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S-A Podcast Discussion Megathread / FAQ; Everything you wanted to know and talk about, but were afraid to ask.
Topic Started: Jul 20 2017, 11:25 AM (4,925 Views)
kitsuno
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The Shogun

This thread will be the Samurai Archives podcast megathread, we'll keep all podcast conversation here (I shut down the podcast subforum because having one thread per episode didn't seem to do much more than add clutter, so I think this is a more effective way of doing things). Ask any questions, contribute ideas, discuss episodes, whatever works. As new episodes are posted, I'll put the notifications here. But feel free to discuss past episodes as well.

Please read this post before posting to the thread.

Podcast Frequently Asked Questions

1. Suggestions/How about topic X?

We absolutely welcome suggestions and topic ideas, and we have a list. Just keep in mind that we can't tell you when or even if we'll get to it. There are a few reasons we have to pick and choose topics that we tackle:

A. We're all full time doing something else. Until a rich benefactor bankrolls this whole production, we do this during (not much) free time. Some of us don't have the time to explore any topics beyond what we're currently researching, so ideas that are a little too far away from that may not work.

B. Some great ideas are just impossible due to lack of sources and a lack of existing scholarship. Over the millennia, documents get lost, burned, looted, and trashed. Sometimes there just aren't any extant documents or information and what actually happened has been lost to history. Or maybe it exists in some mountain temple in Niigata, but hasn't been examined by scholars yet. You get the point. The best we could do would be a discussion about what might have happened, but per point A, no guarantees that will happen. It really depends on the topic/subject.

C. Interests matter. If a topic falls outside of the interest or specialty of everyone, it probably won't happen. On the bright side, that's when we can take the opportunity to interview other people with those specialties or interests. So if it's not something we'd tackle, sometimes we can find someone who does.

If we try to tackle something that is constrained by A, B, or C, it results in weak episodes, and can (or will) tick off people with that interest. So the cost/benefit ratio is just not worth it.

2. Audio Quality Stuff

Up to about early 2013 the episodes were done live in Honolulu, and because there is no winter, buildings for the most part are shoddy third world contraptions with no insulation or soundproofing (I'm looking at you, University of Hawaii). So that's pretty much the main reason why the sound quality was so bad. That and the old digital recorder had a problem with the left speaker. I have a new digital recorder, so any new in-person podcasts should be fine, and otherwise we're at the mercy of skype. Also, since this is all out of (my) pocket, I can't really afford to get super high tech with it. I'd like to get mics and/or a soundboard I could plug into the digital recorder, but that will probably have to wait until the Patreon income reaches that financial goal. I'm a software guy, not a hardware guy, so I do what I can with what I have - and thus spend hours and hours on post production.

3. Format Stuff

Mainly our format is to pick one of three formats:
1. A specific research interest one of us has, and talk about it.
2. One or two journal articles with an interesting topic to introduce and talk about.
3. Some sort of event/conference/presentation that one or more of us attended.
Ideas that fall into one of those three are the most likely to get done sooner rather than later.

Everyone involved in the podcast is free to do one-off type episodes or change the format as they wish - interview a third party, write a "scripted" individual episode, team up with another person and do an episode, etc. It's sort of rare because of time constraints. The Bonus Episodes are an example of "going off format". And with all episodes, if a person wasn't there for the recording, they have nothing to do with it. That should be obvious, but sometimes people don't get it, so there you go. The members of the podcast are much more of a confederation than a team. Sometimes person A is around, sometimes person B, sometimes person C, and sometimes only A and C or B and C, etc.

I like to expand the format whenever I can and as much as possible, and I'd like to do more of that as time and ability permits. Some people prefer discussion, some people prefer scholarly treatments, some people prefer philosophical meanderings on Japanese history; I try to address all that when I can. I don't like being locked into one format.

Also, I really don't like to "date" the episodes. I like the idea that if someone listens to an episode recorded in 2014 in 2022, it's still relevant, and doesn't include a lot of references to current events, the date, etc. Each episode should be considered a standalone episode, with very little impact on the preceding and following episodes.

Are you going to do any narrative history episodes like the XYZ podcast?

At least one. More if possible. The sheer volume of reading and research and time that goes into it is staggering. I don't like to half-ass that sort of thing like some other podcasts out there that crank out lots of episodes but with little substance. Just my preference. If I'm going to do it, I want to do it right.

