Ooku Drama 大奥

September 01, 2006

Ooku--The Movie (Coming 12/23/2006)

Ooku Movie Logo

The hit TV drama series Ooku is being made into a movie by Toei Studios. Ooku (The Grand Inner Quarters) refers to the women’s quarters of the Edo Castle forbidden to all men except the Shogun during the Edo period (1600-1868).

Fuji TV has run three different series concerning the Ooku. The first season, Ooku, ran in the spring of 2003, and focused on the story of Atsuko, who was sent from the Satsuma domain to be a consort of the 13th Shogun, Tokugawa Iesada, at the end of the Edo period. The second season, Ooku〜The First Chapter, ran in the fall of 2004 and concerned the competition for control of the Ooku between Oeyo, wife of the 2nd Shogun Hidetada, who founded it and Kasuga no Tsubone, milk-nurse of the 3rd Shogun, Iemitsu. The third season, Ooku〜Hana no Ran, ran in the fall of 2005, and dealt with the struggle for power between the women in the castle during the time of the 5th Shogun, Tsunayoshi.

Ooku〜The Movie will focus on the time of the 7th Shogun Ietsugu and the scandal called the Ejima Ikushima Affair, when the Lady Ejima of the Ooku visited the Yamamuraza Kabuki theater and caused a drunken scandal, after which it was discovered she had been having an affair with the Kabuki actor Ikushima Shingoro for seven years.

Nakama Yukie

The lead role will be played by Nakama Yukie, who is now playing the wife of Yamanouchi Kazutoyo in the year-long NHK Taiga drama called Komyo-ga-Tsuji.

Ooku Movie Actors

Other cast members include Igawa Haruka (井川遥), Sugita Kaoru (杉田かおる), Oikawa Mitsuhiro (及川光博), Takashima Reiko (高島礼子), and Asano Yuko (浅野ゆう子).

The Ooku movie is directed by Hayashi Toru (林徹) and based on the screen play by Asano Taeko (浅野妙子).

News Links:
"Fuji TV Ooku Movie" (フジテレビ『大奥』映画) (in Japanese)

"Nakama Yukie in a Pinch" (Yahooニュース 仲間由紀恵ピンチ) (in Japanese)

Streamline Video:


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August 25, 2006

NHK to Do Ooku?


Well not quite, but NHK does seem to have taken a hint from the popular Fuji TV series Ooku. They announced at the beginning of August that the 2008 NHK Taiga Drama will be the story of Atsuhime, who was the daughter of the Daimyo of the Satsuma domain at the end of the Edo period. For political reasons, she was sent to Edo Castle to be a consort of the 13th Shogun, Tokugawa Iesada (1824-1858). This very same story formed the subject of the first of the Ooku drama series aired in 2003. The role of Atsuhime, also know as Tokiko, was played by Kanno Miho in the Fuji TV drama.

Shingo Katori in NHK Shinsengumi

NHK appears to be trying to increase their young viewers, especially young women, in this era of people refusing to pay their mandatory NHK fees. In 2004, NHK tried Shinsengumi, an ever popular story of the band of ruffians sent by the Tokugawa shogunate to Kyoto to protect the emperor from insurgents. NHK chose Shingo, from the teeny-bopper band SMAP, to play the lead role of the captain Kondo. This year their Taiga Drama, Komyo-ga-Tsuji, is ostensibly about a woman, the wife of Yamanouchi Kazutoyo, but as the original novel it was based on was written by a man, the main character is merelytwo-dimensional fantasy of a male-concept of an ideal wife. It seems NHK still has a lot to learn.

NHK Announcement: 2008年の大河ドラマは「篤姫」!

Ooku (The Original) Official Homepage: 大奥

Back Episodes of OOKU〜Hana no Ran

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June 05, 2006

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 10

O-Oku Drama

Last Episode of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 12/22/2005 on Fuji TV 10-11:09 PM)


Yasuko runs into Oden while they are both at the cemetery praying for their dead children. Oden asks Yasuko if she was the one who caused her child Tokumatsu’s death. When Yasuko says she wasn’t, Oden tells her that while she thought of it, it was not her who poisoned Chōmaru either.


Back at the castle, Midai-sama summons Yasuko to ask her once again to poison the Shogun, but she refuses. Ōsuke overhears from the hallway and asks Midai-sama to leave it to her. She claims to be pregnant and wonders aloud if all the nightly visits from the Shogun help one sleep better, which is a slight against Midai-sama, whom the Shogun seldom visits.


