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.

No wonder Go-Shirakawa was devastated when Shigeko left this world in 1176. This site explained that Shigeko died of smallpox, such a highly curable disease in modern world, but apparently lethal in 12th century. It was touching to see the usually cold Go-Shirakawa crying like a baby when she died. The death of Shigeko not only devastated Go-Shirakawa. It also changed the power balance in the court due to the absence of the bridge between the Heike and the Imperial family.

Go-Shirakawa (Matsuda Shota) and Taira no Shigeko (Narumi Riko), NHK

Meanwhile, we are shown how Yoritomo (Okada Masaki) started to do something else other than wandering around. He was looking at a sword used by Kiyomori to almost kill him years ago (I think it was his father Yoshitomo’s) when his loyal aide Morinaga ‘Tō Kuro’ Adachi entered the house. Tō Kuro (Tsukamoto Takashi) once again took Yoritomo to Hōjō Tokimasa’s house where two other guests were gathering there. Yoritomo didn't say anything, only nodded to Tokimasa. Tō Kuro exchanged a few words and gave Tokimasa a basket of food before made his leave. Yet, one of the guests approached Yoritomo, saying something about Heike vs Genji (perhaps how the remaining Genji should rebel against the overpowering Heike; or that some Genji folks were discussing the exact matter, and Yoritomo should join the club). Yoritomo said something with ‘kakawaranai’ (‘not involved’). I take it that whatever it was that Tokimasa’s friend said, Yoritomo wasn’t going to involve himself in it. 

Unexpectedly, Hōjō Masako (Watanabe Anne) stormed out of the house. She was now around 18 years old, her hair was already combed neatly and she was able to serve the guests some tea. However, listening to Yoritomo being so passive and submissive about the fate of his own clan, the rascal part of Masako could not take it anymore. She followed Yoritomo into his house yard and confronted him, saying what she thought of the whole fiasco aloud (I bet something along the line of Yoritomo should summon the samurai spirit within him and lead the Genji to overthrow the Heike). When Yoritomo ignored her, she followed him into his house and continued launching her opinion while holding onto Yoritomo’s sleeve as she said it

Yoritomo confronted by Masako, screen cap

Losing patience, Yoritomo yanked off his sleeve, telling Masako to let him go. Masako fell and hit a short cabinet where the sword that Yoritomo was examining earlier was kept. Since he didn’t mean to hurt her, Yoritomo apologised to Masako. Learning that she had made a seemingly important sword fell out of its box, Masako also apologised and attempted to return the sword to its box. However, with a fury never displayed before, Yoritomo yelled at her to leave the sword alone. After asking Tō Kuro to tidy up the mess and show Masako the way out, Yoritomo stormed out of the house, leaving both Tō Kuro and Masako flabbergasted at the very rare display of emotion.

Angry Masako in ep 41 next week

 Acting-wise, I don’t think there is a single actor/actress who did not do his part well here. I of course paid close attention to my darling boy Okada Masaki, but Matsuda Shota was also an eye candy here. I never saw Go-Shirakawa cried before, so it was nice to know that he was a human after all. Masaki was of course adorable, even as a sad Yoritomo. He wasn’t that depressed anymore. The miserable event that took his baby boy and his lover Yae-hime was more than 10 years away anymore. But Yoritomo was still apathetic and unresponsive. That was why I was very pleased to see him getting angry here when the sword fell to the ground. Slowly but sure, Masaki started to bring emotions back to Yoritomo.

I said here that I thought Masako and Yoritomo would date for 10 years before they got married in 1179. Well, I was very wrong, wasn’t I? Apparently, they didn’t even communicate until 1176-ish, which means they might date for only two years before their wedding. Well, that’s okay. Yoritomo had been living alone for too long, I’d say. However, that wouldn’t happen before Masako gave Yoritomo a good yell in ep 41 next week. Good on you, girl, good on you! And according to the NHK spoilers, Yoritomo would start falling in love with Masako in ep 41. The wedding bell is near! Wheeee!!!

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