4. How much work goes into the podcast? How hard can it be?

Well, depends on a few things. If the topic is a research topic someone is already working on, it's a lot easier, and essentially becomes an interview with that person. Topics based on journal articles basically just require reading that article, and maybe one or two related to get a good foundational base. That plus any prior knowledge. Bigger topics take more time, effort, and reading. The individual episode I'm working on has been in process for about 7 months, with the majority of work being done in the last three months. Currently free time is at a premium, so I do a little bit here and there when I can.

The number one thing that requires the most time and effort is editing the audio. Conservatively it takes about 3-5 times as long to edit an episode as the episode is long. So for every hour of audio, it takes an additional 3-5 hours to go through and edit it all into a coherent and clean episode. This is a big reason I'm currently only doing one episode per month.

5. How can I support the podcast/forum/website/blog?

The Samurai Archives has been around for 18 years. I've always tried to keep pace with the technology, so that's why there is so much stuff. But doing so means $$$. So I've dutifully paid out of pocket for these 18 years, scraping together funds from the Amazon links, the T-shirt shop, etc. But anything above and beyond that income comes right out of my pocket. SO, help is greatly appreciated. I've set up a Patreon account that is at this point finally paying for the podcast. If you check out the site, you'll see the financial goals that I've set, as well as the little perks you can get for donating. And like I always say, even 1$ an episode helps - As things progress, I can tick off each financial goal, and every time that happens I'll be able to continue improving the podcast.

So please take a look, and consider contributing. It's a pretty easy process, and you have full control over how much and how often you contribute:

https://www.patreon.com/samuraiarchives

You can also toss out a positive review on iTunes and help get the word out. You don't even have to write anything. You can just click the stars, and bam, all done.

If you can think of any other questions, feel free to ask them here.
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

Next episode will be released on or about July 30th.
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

Also, I should mention, I'm hoping to make a push for 100 reviews on iTunes. More reviews pushes us further up the ranks on the iTunes "What's Hot" for history. We're usually around #50, every once in a while we bump up to #35 or so, but more reviews means higher rankings which gets us more noticed. It's super simple, just find the podcast on iTunes, and click a star rating. That's it. You can write a review if you want, but you don't even have to do that. However long it takes to turn on iTunes, find the podcast in the store, and click a button is as long as it will take you.

Thanks!
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

For all you Patreon Patrons at the $5+ level, check your email, the link to the new episode is out. For the rest, you'll see it on iTunes on July 30th.
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kitsuno
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EP133 Teaching Japanese History

Today we talk to Mike Baker, long time forum member (Maikeruart) - at least one of the top four oldest members from the original forum 18 years ago, who developed and taught a course on Japanese history at Worcester State University. Basically this is the other side of Episodes 128-129 in order to complete the circle.

http://samuraipodcast.com/ep133-teaching-japanese-history
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Tatsunoshi
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Miko no Kami

Really enjoyed the "Teaching Japanese History" episode. "I've been around since Henrietta and the Fruit Cellar" is the podcast's single best moment. But besides that, nice job, Mike and Chris.
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

That's an inside joke only a few select people will recognize.
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Dickjutsu
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I can only assume an Evil Dead reference. =/
Richard C. Shaffer
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kitsuno
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An Evil Dead reference and a "you had to be there" callback.
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Tatsunoshi
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Miko no Kami

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kitsuno
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So here's a strange request - If there are any guys from the UK here interested in doing a guest voice spot on an upcoming podcast (I basically need someone with a legit accent that I surely can't pull off record a short monologue), it would help me out. It wouldn't take any real time, and there's no money in it, and little glory. But it will be cool. So if you're interested, PM me.
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Tatsunoshi
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Miko no Kami

You still have that Turnbull promo I sent you years ago, right ;) ?
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

The episode I have planned for around 9/30/17 is a complete history of Seppuku. I want it to pretty much answer every question possible surrounding the act, and I don't want to miss anything. So I'm asking everyone to list out all the questions that you can think of related to Seppuku here so that I don't skip over anything. So far I have 25 pages of notes based on about 30 sources that answer the following, in no particular order:

1. What is it
2. How is it done
3. Why is it done
4. How did it start / Where did it come from
5. When, why, and how was it finally banned
6. Different types of seppuku cuts
7. Differences from Hiean to Edo period
8. The full Edo-era rituals and ritualization and protocols
9. Medical aspects - effectiveness, morbidity, modern treatment of stomach cutting
10. Psychological aspects
11. Modern and early-modern psychological theory on suicide from Durkheim to Joiner / modern psychological theory on what is necessary to gain the ability to enact lethal self-harm
12. Modern examples of "seppuku", intentional and otherwise (due to mental illness)
13. 21st century suicide-by-seppuku examples
14. Yukio Mishima, General Nogi, and Nonaka Masaharu
15. Self-determined seppuku vs. judiciary sentencing of seppuku (Edo period)
16. Western witnesses to Seppuku
17. Popularization of Seppuku vis a vis War Tales
18. Popularization of Junshi during the Edo period
19. Problems caused by Junshi during the Edo period
20. Examples of offenses in house codes and laws that are punishable by seppuku
21. All about the Kaishaku-nin
22. Female seppuku equivalents
23. Bungled seppuku and kaishaku
24. Buddhism and seppuku
25. Examples of all of the above

If you can think of anything here that I'm missing that wouldn't fall into the above, please feel free to post it.

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Maikeruart
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Shushou
I may have overlooked it, but also the media portrayal of it. I mean Harakiri and its remake being just two examples. I remember as an undergrad in college I was planning on replicating seppuku on a medical dummy, since I think peoples understanding of the physical damage (and the smell) is limited.
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kitsuno
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Maikeruart
Aug 23 2017, 07:00 AM
I may have overlooked it, but also the media portrayal of it. I mean Harakiri and its remake being just two examples. I remember as an undergrad in college I was planning on replicating seppuku on a medical dummy, since I think peoples understanding of the physical damage (and the smell) is limited.
The media portrayal (The old and remake of Harakiri specifically) is addressed in the episode coming out next week, actually. But anything more in depth would end up being film study, and possibly start to get further away from the topic than I'm prepared to go. But, good catch.
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Dickjutsu
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On the subject of the film Harakiri, if you could find any good sources or anecdotes of actual cases of that happening - i.e. Ronin requesting a courtyard to commit seppuku in, either to get a bit of extra suicide esteem or to blackmail them for alms.

Touching on peasant suicide might be a nice addition, too. Whether or not peasant Ashigaru would commit suicide to prevent being executed or press-ganged into manual labor for the winners.
Richard C. Shaffer
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

I haven't looked too much into either, but also I haven't come across any. In particular the Ashigaru question is a good one, but so far I haven't found anything on it. They were probably ignored by the writers of records as inconsequential I'd assume.

Also, I just rechecked my notes, I actually have about 38 pages of notes. This is a monstrous undertaking, not sure how long the podcast episode is going to end up being, but I'm guessing more than two hours.
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isshokenmei
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What about the aftermath of seppuku and all it entailed for those who had to go on living? What was the impact on relatives, retainers, friends and other associates of the deceased? How was their status or standing in the community affected, if at all?
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Sam
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kitsuno
 
If you can think of anything here that I'm missing that wouldn't fall into the above, please feel free to post it.
Has anything similar to seppuku existed outside Japan?
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

isshokenmei
Aug 23 2017, 05:27 PM
What about the aftermath of seppuku and all it entailed for those who had to go on living? What was the impact on relatives, retainers, friends and other associates of the deceased? How was their status or standing in the community affected, if at all?
That never even occurred to me. I'll try to look into it, but since I haven't come accross anything that addressed that yet, I doubt I will. But it's a great question. I probably address any affected, at least indirectly.

Sam
Aug 24 2017, 07:53 AM
Has anything similar to seppuku existed outside Japan?

I do address that, and I could probably do an even deeper analysis, but I'm probably going to restrict it to China, since generally speaking everything came from China. I'll touch on the differences between the Samurai and the Christian Knights at least.

But for more info and/or a sneak peak, this article is good, and free online, and I'll probably end up pulling from it. It sort of addresses the question at hand tangentially:
Culturally sanctioned suicide: Euthanasia, seppuku, and terrorist martyrdom



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Dickjutsu
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Here's an interesting angle to address, as well: The Shinju. It was still Edo-era suicide, but for a particular purpose and not done through the style of seppuku's rituals.
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kitsuno
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Dickjutsu
Aug 26 2017, 06:46 PM
Here's an interesting angle to address, as well: The Shinju. It was still Edo-era suicide, but for a particular purpose and not done through the style of seppuku's rituals.
Haven't come across this barely at all in Seppuku literature, although I know about it. I'm not sure what or if there was considered any relation between seppuku types of suicide and shinju. Interesting question to think about. If I come across anything, I'll probably address it, otherwise I probably won't, since there doesn't seem to be much connection in what I've been reading. Definitely an interesting question. If I had another 2 months to work on this, I'd probably add that and go even deeper, but I have to have this recorded by around the 27th, and I'm going to be in Japan for a couple weeks between now and then, so unfortunately I have to be a little more selective at this point.
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kitsuno
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Next episode is out later tonight. I'll post here when it goes live. ($5+ Patrons already have it).

