Monday, 31 December 2012

Hanamizuki ~ a love lasting for 100 years

The beautiful Hanamizuki (dogwood flower)

After the contemplative post below, I'd like to close this year with this gorgeous, beautiful song titled 'Hanamizuki' by Hitoto Yō. Hanamizuki is the Japanese word for 'dogwood flower' and it is also the title of a 2010 J-romance movie starring Aragaki Yui, Ikuta Toma (!) and Osamu Mukai (!!). I haven't got the time to review the movie, but it's really really beautiful. The music is gorgeous as well. 

Herewith I present you the Hanamizuki MV, Hanamizuki OST by Hitoto Yō and another version by Aragaki. Also presented are the Romaji lyrics, English translation and the original Kanji lyrics from Jpopasia.

Happy New Year, and may the love we share with our loved ones lasts for 100 years!

OST Hanamizuki by Hitoto Yō

Year End and New Year contemplation

Sunrise in Lovina (pic by myself)

Year 2012 is ending soon, in a little more than 12 hours at our place in Australia. I’ve been pondering how 2012 has been to me, and I think, in all honesty, despite its ups and downs, 2012 has been good to me. It started rough; I had lots of tears and – thus – resolutions this year so that I won’t have to go through those painful experiences anymore. I truly hope 2013 will be better, happier, richer, healthier and sweeter for me – and for us all. 
Year 2012 also has many sweet things for me. In addition to realising that I do want to live my life with my partner in Australia, I also sharpened the art of making cupcakes (including the icing), immersed myself in Japanese language through J-doramas, and fell in love with some gorgeous Japanese actors (Okada Masaki! Ikuta Toma! Osamu Mukai!). I made some new friends and rekindled my friendship with my old friends. My dad was ill, and because of that, I somehow got closer to my aunt and also my dear maid who has been helping me so far.  I created my professional cetacean blog and had some good news on the cetacean side of my work. 

I do have some hopes that are not realised yet, hopefully mainly because it is not the time yet. I hope that those dreams of mine will come to fruition before mid 2013. I do have my worries, for those dreams are related to my job and how I can live my life in AU (everything here is more expensive than in Bali!). But just as I was getting worried, I found a passage in a book my friend lent me. The book is titled ‘Ocean of Dharma’ by Chogyam Trungpa. Here, I quote the entire passage for you and me (p 164), in the hope that we will always dare to dream and work to make our dreams come true.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 50: Finale!

Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo with his Higekiri sword

I'm a bit sad that Taira no Kiyomori comes to an end. But I cannot always spare my Sunday evening or Monday early morning doing recaps, so perhaps it's a good thing as well. Plus, I need someone to resume the English translation for me to really understand the fine lines in TNK. Anyway, below is the summary of ep 50 on NHK World Premium:
Kiyomori is struck down by a febrile illness. Kiyomori appears before Saigyō, formerly named Norikiyo, as a wraith, and learns the meaning of his life through dialogue with Saigyō. In Kyoto, people rush to Kiyomori's bedside and bring up their concerns over their future. Kiyomori finally passes away. After the passing of Kiyomori, the fate of the Taira family takes a turn for the worse. Tokiko throws herself into the sea with Emperor Antoku in her arms, and the entire Taira family ends up being destroyed at Dannoura. At the bottom of the sea, Tokiko sees the members of the Taira family standing, including Kiyomori with a sword in his hand.
Click here to watch the finale online.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 49: Kiyomori understood Yoritomo’s dream

Go-Shirakawa (Matsuda Shota) and Kiyomori (Matsuyama Kenichi), ep 49
I turned on my NHK World Premium at 7pm, hoping to see the iconic opening credit of Taira no Kiyomori.  However, I was welcomed with a news anchor talking about the Japanese election. Arrghhh! I didn’t realise that TNK was moved half an hour earlier due to the election! Thank God for the FC site and the rerun (on Monday at 2 am, yes in the morning), otherwise I won’t be able to post this article. 

