[From November Issue 2011]
Love and Honor (Directed by YAMADA Yoji)
Released in 2006, following “The Twilight Samurai” and “The Hidden Blade,” “Bushi no Ichibun” or “Love and Honor” is the final chapter of Yamada Yoji’s “Samurai Trilogy.” The main character is portrayed by KIMURA Takuya, a member of the popular idol group SMAP.
At the end of the Edo era, a lower ranking samurai named MIMURA Shinnojo lives a modest but happy life with his wife, Kayo. One day, Shinnojo tells Kayo that his job as the “food taster” for the feudal lord is “unbearable and pointless.” Then he shares his dream of opening a fencing school for village children of all castes. Sadly a few days later, Mimura eats some bad shellfish at work, and loses his eyesight.
No longer useful as a samurai, Mimura loses his will to live and even considers taking his own life with his sword. But, to his relief, his feudal lord allows him to keep his rank and he is ordered to take some time off to recuperate. With Kayo’s deep love and support from Tokuhei, who has been a servant to the Mimura family from the time Mimura’s father’s was head of the household, Shinnojo soon regains his strength and sense of humor.
However, one day Mimura finds out that Kayo is having an affair with Shimada, his boss. Mimura confronts Kayo, who confesses in tears that Shimada, her childhood friend promised her that he would ask their lord to maintain Mimura’s rank in exchange for sexual favors. Mimura tells Kayo that he will divorce her on the spot, and kicks her out into the rain.
Mimura spends a lonely life with Tokuhei. The meals that Tokuhei prepares taste awful, and the dullness of everyday life without Kayo makes them both miserable. After a while, Mimura is informed that the lord’s decision to protect his rank was not made at Shimada’s request but was a personal choice. Mimura makes a pledge on his samurai’s ichibun (pride and honor) to pay Shimada back for tricking Kayo by challenging him to a duel.
He visits his fencing master and trains to fight by listening to the sound of footsteps and by sensing his enemy’s presence. Wearing Kayo’s sash around his head as a headband, Mimura summons Shimada to a riverbank for a duel. Though in great peril, Mimura manages to cut off Shimada’s left arm, then leaves him without finishing him off. Shimada later commits seppuku and dies without revealing the name of his opponent.
One day Tokuhira hires a maid to take care of the house and instructs her to make a meal for her master. Mimura takes a bite and then calls the maid to his dinner table. He realizes that the maid is actually Kayo and tells her, “I thought I would never be able to eat your cooking again.” Her eyes filling up with tears, Kayo asks, “Does that mean I can stay by your side?” Mimura replies, “Thank you for coming back home,” and gathers her in his arms.