Midai-sama’s jealousy is peaked by Ōsuke’s comments and in the middle of the night she rubs candle wax on the floor before Ōsuke’s room, hoping Ōsuke will slip on the wax and kill herself. However, Midai-sama manages to set herself on fire in the process and is severely injured.

Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

The Shogun visits Midai-sama and sits by her side through the night. After everyone else has been dismissed for the night, Midai-sama asks the Shogun to feed her medicine mouth-to-mouth, using the medicine wrapped in red wax-paper. Once the Shogun has added the medicine to water and filled his mouth with it, Midai-sama claps her hand over his mouth and forces him to drink it. As he is dying she tells him it was revenge for humiliating her by adding woman after woman to the Ooku and ignoring her. She tells him that she was responsible for the death of Yasuko’s child Chōmaru and poisoned him with the very same poison the Shogun just drank, which she had received from Yanagisawa. She then drinks the rest of the poison herself.


In a desperate attempt to be rid of Yanagisawa, Keshōin’s Lady-in-Waiting visits Yasuko’s former husband, Narizumi, whom Yanagisawa has incarcerated since the Shogun first commanded his death. She tells Narizumi that Yanagisawa was responsible for the death of Yasuko’s child and gives him a sword to kill Yanagisawa. However, Narizuma is not successful and is killed instead by Yanagisawa.

When Yasuko sees Yanagisawa’s bloody tabi-socks, she asks if anything has happened to her husband and Yanagisawa tells her that the Shogun requested his death. Yasuko believes that the Shogun had her husband killed after she found out he was still alive and begged the Shogun to rescue him from Yanagisawa’s clutches. Keshōin’s Lady-in-Waiting, however, reassures her that it was not the Shogun’s doing, but Yanagisawa himself, after she had given Narizuma the sword to assassinate Yanagisawa.

The Shogun recovers, but Yasuko’s bitter resentment against Yanagisawa deepens. Returning to the party for the Shogun’s recovery after a short rest in the garden, Yasuko gets a chance to try to stab Yanagisawa with her short sword. The Shogun tries to break-up the fight and inadvertently gets stabbed himself. He tells Yanagisawa he’s in for it now for killing the Shogun.

Ooku Chart

Video Clip for Final Episode:

If link fails, cut & paste into browser

Ooku Back Episodes

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February 13, 2006

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 9

O-Oku Drama

Episode 9 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 12/15/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

Keshōin collapses on seeing the child, 吉里, reach for the treat with his left hand, like his true father Yanagisawa. As the party winds down, Yanagisawa takes Yasuko into a back room to see her former husband, who Yanagisawa has kept locked up instead of executing. Yanagisawa tells Yasuko, if she values her husband’s life, she knows what she must do… and must not do.

Yasuko retreats to the garden to ponder over her encounter with her husband and Yanagisawa’s threat. There she runs into Someko who is crying. Yasuko tells her she knows grief and if it will lessen her pain, Someko can tell her anything. Someko confesses that the child is not the Shogun’s child. Uemon no Suke overhears, and asks Someko to confess to Keshōin because her confession is the only way they can prove that the child is not the Shogun’s.

While Keshōin is lying sick, Midai-sama comes to call on her. Keshōin asks for forgiveness for her poor treatment in the past, but Midai-sama berates her for her treatment unwarranted for a young upper-class lady from Kyoto, and by the way, cuttingly tells her that the child is not the Shogun’s.

When Keshōin recovers somewhat, she in calls in her ladies to attendance and asks Someko whether the child is really the Shogun’s. Someko considers her love for Yanagisawa and what he would have her do, and answers the child is the Shogun’s. Keshōin suggests it would be best if Yanagisawa no longer came to the castle to visit, but Someko pleads that it is Yanagisawa’s duty and pleasure to look after the Shogun and the heir. Keshōin answers if that is what she would like, then let it be so.

Later when Yasuko visits Keshōin privately, Keshōin confesses that she knows very well that the child is not the Shogun’s, but since the Shogun lost his other children, she thought this one would be his one consolation.

In the meantime, Someko overhears the lady chefs gossiping about how anyone can tell that the child takes after Yanagisawa in looks. She despairs about what will happen when the truth becomes known and asks Yanagisawa to kill her by his own hands, and begs that he call her by her real name, Someko, as she dies.

Yasuko and the Shogun visit Keshōin together and Keshōin holds her son telling him she wished she had been less strict and had held him more often in her arms like this when his was young. She has a vision of when she was first made a lady-in-waiting and falls down dead.