Also, still pushing for that 100 reviews on iTunes, so if you have iTunes and about 3 minutes of free time, please rate it, and only review it if you feel like it. I'm easy.
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EP134 Double Harakiri - BONUS EPISODE 10
http://samuraipodcast.com/ep134-double-harakiri-bonus-episode-10

This episode was recorded maybe 4 years ago with myself and Forest, and has been sitting in my podcast bank. I finally got around to editing it because the following episode will be all about Seppuku, so it seemed a good place to put it. We watched the original and remake of Hara-Kiri, and basically just casually analyzed it. We probably didn't get as deep into the history as we could have, but our goal was more to focus on the movie content rather than historical veracity. I don't think either of us hated either movie. I like both for different reasons, anyway. If you can explain some of the things that we pointed out as not making sense, or if you disagree with anything, post away!

Oh, and I did the intro to this episode on a poorly placed mic, so the quality is pretty bad at the start. But it's only like a minute intro, so you'll get through it. Now that I figured out how to use the mic, that shouldn't happen again.
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Sam
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From an interview with Kobayashi Masaki:
Quote:
 
But what has been your theme, in terms of your ideas about history?

All of my pictures, from a certain point on, are concerned with resisting entrenched power. In a way, The Human Condition concerned itself with this larger theme. That’s what Harakiri is about, of course, and Samurai Rebellion as well. I suppose I’ve always challenged authority. This has been true of my own life, including my life in the military.

I see.

Yes, in terms of my opposition to militarism, military organizations. In those days, everything was strictly controlled, certainly not something that we could openly discuss. Finally, after the war, there came a time when we could directly address these issues.

How about before the war and during the war? For instance, could you have made a movie like Harakiri before the war?

It would not have been possible. Censorship was extremely strict. So someone like Kinoshita Keisuke, my mentor, made Army, which was an antiwar picture in its own way, a fine film. But after that, he stopped making movies altogether and retreated into the countryside somewhere.

[...]

What if, similarly, an American, unfamiliar with Japanese things, were to watch Harikiri or Youth of Japan. Would you want them to accept those films as podraits of the real Japan?

Yes. I believe that both movies are totally appropriate to gain a historical perspective, or even to understand contemporary, postwar Japan. But
watching these movies, you need to be very conscious of the director’s intentions; otherwise there’s the possibility for great misunderstanding. Viewers might walk away thinking “what a barbaric country.’’ I maintain that that scene of ritual suicide is critical in conveying the breadth of the protagonist’s humanism.

When we screened Harakiri at Cannes, everyone started whistling, booing during the bamboo blade scene, when he stabs his stomach with the bamboo sword. They quieted down eventually; as the film unfolds---the scenes of Mikuni and Nakadai confronting each other and then the flashbacks to the past---these elements come slowly into play, and one witnesses the blossoming of Nakadai’s humanism, of his humanity. Simultaneously this very human atmosphere permeated the viewing audience and, instead, the audience burst into applause. So I believe that they understood the picture quite accurately.

At these international film festivals, there is always a press conference after the screening. The big issue, of course, was the scene of him stabbing his stomach with the bamboo blade-which the European reporters all considered excessively brutal. I explained to them just what I explained to you here, and then the journalists started arguing with each other. They ultimately concluded that the director was right, but what I found so exciting was that the discussion itself was so direct and frank.

How did the audience at Cannes respond to the last scenes of Harikiri to the scenes of swordplay (chanbara)?

We used real swords (honmi) during all those swordplay scenes. We didn’t let the actors use bamboo blades, they used real blades. You are familiar with honmi, right?

Yes, yes.

When you sling a real sword from your hips, it’s heavy, you see, so when you walk, inevitably, you walk with your hips rather than your legs. So, the distinctive style of the bushi (warrior) naturally emerges. Working with a real blade, the actor can also appreciate what a terrible business it is to fell another human being. What’s more, it becomes immediately apparent that it’s impossible to handle a real sword gracefully, the way they do in chanbara [choreographed swordplay films]. There was always the risk of real danger during the filming. The swordplay choreographer we hired was not a film professional. Instead, we hired a Japanese kendo champion; he instructed the actors in the ways of kenjutsu [the use of long, heavy, cumbersome bamboo practice swords to instill the basics of swordplay]. The resulting swordplay was not the beautiful, flowing kind of swordplay you see in movies. Instead, it was awkward and intensely realistic.

