by Chris MaGee
In 1860, seven years after U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry and his Black Ships arrived in Uraga Harbor heralding the beginning of the end of Japan's 260 year policy of seclusion, Ii Naosuke, a leading minister in the final days of the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate, became a vocal proponent for opening up the country to outside trade. Ultimately his anti-seclusion ideals cost him his life. One day as he was approaching the Sakuradamon Gate of Edo Castle he Ii was overtaken by 17 masterless samurai of the Mito clan and assassinated. This event, which came to be known as The Sakuradamon Incident, became a defining moment of the social and political chaos that proceeded the opening of Japan in 1868. Now this Ii's murder and the events leading up to it are being brought to the screen.
Director Junya Sato, the man who brought us such historical epics as "The Silk Road" and "Yamato", is currently adapting Akira Yoshimura's novel about the Sakuradamon Incident into a big budget film titled "Sakuradamongai no Hen". The film stars Takao Osawa (Ichi, Goemon) as Seki Tetsunosuke, one of the masterminds behind Ie's assassination, while Ie himself will be portrayed by Masato Ibu. And when we say this is a big budget production we mean big budget. "Sakuradamongai no Hen" is estimated to be costing Toei ¥1 billion, a good chunk of which has gone to the full scale reconstruction of the Sakuradamon Gate in Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Look for "Sakuradamongai no Hen" to be released in Japanese theatres this fall. Thanks to Tokyograph for the details on this news item, and to Sankei Sports for the above image.