Yasuko tries to break it to the Shogun that the child is not really his. The Shogun asks “did you think I hadn’t noticed. I just played along to keep my mother happy.” There conversation is interrupted as Someko’s death is announced and her will brought in.

How will the wheels of power turn again?

Ooku Back Episodes

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January 23, 2006

Rikugien Garden 2006

Rikugien Pond

The first snow of the season fell on January 21st. While different areas of Tokyo received different amounts of snow, my area on the north-east side of the Yamanote circle received four-five inches, turning it into a winter wonderland. I went to the closest Japanese gardens near my house, the Rikugien Garden, to enjoy this beauty.

Rikugien Trees in Winter Dress

The Rikugien garden was built in 1702 by the 5th Shogun’s close retainer, Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, familiar to those who were watching the most recent Ooku TV series. The founder of the Mitsubishi corporation, Iwasaki Yataro, acquired this garden sometime during the Meiji period (1868-1712) and the family donated it to the Tokyo metropolitan government in 1953.

Tea below Pine at the Pond

The garden, literally “six-rule garden” (六義園), is named after the six rules of poetry described in the prologue to the Kokin wakashu collection of 31-syallable waka poems, which was complied in the early 10th century. Originally the garden had 88 scenic spots inspired by poetry topics. The Reigen Emperor (1654-1732) then chose twenty spots to be preserved as different areas of “eight views,” a common artistic conceit after the famous Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang rivers of China. This type of garden with extensive strolling grounds with ponds and hills is in the style called, rather obviously, a strolling garden.

Formal Teahouse

Luckily before the snows fell, those trees vulnerable to winter conditions were all dressed up for winter. The teepee-shaped ropes protect the pine trees from having their branches broken by the weight of the heavy wet snow of Japan. The small semi-tropical tree are wrapped in straw to protect them from the cold, so the poor things won’t be damaged by frost-bite. Even in this cold weather there was an informal tea house open for enjoying Japanese sweets and macha tea at a place where one could rest, albeit outdoors, and watch the snow fall on the pond while warming one’s hands while holding the tea bowl. The large formal tea house, named the Gishuntei, is only open for reservation by Tea Ceremony groups for a charge of \7,400.

In other seasons, the Rikugien garden is famous for its weeping cherry tree which blooms at the end of March, its azaleas in April, its hydrangeas in June, and its bush clovers in September. Their brochure says there are guided tours available in Japanese on Sundays and holidays at 11:00 and 2:00, but it would probably be best to call first and double-check at 03-3941-2222.

Access: 7 minute walk from the Komagome station on the JR and Nanboku subway lines.
Yahoo Map

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December 22, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 8

O-Oku Drama

Episode 8 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 12/8/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

As Yasuko sits beside the Shogun’s sickbed, he confesses to her that Yasuko was right, he shouldn’t have left everything up to Keishoin and Yanagisawa, that the deaths of the children Chomaru and Tokumatsu were his fault, and he only wants to live in peace spending his time with Yasuko. As Yasuko pours a drink of water for the Shogun the red package of poison falls from her kimono, but she cannot bring herself to use it.

Just then an attendant bursts in announcing that there is a living son of the Shogun. This is of course Someko’s child by Yanagisawa. Someko and her child are brought to the castle to be raised there. Yanagisawa gains even more power and Uemon no Suke and others are at a lost as to what to do about it. Uemon no Suke asks for the paper of poison back from Yasuko, saying it would only be to Yanagisawa’s advantage for the Shogun to die now.

Uemon no Suke pays a visit to Someko’s quarters to see how she is doing. When Someko says her child is three months old, Uemon no Suke realizes the child cannot be the Shogun’s. She presents proof to the Shogun’s mother, Keishoin, that the Shogun’s visit to Yanagisawa’s residence was at the wrong time for the child to be his. Yanagisawa claims that it was an unscheduled visit left unrecorded. Keishoin is so eager for her son’s legacy, and her own power, to be continued that she refuses to accept the proof and rips up the documents.

On the young child’s birthday, he reaches for a candy with his left hand as Yanagisawa plays the drum accompanying a Noh performance with his left hand. The Shogun’s mother, Keishoin, realizes the child is Yanagisawa’s and faints. Yasuko looks up at this event to see Yanagisawa glaring at her and she finally realizes that he is her true enemy.