Below is the summary of Taira no Kiyomori ep 49 from NHK World Premium:

Early in the following year in 1181, ill feelings towards the Taira family spread across the country. Meanwhile, the former Emperor Takakura, who has been an anchor to Kiyomori, passes away at the age of 21. While Kiyomori is losing his power, the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa again appears before Kiyomori and provokes him. In Kamakura, Yoritomo is establishing a new samurai-oriented political system together with his followers. Kiyomori is delighted to learn that Yoritomo is following in the footsteps of Yoshitomo and Kiyomori. Kiyomori tells Go-Shirakawa that the struggle for supremacy among samurais will be intensified from now on.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 48: Yoritomo started to understand Kiyomori

The moment Yoritomo started to understand Kiyomori
Taira no Kiyomori ep 48 is more about the Heike than the Genji (so I wasn’t trying too hard to understand). But that’s okay. We have two more episodes to go, so I will stomach watching the Rokuhara lord (besides, he had the sweet and kind Tokiko with him). More importantly, this episode is where Minamoto no Yoritomo started to understand the true nature of his enemy (and came to respect him because of that). Click here to watch ep 48 online; the NHK summary is below:

After the loss in the Battle of Fujikawa, Kiyomori reluctantly gives in to Munemori’s tearful appeal for restoring the capital to Kyoto. Learning Kiyomori’s decision, Yoritomo no longer understands Kiyomori’s thoughts toward a samurai-oriented country, and asks Benkei about Kiyomori’s younger days. As he hears of Kiyomori’s boldness and fearlessness, Yoritomo comes to realize that Kiyomori and Yoshitomo had the same ambition for the future as Yoritomo is now trying to achieve. Around the same time, the Taira forces accidentally burn down Todaii Temple while trying to drive out the warrior monks. 

The episode opened with Kiyomori saying something to his subordinates (a speech which I evidently did not pay attention to). Then we have Itō Tadakiyo conversing with Taira no Tokitada (Kiyomori’s brother in law) about, among others, the spirit of samurai.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry SMBC

Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry SMBC

I was flipping Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book when I saw the strawberry cupcake recipe. I wonder how it worked, so I searched online for reviews. I found this one from Brown Eyed Baker who was so excited about the final result (and she has lovely photographs!). I immediately was tempted to try.

Then, last week my friends and I were driving through Bedugul in central Bali when my friends spotted some fresh strawberries on sale. Since I had wanted to try Martha Stewart's recipe on strawberry cupcake, I bought some fresh strawberries. Two days later, I baked a big batch of strawberry cupcakes with strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. It was a total hit! My Australian friend said that this cupcake was the best he'd ever tried. A friend who live in France (and is visiting Bali now) tried it and even took care to eat the remnants of the crumbles sticking on the paper cup. He is a baker himself, so I take that as a compliment! My other friends said that these cupcakes were the best they ever tried. It was more delicious than the cupcakes in local bakeries here (and we have lots of great bakeries in Bali!).

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 47: Yoritomo and Yoshitsune meet at last!

Yoshitsune (Kamiki Ryūnosuke) and Benkei (Aoki sūkō) offering their service to Yoritomo, ep 47

This week’s Taira no Kiyomori (September 1180 CE) opens with the Rokuhara Lord Kiyomori dispatching orders and strategies to fight against Yoritomo’s forces. Click here to see it online. Below is the summary from NHK World Premium:

In 1180, Kiyomori commands his followers to defeat Yoritomo under the name of the former Emperor Takakura. Although Yoritomo loses the battle against the Taira forces at Mt. Ishibashi, he vows to realise Yoshitomo’s long-cherised wish to build a true samurai-oriented country with the backing of powerful anti-Taira samurais. On October 20, the Taira forces led by Koremori (Shigemori’s son) and the Minamoto forces led by Takeda Nobuyoshi stand face to face near Fuji River – The Battle of Fujikawa. The Taira forces, however, flee in fear from the battlefield, mistaking the sound of water birds for a surprise night attack by the Minamoto forces.

Meanwhile, Minamoto no Yoritomo, Hōjō Tokimasa etc were face to face with the Taira force (led by Ito Sukechika and Ōba no Kagechika) for the first time at Mt Ishibashi (14 September 1180). Yoritomo was orginally shocked to see his army receiving big hit, but he fought back with his arrows and sword. Nonetheless, since the reinforcement did not come as expected, the Genji still had to retrieve to a cave. Kajiwara Kagetoki (one of the Heike lead samurai) found the cave and entered it just enough to detect the Genji. However, Kajiwara said to his friends that he didn’t see anything; a narrow escape indeed. The Genji army and Yoritomo would then escape by the sea and regrouped with their comrades to Awa Province. By the way, I think Ito Sukechika here was the same Sukechika, Yae-hime’s father who killed baby Senserumaru and got rid of Yae to God knows where in ep 32).

