I’m currently watching and enjoying NHK’s Taiga Drama called “Komyo ga Tsuji,” (功名が辻) a year-long period drama set during the turn of the 17th century. It features a footsoldier samurai named Yamauchi Kazutoyo and his wife Chiyo. Both are historical figures who actually existed. Kazutoyo served under Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. These three men happens to be Japan’s most famous trio for unifying the warring states of Japan by the early 17th century. For his meritorious service in battle, Kazutoyo is awarded the lordship of a few castles in succession, eventually ending up as the lord of Kochi Castle in Shikoku.
Chiyo is played by Nakama Yukie, a good-looking actress from Okinawa who long graduated from her bikini idol days. Kazutoyo is played by Kamikawa Takaya. They work well together. I don’t think they will win any acting awards, but they do well enough.
The reason why I’m watching this is because one of the main settings of the story is Omi Province, which today is Shiga Prefecture where I have relatives and where I have visited many of the places where the drama takes place. One is Odani Castle, the stronghold of Lord Azai Nagamasa who married Nobunaga’s younger sister Oichi and is later defeated by Nobunaga.
I’m also very interested in this time period when the transition of power went from Nobunaga to Hideyoshi and finally to Ieyasu. Another element is the Japanese castle, one of my favorite photo subjects. The background scene in the show is often a castle.
Being a student of Japanese history, I’m finding it interesting to watch a show like this. Seeing the costumes, background sets, etc., enhances your imagination of that time in history. It’s a great supplement to reading any book on the subject. It’s also a great Japanese lesson. My Japanese is still not good enough to understand everything they say (a lot of historical terms still stump me), so it forces me to look up some words. Those of you outside Japan are lucky to have English subtitles.
During the show, a narrator always explains what’s going on historically. And after each episode, there’s a short introduction to one of the places featured in the show. It introduces the castle, gravesite, battlefield, etc., and how to get there by train.
So this whole NHK Taiga Drama thing is really about promoting the areas of Japan where the story’s background is set. This translates into more tourists and all the cities and towns featured in the drama execute a major tourist campaign during the airing of the TV series. Back in Shiga, there are special exhibitions related to Kazutoyo and Chiyo and tourist offices and travel agencies are promoting special tours to the places featured in the drama.
I know that Kakegawa in Shizuoka is also happy about the TV series. Kakegawa is home to Kakegawa Castle where Kazutoyo once lived. It has a nice castle tower and lord’s residence.
In Japan, the show airs on Sundays at 8 pm on NHK’s Sogo Channel (channel 1 in Tokyo) and again at 10 pm the same evening on NHK BS Channel 2. A rerun is shown on Sat. at 1:05 pm on the NHK Sogo Channel.