Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


This is another movie from the great director Akira Kurosawa.  The 1985 film depicts an aging warlord from the Sengoku period, also known as the Warring States Period, between the 15th and 17th centuries.  In the movie, the warlord Hidetora decides to abdicate as ruler in favor of his three sons.  The story is based on legends of the daimyo Mori Motonari, as well as on the Shakespeare tragedy King Lear.

This movie is considered Kurosawa's last Epic with a budget of $12 million.  The movie is a classic depiction of the lust for power and how this lust can destroy even close families. The three brothers all compete with each other for more power, eventually fighting with each other and destroying the family including their father Hidetora. The movie follows the plots, schemes, and betrayals of the brothers and how the three quickly began to distrust each other.

Kurosawa originally based his story on the Sengoku era warlord Mori Motonari who also had three sons. Kurosawa imagined what would have happened had these sons gone bad. Apparently, Kurosawa, although similar to Shakespeare's play King Lear, Kurosawa only became aware of the similarities after he had started pre-planning the movie.

I have read that according to Kurosawa, the film was also metaphor for nuclear warfare. In the movie, the equivalent for nuclear destruction and technology in warfare is the arquebus, an early firearm that was introduced to Japan in the 1500s. Arquebuses revolutionized samurai warfare, forever altering the historic use of swords and that of the individual samurai warrior. Now, samurai warfare would often be conducted by massive armies engaging each other at a distance. Several battle scenes show this new type of warfare. In one battle, arquebusiers destroy a cavalry by firing from a forest where the cavalry was unable to navigate. In another scene, one of the brothers is assassinated by a sniper using an arquebus.

I loved this movie as much as the other Kurosawa movies I have seen. Ran, which means chaos or revolt, is a major theme of the movie. The plots and betrayals make the entire movie very interesting.


  1. I haven't seen any of these movies, but I think I should.

    One of my Japanese friend's in Tokyo is really into the 70's yakuza movies. I've seen a couple of those and I found them entertaining.

  2. I have not seen any Yakuza movies from the 70s. I saw a modern one a couple of years ago but I didn't like it too much. I don't remember the name.