Ooku Back Episodes

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December 21, 2005

Ooku Heads Up


Don't miss the last episode of Ooku and three specials:

・Last Episode of Ooku〜Hana no Ran airs Thursday (12/22/2005) on Fuji Terebi 10-11:09 PM

Video Clip for Final Episode:

If link fails, cut & paste into browser

Yahoo Synopsis

TV Tokyo Ooku
・Cho Rekishi Misuteri (Mystery) - Roman Ooku airs Friday (12/23/2005) on Terebi Tokyo 9-10:48 PM

・Friday Entertainment - Ooku Special airs Friday (12/30/2005) on Fuji Terebi 9-11:22 PM

Ooku Video Clip: mms://wmt-od.stream.ne.jp/fujitv/

If link is broken, copy and paste into browser

・Ooku Special (Rerun of last season's Ooku Special) airs Saturday (12/24/2005) on Fuji Terebi 3:10-5:30 PM

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December 03, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 7

O-Oku Drama

Episode 7 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 12/1/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

Between Oden’s claim that a mere unripe plum would not cause the death of a child and Midai-sama’s smirk, Yasuko begins to think that perhaps Oden was not the culprit behind Chōmaru’s death. Yasuko calls upon Midai-sama and reminds her that it was she who called her away from Chōmaru, but when Yasuko arrived at Midai-sama’s room, she was absent. Yasuko ran across Midai-sama on her return to her own rooms where she found Chōmaru sick and dying. Perhaps Midai-sama preceded her arrival and knows something about Chōmaru’s death? Midai-sama claims that she did not see Chōmaru before Yasuko, and suggests it is Oden and not herself who holds a grudge against Yasuko.

Yasuko discusses Chōmaru’s death with Uemon no Suke, who agrees that she too is suspicious of Midai-sama, but fails to see her motive. Yanagisawa, on the other hand, has been gradually losing power and influence with the favors given to Yasuko’s family by the Shogun. He, Yanagisawa-san, would have a motive for trying to reduce Yasuko’s influence.

The lady from Kyoto (Ōsuke), in the meantime, reports to the Shogun and Keishōin that she saw with her own eyes Yasuko intending to injure Tokumatsu and recommends that Yasuko be removed from the Ladies Quarters. The Shogun says he has already lost Chōmaru and Tokumatsu and cannot bear to part from Yasuko was well. Besides, Yasuko isn’t the type of person who would do such a thing.

Keishōin demands the Buddhist priest Ryūkō, who is the Shogun’s spiritual protector, to come up with a plan to insure the Shogun’s legacy and the production of a heir. Ryūkō is somewhat at a loss, but when tackled in the hallway by the Shogun’s newly adopted dog, he forbids its being killed for its transgression and tells the Shogun that to protect his legacy he must forbid the killing of living things, especially dogs since the Shogun himself has a karmic connection with dogs having been born in the year of the dog.

The Shogun was actually very forward thinking in his prevention of cruelty to animals. However, the promulgation was carried out to extremes and the townspeople suffered greatly. The Shogun was considered a nutcase and he went down in history as the “Dog Loving Shogun.” In the drama, one of Yasuko’s ladies tries to assassinate the Shogun because her father was ordered to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) for injuring a dog that had attacked her.

When the Shogun next spends a night with Yasuko he whines incessantly about Chōmaru and Tokumatsu’s death. Yasuko tells him that rather than mourn the dead, he should be more concerned about the living and not leave everything up to Yanagisawa and Keishōin. The Shogun is so upset by this scolding that he collapses and becomes seriously ill.

Uemon no Suke hands “medicine” in a red wrapper to Yasuko suggesting that if the Shogun is poisoned and dies, Yanagisawa and Keishōin will lose their power. Yasuko is the only one the Shogun trusts, can she really bear to do this to him even though she hated him for what he did to her family. Besides, unbeknownst to her, it was really Midai-sama’s idea. The retainers, on the other hand, meet to consider a candidate for the Shogunal heir. Yanagisawa announces that the Shogun has another child by Someko, whom the Shogun made pregnant when he visited Yanagisawa’s estate.

Will Yasuko poison the Shogun, who trusts her? Will Yanagisawa’s child become the designated child?

Ooku Video Clip: mms://wmt-od.stream.ne.jp/fujitv/

If link fails, copy and paste into browser

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November 23, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 6

O-Oku Drama

Episode 6 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 11/17/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

A Restoration of Life Ritual is held invoking the esoteric deity Fudō, but to no avail and Yasuko’s child, Chōmaru, dies. The Shogun’s mother, Keishōin, chides Yasuko for leaving her child unattended and Yasuko responds that it was all Oden’s doing, and furthermore Oden had previously made two attempts on her, Yasuko’s, life. Nevertheless, Keishōin decides that a mother of a possible heir to the Shogunate cannot be punished. In addition, Keishōin decides to have Oden’s child officially designated as the next Shogun.

