Great news for those like Sumurai and live in Japan.
You can watch them in Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi.
You will also have a chance to see sword fight shows at Japanese tourist spots and theme parks. Even for Japanese, it is rarely seen, so people are overwhelmed by its power.
But real fights have own their stories. Samurai draw their swords for the country, for innocent people, for loved ones.
The stage “Red and Black Samurai Spirits” is a play and sword fight performed by real stars who have made up the history of Japanese movies and period dramas.
Kotaro Satomi, who is a classic legend in period dramas, and Masaki Kyomoto are the star of this play. They are both popular actors in Japan. Many more actos with different backgrounds also star in the play.
[Japan 101 Through Entertainment] – Today, we learn about Japan’s period dramas.
Two leading actors essential to Japanese TV, movie history and period dramas
The history of television in Japan dates back to the 1950s. Kotaro Satomi has been active since the early days.
At that time, various period movies were produced and it was very exciting. It was around this time that famous foreign films such as “Seven Samurai” and “Rashomon” directed by Akira Kurosawa were produced.
In the 1970s, period dramas reached its peak, and many masterpieces were produced. Jidaigeki was broadcast on some channel every day, and ‘Mito Komon’ which was said to be the most popular jidaigeki in Japan, also gained popularity.
It was Kotaro Satomi who also played the leading role in ‘Mito Komon’.
He appeared in famous movies and played many leading roles in TV period dramas such as ‘Choshichiro Edo Nikki’ making his popularity unshakable.
He has a gentle face, but his eyes are sharp and his voice is low. In addition, he manipulated it to “two-sword style.”. It must be the image of a longing samurai.
People overseas might have seen it on the NHK Taiga drama series. It is inseparable from Japanese historical dramas and movies.
After Satomi, Masaki Kyomoto entered the world of period dramas.
He had a mysterious and beautiful face, and his well-trained sword handling is like he is dancing.
In the movie, he is featured as a beautiful swordsman in ‘Satomi Hakkenden’ (1983), a film by renowned Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku.
For modern films, he appeared in ‘IREZUMI’ (1982) which was showed at the Cannes Film Festival.
Soon after that, he appeared in a dark style period drama ‘Hissatsu Shigotonin 5′ with a and young women became enthusiastic about the beautiful appearance of a fugitive ninja’ killer and dominated the world. It is also famous for modern dramas.
I think there are two main types of samurai in period dramas.
A brave, heroic, and sun-tanned hero, as appeared in Akira Kurosawa’s movies.
Or a handsome swordsman who neither masculine or feminine and has some mysterious beauty.
Satomi and Kyomoto are rather the latter, and their magical charms hold the hearts of female fans even now, when they are over 80 and 60, respectively.
Kyomoto also appeared in the spin-off film ‘Kagero Ninpocho’ featuring the popular character of ‘Mito Komon’, playing kunoichi (female ninja) “Kagero Ogin”.
As cool ninja characters became more popular, he appeared in the main story.
Satomi and Kyomoto, however, do not appear together in ‘Mito Komon’.
They have performed together in several other period dramas, and this “Red and Black Samurai Spirits” will be their first performance together on the stage.
At a press conference before the opening of the show, they said:
“I never thought I’d perform on the stage when I was 82. Kyo-chan (= Masaki Kyomoto) and other young actors are doing a great fight. They are really fresh and working hard. I’m playing like I’m trying to keep up with it. I would like everyone to watch the historical drama for the first time in a long time!”
“Satomi Sensei has always been my idol. He said “Kyo chan” and ‘I’ve never played with Kyo-chan as a regular player.’! Surprisingly, it is our very first co-starring on the stage! This is a must-see! I am also impressed that young people who do not know “Period drama” are working hard. That’s cool!”
It is a story that asks about Bushido spirit at the end of the Sengoku period.
The story is set in a peaceful town in Japan after the Sengoku period.
The samurai no longer had to fight, and some left their government posts to work as commoners, and others wandered.
The main character, Hanshiro Tsuge (Kōtarō Satomi), is a man who served as Kukigaro (top-ranking official and advisor for a domain-based) in place of the lord of the domain.
He is a sword master who is said to be a model of samurai who could serve his master to the end even if his master’s blunder caused the extinction of his clan.
Now, however, he gave up on the samurai and is a teacher for children.
One day, the town was demolished for the reformation of domain duties. The common people are deeply saddened and angry when they learn the truth of the reform.
When he sees the poor people, the samurai spirit of Hanshiro Tsuge comes to life.
Commoners who risk their lives and young samurai.
Then, a lonely swordsman, Kanade no Ichizou (Masaki Kyōmoto) who became fed up with the life of samurai that had completely changed, and abandoned his life of samurai also decides to fight against evil with Hanshiro Tsuge.
Won’t yield to evil. Won’t cater. Fight even if you know they might lose.
This story tells us a strong message, Samurai should live like this.
Enjoy swordfight, costume and music even if you don’t understand Japanese
There is no English subtitle or commentary for this performance.
If you don’t understand Japanese, it may be difficult to understand the lines and details.
The appeal of period dramas, however, is that you can get a rough idea of the position of the characters by their appearance and movements.