Yoritomo (Okada Masaki) at the Battle of Ishibashiyama

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 46: Yoritomo Raising an Army!

Yoritomo (Okada Masaki) in full battle armour, ep 46

Starting in May 1180, episode 46 of ‘Taira no Kiyomori’ opened with another Genji/Yoritomo scene, following what happened in ep 45 where Yoritomo received a letter from Prince Mochihito requesting his help. Yoritomo still hesitated a bit. It took Hōjō Masako (Watanabe Anne) sternly reminding him of his life's purpose,  as well as the support from Tō Kuro (Tsukamoto Takashi) and Hōjō Tokimasa (Endō Kenichi) before Yoritomo was convinced of his chance to win a war against Kiyomori. The letter-deliverer (whoever he was) also said that Minamoto no Yorimasa 100% supported Yoritomo. Finally, Yoritomo nodded, and thus began the Genpei War. Click here for the online version of ep 46. Below is the summary of TNK 46 from NHK World Premium (click this for the longer summary in Japanese).

Learning Prince Mochihito's plot, Kiyomori bursts in anger and captures Mochihito and his followers. While Kiyomori enforces the transfer of capital to Fukuhara for Emperor Antoku, Yoritomo finally rises up against the Taira family. Kiyomori has mixed feelings to learn of Yoritomo's move, but at the same time gets excited, thinking the time has finally come for the Taira and Minamoto families to fight for the summit over the nation's power. In September 1180, Kiyomori commands samurais across the country to defeat Yoritomo.

Back to Kyoto: it seems that Kiyomori knew of Yorimasa’s plot with Mochihito. Mochihito learned of the leak and then ran from his house to Uji (Yorimasa's hideout). But as they arrived at Uji, they were attacked by Kiyomori’s army. Yorimasa and his son escaped but his son then died. Yorimasa then committed seppuku (harakiri, or suicide in the face of defeat); the earliest seppuku ever recorded in history.  According to Wiki, Mochihito escaped to Nara, but would be killed by Kiyomori’s army afterwards.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

TNK Interview: Okada Masaki could not play Yoritomo without Anne

Below is my translation of the article in Cinema Today Japan on 18 November 2012. I used Google Translator for word-to-word meaning and common sense (a huge dose of it) for general meaning to understand the article, so please forgive me for the (many many) mistakes I surely make...

Okada Masaki (forgot where I got this from...)

Okada Masaki could not play Yoritomo without Anne

Okada Masaki (the narrator of the currently-airing Taiga Drama ‘Taira no Kiyomori’ and the actor who portrayed the Genji leader Minamoto no Yoritomo) talked about his perception of an ideal couple.

The captivating series that shows a distinctive rendition of the life of Taira no Kiyomori is coming to an end. The story will now focus on Yoritomo raising an army and the destruction of the Taira. Okada, who was responsible for the narration from the first episode, said that he was totally taken by the Heike’s strength. “I think this is the story of a strong person. I think a person like that will also have a brighter future in the modern Japan. I have become a big fan of Kiyomori; until the shooting in July, I was a total Heike.”

Also, Okada had a strong impression towards Matsuyama Kenichi who played Taira no Kiyomori, “Kiyomori is a super human. The energy of Matsuyama Kenichi who played Kiyomori was also amazing. His strength is growing over time rapidly to mimic his father’s. The only Kiyomori to me is Mr Matsuyama’s.” However, there is no scene between the grown up Yoritomo with Kiyomori. “As Yoritomo, I’d like to at least have one interaction with Matsuyama-san’s Kiyomori. ‘You two are never to meet,’ so I was once told. I thought I would meet him, but it was not to be the case. I thought, ‘Why can’t I meet him?!’”.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 45: Prince Mochihito requested Yoritomo’s help!

