knew all about the ideas and theories that had been a central part of his life. Until that morning I had nothing but respect for the Samurai way as my father was one of the kindest and most compassionate men I have ever known. But that day was to prove to be one of the darkest and decisive days in my life. That night he committed Hara-kiri. I heard my mother's screams when she found him. I cannot remember many details, except that my father lay dead by his own hand in a pool of his seeping blood. Why had he done this? This was the resounding question that went through my mind and, more importantly, why had he done this to me? To his family!
I learnt much later that there were reasons for his terrible action that I was unaware of. He had been forced and tricked into a scurrilous business…… [Read More]
Fall of the Samurai: From the Tokugawa to Early Modern Japan
Fall of The Samurai: From The Tokugawa Era to Early Modern Japan
Japanese samurai are counted among the world's most popular military forces; they emerged in pre-medieval times and were active from the seventh to late nineteenth century. The samurai were initially employed as mercenaries, but quickly evolved to become the Japanese Empire's chief military force; before long, they transformed, in effect, into Japan's ruling class. While the transition of the samurai from leading ordinary military lives to being embroiled in inter-clan intrigues and elite political events was relatively rapid, their military-influenced moral principles and core values remained intact throughout. Their improved sense of devoted spirituality and integrity were, in fact, so well-known that they became the inspiration for great stories of courage, which resound even now with readers. This odd balance of deadly effective military strength with gentlemanly, noble behavior is demonstrated by the samurai's armors and graceful weapons (Gordon, 2008).
The samurai's foundations date back to 710-794 A.D. (the Nara Age), which was characterized by a constant and strong influence of China on Japan's technology, military code, and culture. The Japanese government in those days reflected the Chinese style, and comprised of political, instead of military, leaders. The nation's Imperial Court and Emperor, unlike those in prior periods, were happy to sit back and witness conflicts developing from afar; they were reluctant to personally go to battle like their antecedents. Japan's military style reflected the Chinese methods, and demanded that all capable Japanese men volunteer directly under the Emperor's command (Gordon, 2008).
Though the ill-trained 'heishi' or draftees constituted the major part of Japan's Imperial Army, a small group of mounted, professional warriors also existed within military ranks; this force grew in size over time. Gradually, a separation arose between the military and peasant classes, accelerated appreciably by Fujiwara Nakamaro, the leader of the Fujiwara clan and a member of the Imperial court, who depended on professional warriors over the…… [Read More]
There are also important racial issues that are examined throughout "A Touch of Evil"; these are accomplished through what Nerrico (1992) terms "visual representations of 'indeterminate' spaces, both physical and corporeal"; the "bordertown and the half-breed, la frontera y el mestizo: a space and a subject whose identities are not fractured but fracture itself, where hyphens, bridges, border stations, and schizophrenia are the rule rather than the exception" (Nericcio, 1992 p. 54). There are some important musical and visual elements present in the opening scenes of "A Touch of Evil" that help set the stage for what is to follow, and it quickly becomes clear that there are some highly charged oppositional forces involved that are going to create some sticky problems for themselves as well as the audience, but the cinematographic elements helped to make these issues more digestible for the America of the 1950s where segregation was still common and Hispanics had not yet assumed their pronounced demographic presence in the U.S.
At that time, "Any lingering reminders of exclusionary practices became titillating as they played into the complexity of the signification. Screening emphasized its entertainment value in order to make palatable its structuration of social space" (Case, 1996 p. 221). Clearly, then, capturing these essential elements in a motion picture trailer is an important part of any production effort, and these issues are discussed further below.
Motion Picture Trailers. In their essay, "Appropriate for All Viewing Audiences? An Examination of Violent and Sexual Portrayals in Movie Previews Featured on Video Rentals," Mary Beth Oliver and Sriram Kalyanaraman (2002) report that "The rapidly changing media landscape has contributed to the omnipresent nature of movies. Consumers are now able to view motion pictures in a variety of venues, including in the theatre and on network television, videocassette, pay-per view, and digital videodisc, among others" (p. 283). In response to this increase in diversity of entertainment choices, producers are increasingly seeking out innovative ways of marketing their movies, such as placement of highly visible and colorful promotional materials in non-traditional arenas such as shopping malls, ATMs, and the…… [Read More]
Living standards were poor in the overcrowded cities and "the emergence of political parties caused disputes with the emperor and his ministers, leading to frequent elections and political assassinations. Many intellectuals worried about the loss of identity in a changing world; others were concerned at lack of economic opportunities for the enlarged educated class" (Chapter 33, Pearson, 2009).
The Chinese government, however, had a much larger territory to govern, and far more internal strife with which to cope. It was weakened by the Opium Wars with the West, which had left it carved into spheres of influence. It also had to pay interest on loans it had incurred fighting the war. Cheap, manufactured foreign goods put many local tradesmen out of business. The sheer expanse of China made it difficult for the ruling Qing Dynasty to control the different provinces in the country, much less create a system of unified modernization in the face of local opposition, as was done in Japan.
To pay its debts, China had to levy high taxes upon its peasants, taxes that were made even higher by the efforts of corrupt Qing officials to line their own pockets. "The peasants organized several rebellions, such as the Tai Ping and Boxer Rebellions, nearly succeeded in overthrowing the Qing government. Added to the political unrest of the Qing Dynasty, a series of natural disasters in China ruined crops. Famine and poverty began to spread in the late 1800s" ("19th Century China," USF, 2009).