And I’m sure you’ll be satisfied with just the dynamic sword fight scenes with a large crowd because it is a real sword fight between two stars who made period dramas, Kotaro Satomi and Masaki Kyomoto.
I think you can enjoy watching it if you know the outline I introduced.
Costume is also a point to look forward to.
Kimono and hairstyle are different depending on the position even if they are dressed in the same Japanese style.
A town girl, a woman of high rank, a prostitute.
This variation is not seen in daily life in Japan or even at rental kimono shops.
Men are also different between townspeople and samurai such as government officials.
Even among samurai, the atmosphere is different between those who work for the domain and those who are “ronin” who do not work.
The “Kanade no Ichizou” performed by Kyomoto this time is a ronin. He is samurai, wearing a sword, but not a “topknot.”.
Also, I want you to enjoy the unique Japanese music using shamisen and drums.
In addition, the nostalgic opening song was written by a singer and songwriter, Masaki Kyomoto.
Flyer Shot by Leslie Kee
One of the surprises that came with this production is having Leslie Kee as the official photographer.
Born in Singapore, he worked in world-famous fashion brands and other advertising materials after studying photography in Tokyo. Models he worked with includes Japan’s famous figures such as one of the top models, Ai Tominaga.
However, a period drama was something he never expected to work on.
Having an outsider as the official photographer shows the team’s willingness to pass down the legacy of period dramas in Japan onto next generations.
Samurais in his photos are uniquely shot in terms of both posing and set.
You must check out the passion Leslie has towards this project along with his photos.
Period Dramas Are Tough to Produce
Recently, Japan has seen a rise in popularity of period dramas known as “2.5 dimension”.
This is one way to enjoy a piece of Japanese culture but “Red and Black Samurai Spirits” is something completely different. It is a one-of-a-lifetime chance to see Japanese classic stars in period piece with your own eyes.
When I say classic, I really mean it because it is so hard to find period dramas on TV these days .
Period dramas are said to be hard to produce.
Unlike dramas set in contemporary times, they can be very expensive for its set, costume, props. Furthermore, it requires a wide range of special skills such as the traditional culture, sword combat, and people that are specialized in these fields are becoming old or have already passed away.
You could say it is a miracle to see all these period drama stars in one place.
To Pass On Period Dramas Onto Next Generation
The truth is that not a lot of actors are not pursuing careers in period dramas.
Period dramas first became its own thing after a certain group of actors and crew parted from kabuki.
Satomi and Kyomoto climbed up the ladder by learning on-set from legendary stars of that time.
Kabuki, traditional form of theater in itself, does not a low barrier for entry and the same can be said for its successor. However, since there are fewer and fewer period dramas and so are opportunities to pass on its traditions.
Many period drama actors are tackling this issue.
Kyomoto, being the youngest among people that know the beginning of period drama, working hard to revive and pass on its legacy.
He appeared in manga movies and he added some bits of period dramas in the movie he starred in 2019 “Tonde Saitama”
There are two millennial actors in this production. One is Yuki Koshioka, born in 1986 and the other is Nobuki Yukushi, born in 1991.
Both said it was a precious experience to learn from two of Japan’s legend in period dramas.
“I’d love to see more people from overseas to watch and learn about Japanese period dramas” said Kyomoto at the press event before its first show.
Satomi also joked referring to Donald Trump who was just visiting Japan at the time and said “it is more fun than playing golf with Prime Minister”.
Samurai or ninja never seem to lose popularity in overseas.
Maybe people from overseas know about them more.
Two of the Japan’s legends with young rising stars added with a world famous photographer Leslie Kee, surely would attract a wide range of audience like never before.
Shows in Tokyo only runs till 31st May 2019. Then it will be run in Osaka from 5th to 9th June and in Aichi on 21st June. You can dive into the world of samurais for solid 2 hours and 20 minutes and enjoy the traditional entertainment as well as samurai spirits.
You may think it’s difficult or formal. But I cannot insist more that it would be a good enough reason that you simply want to see handsome swordsmen rocking it.
The stage “Red and Black Samurai Spirits”
Yuki Koshioka ”Fo-yu-“ / Nobuki Fukushi ”MADE/Johnny’s Jr.”
Masashi Goda / Atsushi Tsutumishita / Tomohiro Ichikawa / Yuta Yamazaki / Nobuo Kyo / Goro Daimon
Fujii Bin / Jiji Boo / Yutaka Maido
Kaoto Kumagai / Ginpei Sato / Gamu Iyose / Naruto Shigemi / Toshiaki Ogawa / Kohei Mori / Yohei Ishiguro / Saki Sakurai “Tokyo Performance Doll” / WakiHaru / Emi Uehara / Norimatsu Ami / Koran Kuroda
Natsumi Ogawa / Mansaku Fuwa
[Supervision & Original Story] Mikio Sato
[Stageplay Adoption & Director] Motoiki Shigeki
[Sword Combat Choreograher] Hiroshi Atsumi
5/25~5/31 Tokyo International Forum C
6/5~6/9 COOL JAPAN PARK OSAKA
6/21 TOKAI CITY ARTS THEATRE