Yoritomo (Okada Masaki) reading the request letter from Mochihito, ep 45

Taira no Kiyomori ep 45 started in spring 1180 where Kiyomori’s power grew significantly in Kyoto. His wise son Shigemori had died (ep 44), thus the power that kept the delicate balance between the Court and the Heike has diminished to almost nothing. Go-Shirakawa was put into house-arrest during last week’s episode, so we don’t have any Matsuda Shota scene for you Shota fans :-(

Click here for ep 45. This is the NHK summary for ep 45:

Kiyomori launches a coup d'etat by placing the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa under confinement, and finally becomes the first samurai to seize control over the entire country. While Kiyomori manipulates the Imperial Court freely from Fukuhara, Prince Mochihito (Go-Shirakawa's son), who has been put in a miserable situation by Kiyomori, devises a plot to take up arms against the Taira family. Yoshitsune, the son of Yoshitomo and Tokiwa, is also gaining strength with Benkei, formerly named Oniwaka. On February 21, 1180, Prince Tokihito (Tokuko's son) ascends the throne from Emperor Takakura and becomes Emperor Antoku as Kiyomori hoped.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Red velvet cupcakes with strawberry SMBC!

Red velvet cupcakes with strawberry SMBC (photo by Surya)

I love red velvet cupcakes, and I love Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). I think SMBC is the most sensible icing you can get for tropical weather. Of course red velvet cupcakes is best paired with cream cheese frosting, but I've tried that before, and it didn't work. Either I just couldn't find the right cream cheese for that purpose here, or Bali weather is too hot for cream cheese frosting (unless I make in inside an aircon-ed room). I might be able to use cream cheese Swiss meringue buttercream, but I just didn't want to gamble with the cream cheese found here (no offense to my own island). Hence, this time I paired red velvet cupcakes with strawberry SMBC. It tastes gorgeous and looks gorgeous as well! 

The red velvet cupcakes recipe is from the cute Laura Vitale, and the SMBC is from Martha Stewart, which I have written here (note: I didn't have enough butter for 5 cups of SMBC, so I used only about 370 grams or about 3 sticks of butter instead of 450 grams of butter. It still worked fine tho!). For the strawberry SMBC, after adding the butter, just add the pureed strawberries (original recipe calls for 8 ounces of strawberries). Keep beating on LOW speed until the desired piping consistency is achieved. If it get curdled, put the mixture on top of shimmering water and mix it again on low speed. 

Below is the red velvet cupcake recipe from Laura Vitale, with the original cream cheese frosting. The recipe yielded 15 cupcakes for me.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Martha Stewart’s white cupcakes with Swiss meringue buttercream

Winter Rose cupcake (which uses Martha Stewart's recipe below)

I love baking. I do. My favourites are anything chocolate (I have a delicious never-fail chocolate mud cake from Super Food Ideas that I will share sometime). I also love making muffins, and I have my own Cordon Bleu muffin recipes. But these days, I am so into cupcakes. And below is my favourite cupcake recipe: Martha Stewart's white cupcake with Swiss meringue buttercream.

This recipe is a tad expensive, as in you will use 5 egg whites for the cupcake and 5 extra egg whites for the icing... but this is when you can also make the delicious lemon cake I posted earlier today. The egg whites make the cupcake very light (and slightly guilt-free, hehe). The egg whites also somehow hold the icing stronger, particularly for hot climate like Bali.

Very fluffy lemon cake!

My lemon cake. Don't be fooled by its simple look; it tastes divine!

A friend of mine asked me a few weeks ago whether I’ve switched my blog into a total-Japanese dorama review blog. I chuckled and said no. I love watching J-dorama (and Okada Masaki), but this blog is a tangent personal thing where I can write many things, not just my affection towards J-dorama and J-cute guys.

One of the things that I have been wanting to write is my favourite recipes. And since I suddenly crave for a delicious lemon cake, I thought I will just post my newfound, super favourite, super easy recipe for lemon cake. I found it on the net because I had almost a dozen egg yolks at my disposal after making Martha Stewart’s white cupcake with Swiss Meringue buttercream (click this for the recipe). Because I didn’t want to waste the egg yolks, I searched for a cake that will need at least 5-6 egg yolks. And here it is! I got it from this site, but this recipe is so popular, I found the same recipe in other sites too, such as

Based on the reviews from Allrecipes, I made a slight change in the recipe. I reduced the milk to 1 cup plus TWO tablespoons, and added one tablespoon of lemon juice in the cake batter. The result was super amazing! The cake had lemon fragrance and tasted lemony, without being too tangy. The egg yolks helped the cake to have such a soft and beautiful structure that almost melted in your mouth! The recipe for the cake is totally recommended! 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 44: Shigemori, O-hime, etc

Yoritomo (Okada Masaki) and his daughter O-hime 
(kinda reminds me of Masaki's role in 'Himitsu no Akko-chan'!)