Furthermore, the leaders of China could not take the dispassionate view of the West and embraced by the Japanese -- China was still reeling from the political loss of face as well as the economic blow of Opium Wars. Unlike Japan, it had faced the West head-on, and lost. To the Chinese, the West was the region that had forced it, against its will, to import opium. China was also forced to give up Hong Kong to British rule for…… [Read More]
Some of my customers only pay me in rice. Sometimes, in the winter, I wish for warmth and warmer quilt for the cold nights, but winter does not last long here, and so, it is not such a big worry as others in my life.
In addition, I worry about the government, and their policy that seems to be leading toward cutting my country off from the rest of the world. We have enjoyed prosperity and new ideas through the Jesuits and others who have come to live and trade with us, and it seems that the government is going to ban foreigners, and even ban us Japanese from leaving our island. This worries me, because I fear that trade and our economy will suffer, and the government does not seem to have a way to resolve the issue. I know it is not wise to question our wise leaders, for they know what is best for us - much more so than a lowly blacksmith. However, sometimes I do worry about what the future holds for my country and my family. I do not speak of this to my family and friends, for I am afraid they would doubt me, and think I am weak for looking badly on my government. My lord is one of the Shogun's trusted advisors, and stood with him when he fought in 1600, and so, to speak against the Shogun would be to speak against my lord, and so, I keep these negative thoughts to myself. One can never be too careful about whom one trusts and whom one does not in this town.
A get much pleasure from my life as a blacksmith. I have a good family and even my parents and lord enjoy good health. We have a good house, and we attend festivals and music performances. I also get much pleasure from my work, for it is a good thing…… [Read More]
Blood serves as a corresponding symbol of death. The bloodstained walls in the room are a visual reminder of treachery. Similarly, Washizu's title is built on a "throne of blood," earned not by his valor but by his treachery. Blood symbolizes the spilling of the life force, and it is significant that Washizu sleeps in the same room as his predecessor traitor. Equally as significant is the "out damned spot" scene, in which Asaji compulsively washes her hands in the basin to remove the marker of murder that stains her soul. This scene also humanizes her, which allows Kurosawa to explore the three-dimensionality of the Lady Macbeth character. If she was just evil, Asaji would not have had a conscience at all. Her stillborn child is also a concrete symbol of death. A stillborn baby represents a dead womb: the lifelessness at the heart of Asaji's character and the impotence she shares with her husband.
Storms and weather offer other symbols. The mist symbolizes blindness and being lost. Cobweb Forest is frequently referred to as a "labyrinth," which also symbolizes confusion and getting lost. Spider imagery is central to Throne of Blood. We first see the witch spinning thread: a spider's act. She also sits behind a cocoon-like shroud in the center of the forest, suggesting that she is the spider who weaves the web. Her connection to the fates also evokes a connection with Greek mythology, because the Greek Fates were spinners. Fate and its immutability is a central theme of Throne of Blood. Washizu seems to have the choice between good and evil because he could have chosen to not listen to Asaji. However, the witch seemed to know that the temptation would be too great for the samurai. His fate was in fact to be weak and easily misled. Asaji is also a spider-like creature in Throne of Blood. She slithers around in robes that make her look like a maggot. Moreover, she is often shown sitting calmly: a spider waiting to catch its pray in her web of lies. Like a spider, Asaji does not actually kill but lures victims to their own…… [Read More]
The friendship is established early in the film as it is between Macbeth and Banquo but the sense of betrayal is particularly poignant in Throne of Blood. At the start of the film, Washizu and Miki seem like ordinary samurai: jock-like and summarily aggressive. They are not necessarily good people, and they are certainly not saints, but neither were they corrupt. Indeed, Miki's conscience remains unsullied, whereas his former best friend falls into the trap laid by Asaji. More conniving than any other character in the movie, Asaji is the sole driving force behind the plot as well. The witch did influence Washizu but not nearly to the extent that Asaji did. The witch merely pried into Washizu's soul, reading there is hidden desire for greatness. Asaji tore into her husband's heart, rendering asunder any modicum of reason or humanity within him. The audience can see the slow breakdown of Washizu's character even more so than we notice it in Macbeth. At first Washizu disagrees strongly with his wife. He argues with her while she disparages Tsuzuki and Miki. Yet his will dissolves slowly. Washizu comes to believe his wife not because he is a bad man but because he was aware of the precarious power samurai leaders have. In other words, Washizu came to fear his wife's words and acted out of self-protection. Doing so he unfortunately sacrificed not only his personal integrity but also his ability to trust. When towards the end of the film Miki apparently retains his faith in his best friend, the audience feels the full impact of the betrayal. Miki said to his son that Washizu promised him the throne in lieu of his own heir; those were Miki's last words spoken on-screen as the next thing we know he has died.
Incorporating Japanese imagery into Macbeth enhances the original Elizabethan story, too. The desolate landscape must be nearly opposite to the verdant Scottish highlands upon which Shakespeare's tale was told. The lone witch seems more sinister than the three who chant around their cauldron: her solitude makes her extremely powerful. She is shot in striking whiteness, which contrasts with the bleak darkness of the Cobweb Forest. Symbolism is also more striking in Kurosawa's film than it is in Shakespeare's play because Kurosawa includes an array of motifs ranging from birds to spiders. Many of these are relevant in Throne of…… [Read More]