Oden is greatly relieved, but her position does not remain secure for long. Ōsuke (Grand Lady in Waiting) from Kyoto joins the women’s quarters and her rank as a noblewoman is even higher than Midai-sama, the Shogun’s official wife. Ōsuke is granted permission to construct a private building for her living quarters, paid by with her own funds. On the first night she is to spend with the Shogun, he decides he’d rather be with Yasuko, already arousing Ōsuke’s resentment of Yasuko.

When Midai-sam runs across Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu on the temple verandah at the time of Chōmaru’s funeral, she tells him how much better she can sleep now thanks to the “medicine” he had given her. She adds that she has carefully saved some in case it might come in handy again in the future. She is talking about the poison she used on Chōmaru.

After the ceremony designating Oden’s child, Tokumatsu, as future Shogun, he wanders out where Ōsuke’s new quarters are being built looking for his ball that rolled away. Yasuko is also there and finds his ball, but it reminds her of the loss of her son. She takes out her mother’s hairpin intending to do injury to Tokumatsu, but just then Tokumatsu trips on the ropes supporting the building logs and they come tumbling down. Despite her previous intentions, Yasuko throws herself across Tokumatsu to protect him. Nevertheless, Tokumatsu is never right in the head after that and develops a fever and dies.

Afterwards, Oden attacks Yasuko in the hallway blaming her child’s death on Yasuko and demanding she return him to her. Yasuko repeats the accusation and says she wants Chōmaru back. Yasuko takes out her mother’s hairpin to defend herself but Oden grabs hold of it and is about to stab Yasuko in the throat with it, but just then everyone rushes out to put out the fire that had started when they knocked over a lantern in their struggle. Midai-sama looks on with a smirk from a nearby verandah, but Oden had exclaimed to Yasuko that a child doesn’t die from eating an unripe plum, and that gets Yasuko thinking about the real identity of the culprit.

In the meantime, Someko’s child is born and she says he looks just like Yanagisawa, but Yanagisawa says no, he looks like the Shogun. What do you suppose his plans for his son are?

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November 17, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 5

O-Oku Drama

Episode 5 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 11/10/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

Yasuko comes to after collapsing in a cold sodden mess at the bath door. The last words of encouragement from her mother and husband before their deaths flash through her mind inspiring her to put up a fight. She pulls out her mother’s hairpin that she wears as a keepsake and manages to lift the bar locking her into the room with it. She is then found and cared for, but the incident induces her labor. Luckily the baby is born healthy.

Strolling with her baby in the garden, Yasuko comes across Oden no Kata’s two children and plays with them, but the little girl trips and falls down at the base of the infamous stone stairway. Oden no Kata sees this from above and gives a scared glance before rushing away with her daughter. Yasuko later again runs into Oden no Kata in the garden and tells her she will not report the two previous incidents because she doesn’t want the children to have to grow up without their mother.

In the meantime, the Shogun’s mother tells the Shogun’s attendant, Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, who passes it on to Oden no Kata, that no foul play would be suspected if a child happened to eat one of the fallen unripe plums in the garden and sickened. Oden no Kata talks her son into giving an unripe plum to Yasuko’s child, but when he visits Yasuko’s young child to do so, the child is so excited with the play that he falls off the verandah. Oden no Kata’s son, who may well not have understood the purpose of the plum, instinctively grabs out and tries to catch Yasuko’s son. Yasuko’s son’s face is scratched up a bit, but the child turns out to be OK. Afterwards, the relations of Yasuko and Oden no Kata seemed to have improved as a result, but the Shogun spends even more time with Yasuko and her son after the incident.

Oden no Kata appears to make a friendly visit to Yasuko and her son after their relations have improved, but when Yasuko is called off to check some kimono fabric, Oden no Kata spies the unripe plum lying on the ground and tries to force feed it to Yasuko’s child. Oden no Kata is overwhelmed by the child’s choking and helps the child spit it out and then runs away in guilt. Midai-sama sees the whole incident from the verandah across the way and takes a small red paper of medicine from her bodice. When Yasuko returns her child has lost consciousness. Oden no Kata is suspected as the culprit when someone spies the silk fukusa handkerchief that she had dropped in her haste. No one realizes that it was really Midai-sama, in her bid to get rid of Oden no Kata, that fed the poison medicine to Yasuko’s child, knowing Oden no Kata would get the blame.

After Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu (Kitamura Ikki) had introduced Someko to the Shogun’s bedchamber, he belated realized she was in love with him and the two become lover’s. As Yasuko’s child dies in her arms, Someko wretches with morning sickness revealing that she is pregnant with Yanagisawa’s child. Once again the power structure of the Ooku is about to change.

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November 12, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 4

O-Oku Drama

Episode 4 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 11/03/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

Uemon no Suke, so named after her father's lofty position in the nobility (Assistant Gate Gaurdsman of the Right) enters the women’s quarters as a lady attendant to Midai-sama (the Shogun’s formal wife) and holds lecture for the ladies of the quarters on Japanese classical literature. The Shogun’s mother would like to distract the Shogun from his attentions showered on Yasuko so he will spend more time with Oden no Kata, who like the Shogun’s mother is from the lower echelon of samurai society.

To this end, the Shogun’s mother mentions Uemon no Suke’s beauty to the Shogun and when he takes notice, recommends he make her one of his consorts. The Shogun asks Uemon no Suke to become one of his consorts, but she convinces him that he should let her win his love first and talks him into putting her in charge of the women’s quarters. In his address before the women of the quarters, he tells them that they should take anything Uemon no Suke says as though it were a command from he himself.

During the assembly Yasuko aims a pleased smile towards Uemon no Suke and Midai-sama, but Oden no Kata interprets it as laughing at her. Afterwards, Oden no Kata calls Yasuko to the corridor and yanks her into the bathing room to yell at her for making her life miserable. As Oden no Kata starts to beat up on Yasuko, the pregnant Yasuko falls into one of the baths and can’t get out. Oden no Kata flees but places the wooden bar across the outside of the door, so Yasuko cannot get out. Just then Uemon no Suke happens by and sees Oden no Kata hurrying away in haste and notices the water on the corridor floor, but fails to understand its import and turns away.

Yasuko manages to haul herself out of the bathwater, but cannot open the door. She throws herself at it and screams, but to no avail. Finally she collapses on the floor holding her abdomen. Will she be found in time? Will she lose the baby?...

See back episodes on this site.

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November 03, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 3

O-Oku Drama

Episode 3 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 10/27/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

The Shogun's personal attendent, Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu (Kitamura Ikki) introduces a new woman, Someko (Kanjiya Shihori), to sleep with the Shogun. She agrees to do so because she is in love with Yanagisawa, and clutches his inro (decorative medicine caddy) to withstand the attentions of the Shogun as silent tears run down her face during the ordeal.

In the meantime, the Buddhist priest soothsayer, Ryūkō, has predicted that Yasuko’s child will be a boy, significantly raising her status in the women’s quarters. The Shogun’s mother is eager to play the two women off against each other and reduce the power of Oden no Kata, the mother of the Shogun’s children, so far. Because of the added competition between the two women, Oden no Kata asks the Shogun to officially declare her son to be the designated next Shogun. The Shogun doesn’t see the need for this and when she asks what if something suddenly happened to the Shogun, he is quite put out.

The Shogun, in his continually clumsy attempts at kindness, invites Yasuko’s father to the palace thinking she must be missing him. During the stage performance of buffoonery, the Shogun invites Yasuko’s father to get up on stage and participate. Yasuko is much upset and gets up from her seat beside the Shogun and leaves the room. This rude display of ignoring proper protocol earns the ire of the Shogun’s mother, who confines Yasuko to her rooms until she cools down. After some time, Yasuko asks for permission to stroll in the extensive garden grounds and Oden no Kata’s minions help Yasuko step into previously prepared garden sandals.

In the garden, Yasuko serendipitously runs into her father. There Yasuko berates her father and tells him how much she hates him for allowing what happened to her mother and herself, not to mention her husband. As she turns away, Oden no Kata invites (commands) her to come down the stairs to see the gorgeous blossoming peonies. As Yasuko carefully steps down the stairs, her sandal strap breaks and she goes tumbling. Her father reaches out to grab her to safety, but they end up rolling down together. Her father is seriously injured, but manages to pull out her husband’s will and read its touching contents to Yasuko. In the end, her father recovers and Yasuko does not lose the baby.

But, the next time Yasuko and her entourage run across Oden no Kata and her entourage, Yasuko does not step back and bow in deference allowing the other to pass, and furthermore warns Oden no Kata that if another such incident as the garden occurs, she will have the Shogun do something about Oden no Kata.