TNK this week (1179 CE) was opened with Minamoto no Yoritomo (Okada Masaki) and Hōjō Masako (Watanabe Anne) enjoying the presence of their first offpring, baby O-hime. At the background, father-in-law Hōjō Tokimasa was getting worried that he would be the receiving end of Kiyomori's wrath should the Rokuhara lord heard of this news. It seems that Tokimasa had also heard of rumours about the impending end of the Heike's reign in Kyoto.

Yoritomo and Masako seemed to be blissfully ignorant of these subjects, at least for the moment. Baby O-hime seemed to be a healthy girl (which – alas – was not the way she would grow up; I think she would have some mental illness of sort). Somehow, I think Yoritomo was still being left alone with Masako (without the Heike getting pissed off about the marriage) because Kiyomori was busy balancing his power in Kyoto. Besides, for years Yoritomo had been seen as very passive and devoid of any passion to overthrow the Heike.

After the super short Genji scene, the story went back to Kyoto to the Heike and the Imperial Family. Below is the summary from NHK:

Shigemori, who has been suffering from anxiety of being caught between the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and Kiyomori, finally falls ill. After Kiyomori's daughter Moriko, who acted as the intermediary between the Fujiwara and Taira families, dies of illness, Go-Shirakawa plots to bring down the Taira family by joining hands with Motofusa. In the Taira family, Munemori (Shigemori's half brother) becomes the head of the family on behalf of Shigemori who has been sick. After the passing of Shigemori at the age of 42, Go-Shirakawa immediately confiscates Shigemori's territory, which provokes Kiyomori's anger.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 43: Shanaō became Yoshitsune

Shanaō (Kamiki Ryunosuke) became Yoshitsune, ep 43

TNK ep 43 opened this week with Narichika asking Shigemori to beg Kiyomori to spare his life in the aftermath of the Shishigatani Incident last week. We also have Lady Tokiwa for the first time after more than 10 episodes, as well as Shanaō and Benkei, plus Yoritomo and Masako (of course!). Regulars like Kiyomori himself and the two-faced Go-Shirakawa were always there. Someone got sick, and someone would die in ep 44. Below is the NHK summary:

Narichika, who has been exiled by Kiyomori, dies from starvation. Shigemori becomes worn down by the passing of his brother-in-law and from the considerations shown for the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa. Around the same time, Kiyomori learns of Tokuko’s pregnancy and prays for the safe delivery of the baby. Tokuko finally gives birth to a boy, the son of Emperor Takakura, who later becomes known as Emperor Antoku. In izu, Yoritomo and Masako are trying to get permission for their marriage from Masako's father Tokimasa.

By the way, I made a mistake in ep 42 last week. I said that Narichika was beaten several times by Kiyomori. Well, I was so wrong. Narichika was arrested and exiled (because of Shigemori’s plea), while the monk Kiyomori beaten to his death was Saiko. I’ve fixed ep 42 with this new info. So in ep 43, since Shigemori failed to bail out Narichika, the latter somehow died in exile due to starvation. It was a sorry scene which I chose to ignore (and browsed the net instead), for it was rather gruesome. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Review of Yoshikawa Eiji ‘s ‘Minamoto no Yoritomo’, Book One

The book cover by Wenart Gunadi
Thanks to an anonymous commentator almost two weeks ago, I’ve read Yoshikawa Eiji’s book (or Eiji Yoshikawa to Western readers) titled ‘Minamoto no Yoritomo’. Yoshikawa sensei was the author of some masterpieces, including ‘Musashi’ and ‘Taiko’. I read the Indonesian version of ‘Minamoto no Yoritomo’ (no English translation so far); the translation was quite well done. 

Obtaining the book was an adventure of its own too. The book was apparently published in May this year, when I didn’t even know about (and fell in love with) Okada Masaki (the actor who played Minamoto no Yoritomo in NHK’s 2012 ‘Taira no Kiyomori’). Hence, the book completely escaped my radar, despite me having read Musashi cover-to-cover twice, once in Indonesian and the next one in English. To make it more dramatic, the only bookshop in Denpasar that sold it was about 45 min drive with motorbike, into the most polluted, convoluted and jammed region in Kuta (and hence, in the whole island). But I got it safely and read it at the same night (jumping right into the later part where Yoritomo was already a 29 years old man, but then reversing back to read properly the next day). Below is the book’s review.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 42: Yoritomo confessed his love to Masako!