The swordplay was really fantastic, but ultimately the hero is not felled by a sword. He's killed by a Western gun, a rifle, right? What is the significance of that?

He had to be summarily disposed of, in order to uphold the honor of the Ii family, but there was also the clan’s own animal terror in the face of this man’s tremendous strength. The most important element in that scene, however, is the suit of armor. The moment he grabs the armor and throws it at them, the guns go off and shoot him down. When that suit of armor collapses, it symbolizes the last gasp of resistance against authority.

It’s an incredible, unforgettable moment ...

At the very end of the film, the armor has been fully restored, back in place; no smoke or any other distractions. So the film ends with the armor restored and the clan’s diary entry indicating that nothing of interest had taken place that day.

The lies you mentioned earlier.

Yes, the deceptions of history ...

You know, watching Harakiri today, in 1993, I still experience it as totally new. I think that it is still very relevant to the times that we live in, particularty in terms of the lies of history ...

It depends on who’s watching; some people may experience it that way. You know, I hate to sound self-aggrandizing, but watching my films today, they don’t feel dated. What this means is that I really spent time on the editing, but also spent a lot of time working on the whole sound of the film, including the music. So when I finished a film, it was really complete. Normally, others might spend about three days on the final edit. But I’d spend two weeks, even more in the case of Kwaidan. The fact that I was able to fully complete my films, with no regrets, is a significant factor in why, watching them today, they don’t feel dated, they remain relevant. You know, I kind of like watching my own films.

They always feel new.

I don’t know that they’re new, exactly, but they certainly never feel dated. Yes. Having considered the question-why my films don’t feel dated this is the conclusion I have settled on.

I found the lengthy discussion about whether the premise of the movie is realistic interesting. I just took it as a sign that the movie was very emotionally affecting on our podcasters.

For what is worth the Wikipedia plot summary describes the events of the first movie as follows:
Quote:
 
Infuriated by the rising number of "suicide bluffs", the three most senior samurai of the clan—Yazaki Hayato, Kawabe Umenosuke, and Omodaka Hikokuro—persuaded Saitō to force Motome to follow through and kill himself. Upon examining Motome's swords, their blades were found to be made of bamboo. Enraged that any samurai would "pawn his soul", the House of Ii forced Motome to disembowel himself with his own bamboo blade, making his death slow, agonizingly painful, and deeply humiliating.
And from the same interview Kobayashi talks about that brutal scene:
Quote:
 
Turning to your films, I'd like to ask you first about Harakiri. What was your purpose in making this film?

Ritual suicide was the essential point of the drama. When he takes that bamboo blade and pierces his stomach, that is the key element that leads to the ultimate conclusion, which is why that scene is so intense. Actually, if you try cutting open your stomach with a bamboo blade, it’s impossible. In the script, it just mentions that the character stabs his stomach with a bamboo blade. But attempting to portray this in real images was an entirely different matter. It was very difficult. So the day before filming the scene, I still hadn’t come up with the storyboards and I went out drinking. You know, envisioning storyboards is all about concentration and focus, about pondering a question to which you have no solution and suddenly you have a flash of vision. It’s probably a similar process in music as well. Anyway, in order to stab your own stomach with a bamboo blade, you’d have to fix the blade very firmly onto the tatami, practically forcing your body down onto it in order for the blade to puncture you; that was my insight. Once I saw that, the surrounding images came easily. Of course, I had been drinking, which is why I guess I headed off in such a brutal direction. The storyboards I made when I was drunk were quite different from the ones I did when I was sober. So I asked Miyajima, the cameraman, which ones he thought were better, and he said “they’re better when you’re drunk,” and that’s how I ended up with such a cruel scene.

The reason I went that far in that scene was that I felt that the scene should be as brutal as possible; but the music, Takemitsu’s music for that scene was so wonderful. Of course he used a biwa. The resonant strumming of the biwa becomes the very emblem of sadness, quietly insinuating itself into the scene. Which is why the scene doesn’t come across as brutal. It’s thanks to Takemitsu’s music. I just love that music....

In that scene, I found the sadism of the Ii family, symbolized by the character played by Mikuni, deeply underscored.

Is that so? Well, yes, Mikuni’s character appears as a kind of symbol for feudalism, and he managed to portray that kind of coldness, or shall we say, sadism, extremely well.
Edited by Sam, Aug 29 2017, 08:59 PM.
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