In the final moments, the beauty Uemon no Suke (Takaoka Saki) from Kyoto does agree to enter the women’s quarters as an attendant to Midai-sama. How will that affect the various power struggles…

Description of Episode 3 in Japanese:

O-Oku Homepage:

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October 25, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 2

O-Oku Drama

Episode 2 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 10/20/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

After the Shogun is finished having his way with Yasuko (Uchiyama Rina) and has fallen asleep, she sits up and starts to lift the sword off its rest, when the female guard posted just beyond the bamboo curtains of the bedchamber asks Yasuko if it is worth the destruction of her family (loss of their samurai status, lands, and retainers) as would surely follow. Needless to say Yasuko thinks better of it and refrains from assassinating the Shogun. Whew, and here I thought maybe Fuji TV was going to rewrite history, and do us out of ten or so more episodes.

The Shogun is quite taken with Yasuko, but obviously it is not so with the other ladies of the women’s quarters. She has three to worry about in particular, the mother of the Shogun Keishōin (Enami Kyōko), the mother of the Shogun’s two children Oden no Kata (Koike Eiko), and the Shogun's official wife (Midai Dokoro) Nobuko (Fujiwara Norika), who is a noblewoman. At a beautiful outdoor dance performance, Oden no Kata offers to pour some sake for Yasuko, who is in the privileged seat beside the Shogun, and “accidentally” spills it on Yasuko’s very lovely, and very pricey kimono. Ah, but she offers to replace Yasuko’s kimono with one of her own and commands Yasuko to follow her back to her chambers. Where naturally, Oden no Kata proceeds to disrobe Yasuko down to her undies (plain white silk under-robes) and attempts to stab her in the throat. But how propitious, just then it begins to rain and thunder and everyone rushes into the chambers, including the cowardly Shogun who has grabbed a women’s outer-robe to hide under as he wails in fright at the thunder. Wimp.

Anyhow, he finds Yasuko and crawls in her lap and once he calms down explains why he is afraid of thunder. His mother used to lock him in a shed and wouldn’t let him out, even once when lightening hit the garden tree which caught fire and fell on the shed. He was rescued by Yasuko’s mom, Akuri, whom he loved very much because she was always kind to him. Then he wonders aloud why Akuri had to kill herself and cried after they slept together, he had thought she would be pleased by his showing his favor. Duh.

The Shogun, in his unerring brilliance, decides to let Yasuko and her former husband meet for a brief time in the teahouse in private. Later in bed, the Shogun says she looks even more beautiful than ever, she didn’t happen to do more than talk with her former husband, did she? She coldly responds, no she didn’t have time for that. But we, the audience, know that’s because the two of them were busy planning their lover’s suicide.

Once upon a time where the Tokyo National Museum and Ueno park now rest upon Ueno hill was the grounds of the grand Kaneiji temple and its sub-temples. Yasuko visits this temple to meet her former husband in secret to fulfill their suicide pact, but as he is about to stab her in the throat, she starts to wretch and he figures out she is pregnant, but not by him. I guess she had been at the Edo castle a little longer than I had thought. Even after his second attempt he cannot bring himself to kill her and the guards break in and carry him off. She begs the Shogun’s mother to spare her husband’s life, which is not possible, but she is allowed to see him one more time before being dragged out of the temple. As she flings herself at the temple gate upon leaving, one of the high-ranking shogunal retainers, Yanagisawa, offers to be her support, if things get too tough for her at the castle, but we know he is a stooge of the Shogun’s mother. Will Yasuko fall for his ploy of kindness…

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October 15, 2005

OOKU〜Hana no Ran: EPISODE 1

O-Oku Drama

Episode 1 of Ooku〜Hana no Ran (Aired 10/13/2005, Fuji Terebi 10-11 PM)

It’s Setsubun at the Makino household and Makino Narisada (Hiraizumi Sei) is wearing a mask of a demon and the family members are chasing him around throwing beans at him and shouting "in with good luck, out with demons" (Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto), as is traditional on this holiday held around the lunar New Year. Makino slips on the beans and falls on the short stairs of the veranda before the inner garden of the house.

The next evening Makino is performing in a Noh performance before the young Shogun Tsunayoshi (Tanihara Shōsuke) when he falls to his knees at the climax due to his injury from the day before. As he drops to his knees, the angle of the Noh mask shifts giving a wonderful example of how the expression of a Noh mask can dramatically change depending on the angle and the lighting.

After the performance, Makino is highly apologetic to the Shogun fearing reprisal, but the Shogun is surprisingly unaffected and invites himself to give a performance at Makino’s house.