Minamoto no Yoritomo (Okada Masaki), ep 42

This week’s Taira no Kiyomori brings me the happy news about Yoritomo confessing his love to Masako! Of course the feeling was reciprocal, but the confession did not happen before an arranged marriage and a girl’s escaping the wedding entourage. On the Heike side, we have Kiyomori murdering Saiko and Narichika, an action which appalled his darling son Shigemori.

You may be able to watch it online in Pandora TV, FC2 or the like, but perhaps you have to wait for more than 24 hours. The Pandora account where I usually watch the rerun of TNK episodes have deleted ep 41, and I don’t think he/she will upload ep 42. But I got lucky last night and found another Pandora account which uploaded TNK ep 41 here. I assume he/she will upload ep 42 as well. Fingers crossed. [Edit: Click here to watch ep 42 online! I've watched it several times by 16 Nov, and this is by far my fave TNK episode]

Episode 42 opened with a Heike scene as per NHK World Premium’s summary here:

Kiyomori receives secret information that the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and his aides, including Narichika and Saiko, are plotting to overthrow the Taira family. Kiyomori bursts in anger and captures Saiko to extort a confession out of him. Saiko, however, outrages Kiyomori by saying things that rub Kiyomori the wrong way, and Kiyomori orders for the execution of Saiko. Narichika is also captured and killed off by Kiyomori, despite Shigemori's desperate plea for Narichika's life. Witnessing Kiyomori's mercilessness to those who stand in the way, Shigemori becomes fearful of Kiyomori.

From the Genji side, Hōjō Masako (Watanabe Anne) was practicing her archery skill when her father Hōjō Tokimasa (Endo Kenichi) summoned her. Turned out, dearly beloved father wanted Masako to marry Yamaki Hangan Kanetaka, a powerful local Heike ruler. I am under the impression that this arranged marriage was connected to ep 41, in which two Taira goons (I think their names were Yoshiaki and Hideyoshi?) came to the Hōjō house and said something that concerned Tokimasa. Anyway, whatever. Tokimasa told her daughter how Yamaki Kanetaka was a good man; he was going to make her happy, etc etc etc. As expected, Masako politely declined the marriage offer (I mean, order). I’m not sure if she said that her heart was with someone else, but as the result, Tokimasa slapped his own daughter. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 41: Yoritomo started to trust Masako

Minamoto no Yoritomo (Okada Masaki), ep 41

This week’s TNK brings us more Matsuda Shota – I mean, Go-Shirakawa – mourning Shigeko with Lady Gion (Matsuda Seiko) by his side. We also had quite a lot of Yoritomo-Masako, to my glee, in addition to the budding bromance of Benkei and Yoshitsune.  In the Heike side, we have Taira no Shigemori starting to question his father’s action. Below is the summary from Auberginefleur:

In 1177, Saiko's son gets into a skirmish with Buddhist monks at a temple on Mt. Hakusan, and the incident escalates into a brawl, involving Buddhist monks of Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei. The cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa orders Shigemori to take up arms against the warrior monks, however, Shigemori's retainer accidentally hits the mikoshi (portable shrine) carried by the monks with an arrow, which triggers a new problem. To quell the disturbance, Kiyomori again leads his troops into Kyoto.

As you may be well aware now, I’m not a Japanese speaker. So I rely on several times watching TNK to understand what transpires in each episode (or at least in the scenes I’m interested in). Unfortunately, the Pandora TV site hasn’t uploaded ep 41 yet (they even deleted ep 40, OMG!), so I am just writing this based on my memory and notes (yes, I did make notes while watching TNK, in between stirring my risotto tonite!).  

[Edit 27.10.12: Click this (Pandora TV) or this (FC2) to watch  TNK ep 41 online.]

'Haru comes down from the second floor' (Gravity’s Clowns commentary)

Haru (Okada Masaki) came down from the second floor

I got a new favourite song a few days ago, called ‘Sometimes’ by S.R.S., an indie Japanese music group. The song was the OST for ‘Gravity’s Clowns/Juryoku Pierrot’, a 2009 movie starring among others my favourite Okada Masaki. It was another beautiful movie of Masaki’s which showed his maturing acting skill back three years ago. 

In the movie directed by Mori Junichi, Masaki was paired with Kase Ryo, a very talented actor 15 years older than Masaki, and Kohinata Fumiyo – a very impressive veteran actor – as his father, Mr Okuno. The story was based on a 2006 novel titled ‘A Pierrot’ written by Isako Kotara and was translated into the wide screen by Aizawa Tomoko. Watch it online here.

The movie plot revolved around a dark family secret that was kept away from the two Okuno brothers (Ryo as Izumi and Masaki as Haru) until the death of their mother. Along the way, the movie introduced us to several arson cases all over the city of Sendai, some random graffiti, a female stalker and a chronic rapist let loose. The seemingly unrelated events came together after the Okuno boys discovered that the arsonist left a series of clue in the form of DNA codes. 

This deep movie is made deeper by the fact that the story was set in Sendai, one of the places obliterated by the Tohoku (east Japan) earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

Click here for the cool English version of ‘Sometimes’. The Japanese version and the spoilers for the movie are under the cut.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Downton Abbey Season Three!

Downton Abbey Season Three

I cannot believe I'm a month's late for this! But better late than never. Ladies and Gents, just a shortie to tell you that I've just watched Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 1 where Mary Crawley is married to Matthew Crawley. Yay!

For those who are not familiar with Downton Abbey, here's the Wiki link. I've seen Seasons One and Two and I was so addicted, I practically remembered major lines there! Practically from Lady Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith) who is now the favourite matron and grandmother of many period drama fans! Suffice to say, I want to be as cool as her when I grow old. Lady Grantham rocks! Oh, but she Lady Grantham has Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) - her in law - as her sparring partner this season. I see intriguing banters ahead! Who says that the excitement of Downton Abbey is only in watching Mary-Matthew, Sybill-Branson or Edith-Anthony Strallan? Not that those are not exciting; they are. But to me, the star of Downton has always been Dame Maggie Smith's Lady Grantham!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 40: Shigeko and Masako

Taira no Shigeko, NHK

This week’s TNK focuses on two important women in the Heian Era: Taira no Shigeko and Hōjō Masako. The episode takes us to a big event in Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa’s private life: the death of Shigeko (his favourite court lady). In addition, Minamoto no Yoritomo started to interact with Hōjō Masako. Below is the summary from Auberginefleur for episode 40:

In 1174 in Fukuhara, Japan-Sung trade has already started. Kiyomori advises the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and Shigeko to visit Itsukushima Shrine to pray for the nation's prosperity. Meanwhile, Saiko and Narichika (Go-Shirakawa's aides) start to fear the growing power of the Taira family. Shigeko tells Saiko and Narichika to act as a bridge between Go-Shirakawa and the Taira family. However, after the passing of Shigeko in 1176, the power balance within the Imperial Court begins to fall apart. Around the same time in Izu, Yoritomo and Hōjō Masako are gradually nurturing their love.

'Yoritomo and Masako gradually nurturing their love' didn't quite capture what happened here. Read on to know why. 

Episode 40 (see here online) opened with the trade between Japan and the Sung Dynasty. I liked it how the Sung people spoke in Mandarin instead of Japanese. Then the story switched to Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and his wife Taira no Shigeko. Shigeo (Narumi Riko) was not only Go-Shirakawa’s wife; she was also Kiyomori’s sister in law because Shigeko was Tokiko’s sister (Tokiko was Kiyomori’s dear wife). Shigeko held an important role in the Heian court, because she was the bridge between the Emperor family and the Taira clan. Shigeko was also the mother of Price Norihito, later known as Emperor Takakura. Go-Shirakawa (Matsuda Shota) seemed to love Shigeko very much. Despite his monk status, he still flirted with her, read poetries with her and making love with her.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Secret of the Nagas

Cover to the Secret of the Nagas

Last July, I wrote this post and this post about my fascination to Amish Tripathi’s first book of the Shiva Trilogy: Immortals of Meluha. I was so impressed by it that i showed the book to one of my best friends (before reading the whole lot, actually), and I got another Amish fan. We decided to purchase the second instalment, The Secret of the Naga off eBay or Amazon. Unfortunately, the only available copies are in India, and they don’t ship overseas. Why oh why, that is the big question here.

Anyway, after bugging and begging my Indian friend, she sent me two packs of Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas from Two Nagas for myself, one Meluha for my friend, another one for her friend who wants to read it too. The books arrived last Monday. I delivered my friend’s share immediately that evening, and started reading that night. I finished the whole book in three nights, on Wednesday night (actually, half an hour after midnight of Thursday). 