After the Shogun’s Noh performance at Makino’s house, the Shogun is shown to his guest room by Makino’s wife Akuri (Manda Hisako). Several women are brought along for the Shogun to choose for the night. However, he sends them all away and grabs Makino’s wife instead. The rape is invoked by the traditional symbol of unraveling the woman’s obi sash. The Shogun continues to visit Makino’s household to give Noh performances and every night he demands to sleep with Makino’s wife, until he sees her shadow reflected on the paper Shoji sliding doors as she cries on the verandah before the garden. The next time the Shogun visits, he does not ask for Makino’s wife, who afterwards commits suicide anyway, but catches the eye of his beautiful daughter, Yasuko (Uchiyama Rina).

Yasuko is the darling of the family and happily married to Narizumi (Tanabe Seiichi). However, the Shogun demands that she be brought to the inner castle as one of his consorts or Makino will have his grounds and rice income confiscated. Her husband tries to commit ritual seppuku, but she prevents him saying whether he commits suicide or not, she will still be sent to the castle.

She is dressed as a bride, in the traditional Shinto white robes, when she is carried by palanquin to the castle, but her entrance to the castle threatens Oden no Kata’s position, who is the mother of the Shogun’s two children. Yasuko carries with her the crane hairpin of her mother’s, but as a momento of her mother or does she hope to stab the Shogun with it on their first night together? There is also a sword displayed in the tokonoma alcove, in case the hairpin proves insufficient…

Drama Wiki Page:

The following are all in Japanese:

Index of figures who appear in historical dramas:

Homepage for description of episodes:

Description of Episode 1:

Cast of Ō-oku:

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October 06, 2005

Fall Season Japanese TV 2005

Aibo Detective Show

◇Aibō Season Four (相棒〜シーズン4)
Starting 10/12, Wednesday nights at 8:00 on Terebi Asahi (Channel 10 in Tokyo)

This is a fairly well done detective show with less predicable story lines than other similar shows. The fun of the show lies in the main character, Sugishita Ukyo (Mizutani Yutaka), portrayed as a well educated upper-class gentleman (obō-chama in Japanese) with all the humor the Japanese find in that role. His use of polite language is wonderful, and a great lesson for those interested in Japanese honorifics. His side kick, Kameyama Kaoru (Terawaki Yasufuni), is a large and unruly man by Japanese standards, and the contrast of the pair is a source of much of the low-key humor. The two, which have a close relationship of mutual respect and affection, originally worked together in the same section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, then Kameyama was transferred to another division, but now they are back together. The earlier series are being repeated at various times in the afternoons this month on Terebi Asahi, (dates and times in Japanese).

http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Aibou_4 (in English)
http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/aibou/ (in Japanese)
http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/aibou/4/story.html (in Japanese)

O-Oku Drama

◇Ō-OKU: THE WAR OF FLOWERS ([新]大奥〜華の乱〜)
Starting 10/13, Thursday nights at 10:00 on Fuji Terebi (Channel 8)

This is the third series of this seasonal show concerning the women’s quarters of the Shogun’s castle, called the Ō-oku (the Great Deep) in Japanese. There was something like 1000 women living in the castle during the Edo period, making the quarters rife with intrigue and jealousy. This Fuji Terebi show puts the NHK yearly drama to shame with beautiful actors, better acting, and gorgeous kimono. Plus, it only plays lip-service to history, so it can tell the hidden side of the period and treat the lives of women. The third series deals with the women in the castle during the time of the 5th Shogun, Tsunayoshi. It is worth watching just to see the beautiful women actors and their sumptuous kimono, just creating those kimono must put Fuji Terebi back quite a bit. The very first series is being repeated from 10/11 on weekdays at 2:00 on, of course, Fuji Terebi.

http://www.fujitv.co.jp/oh-oku/index2.html (in Japanese)
http://www.nt2099.com/DORAMA/database.html (in English under Ooku)

Wednesday nights at 7:27 on Terebi Tokyo (Channel 12)

This anime program for kids seems to be more popular in Kansai (western Japan). It usually ranks in the top 10 Anime chart for Kansai, but does not even make the chart in Tokyo. It is a ninja adventure story with lots of action necessary to protect the world, which is an imaginary place with a mixture of ancient east and contemporary elements. It is based on a manga story of the same name and available in the US in the Shonen Jump magazine. Naturally there are related video games and toys, and the movie is scheduled to be released imminently.

http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/anime/naruto/ (in Japanese)
http://web-jpn.org/kidsweb/cool/05-08/cool050801.html (in English)

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