Below is my review and spoilers for ‘The Secret of the Nagas’. It contains heavy spoilers, so you better stop reading if you plan to read the book without spoilers. By the way, Naga here refers to people with deformities, hence outcast by both the Suryavanshi (Meluha) and Chandravanshi (Swadweep). Naga here doesn’t mean ‘the dragon’, as is in the Indonesian language.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Matataki (Blink)

Poster of Matataki

a.k.a. ‘Piecing Me Back Together’ was a 2010 movie I watched this afternoon to quench my thirst of another Okada Masaki performance. The movie didn’t disappoint me, although Masaki’s screen time wasn’t a lot there. It wasn’t because he wasn’t the main actor. He was. But rather, because Matataki is telling the story of Sonoda Izumi (Kitagawa Keiko), a young woman whose boyfriend died during a traffic accident they experienced together.

Yep, Matataki is a sad story. Sad, but encouraging as well in the end. It didn’t stop me from crying like a baby, though. My eyes were wet into the first 5 minutes of the movie. I wailed – yes, wailed – during several scenes. I sobbed when I learned what truly happened to Izumi and Junichi Konou (Masaki’s character). But here I’m getting ahead of myself as usual. After the trailers below, I post the recap of Matataki. Heavy spoilers, so for those who want to see it online here (English subbed) without spoilers, you better stop reading this.  

Taira no Kiyomori ep 39: Yoshitsune vs Benkei!

Yoshitsune defeating Benkei, from Vingle

TNK ep 39 (1172 CE) opened with the legendary fight between Yoshitsune and Benkei at Gojo Bridge. Yoshitsune (Kamiki Ryonosuke) was at that time known as Sanaou; Benkei (Aoki Munetaka) was known as Onikawa. It seems that Benkei thought that Sanaou was a Heike. Because the monk was always challenging Heike samurai, Benkei attacked Sanaou. But the boy easily took over the monk’s sword and defeated the monk. Soon enough, the scary Heike girls in red came and challenged them. For some reasons unknown to me (oh, English subtitle...), the girls ran away. Yoshitsune found himself parrying Benkei’s naginata once more. But when the boy defeated the stubborn monk again, for some reasons Benkei realised that he wasn’t dealing with a Heike. He was in fact fighting one of the sons of Minamoto no Yoshitomo. Apparently, Benkei had met young Sanaou in the past (when the boy’s name was Ushiwakamaru). Surprised to see the child already grown into a boy, Benkei held Sanaou and twirled him around. Sanaou’s funny expression reminded me of Himura Kenshin’s (Sateru Satou) amused expression in Rurouni Kenshin live action (that I haven’t seen because the English sub hasn’t been distributed outside Japan yet. Arrrgghh!).

Meanwhile, back with the Heike, here’s Auberginefleur’s summary (taken from NHK, I think):

In 1172 in Fukuhara, Kiyomori with the backing of the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa steadily advances construction work of a port, together with Usagimaru (Kiyomori's retainer) to prepare for the trading with Sung. Kiyomori orders Usagimaru to complete the construction as quickly as possible, however, Usagimaru condemns Kiyomori for acting out of self-interest, over his once held ambitions. The rift between Kiyomori and Usagimaru become irreparable.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Taira no Kiyomori opening music & Yoritomo ep 32-34

Yoritomo, Yae-hime and baby Senserumaru (NHK)

I've been listening to the opening music of Taira no Kiyomori so many times. The music is so beautiful. Alas, I can't find the opening credit in YouTube or other embed-dable sites. However, I found this video on YouTube containing just the music (without the video), but that should be enough to give you a taste of how it good it is. Click here to watch the opening credit (it's actually the first ep of TNK with English sub).

Also, since there isn't enough Okada Masaki these days (I'm still waiting for the English-subbed of Space Brothers and Akko-chan), I watched ep 32-34 of TNK just to know what happened to Yoritomo. Well, as I posted earlier, in ep 32 Yae-hime and Yoritomo had a son. A kawaii son called Senserumaru. From what I saw in ep 32, it seems that Yae-hime was scolded by his family for getting pregnant with Yoritomo's offspring. But Yoritomo insisted that he would protect Yae and the baby. So, when the baby was already delivered, Yae took the baby boy to see his father. Yoritomo's surprise and happiness were very apparent. For a while, he believed that he could be happy again.