Sunday, 14 September 2008

Episode 26

I've been watching NHK's historical drama, Atsuhime, since it started in the new year. (links: NHK's Japanese page, English Drama page, and Wikipedia) The NHK's English plot summaries are not terribly detailed, and while I understand most of what's going on (watching it twice a week helps with that!), I still enjoy reading more detailed summaries written by Auberginefleur at Japan Now & Then. Back in June I got an email from Aubergnefleur asking me if I'd be willing to fill-in and write the summaries for July. Between the end of term and my father's visit, July was crazy busy for me and I'm only now getting around to watching the episodes I taped on my cell phone. It is months and months late, but here is the first of my summaries...


While the dispute over shogun's successor heats up, Ii Naosuke, siding with the Kishu-Tokugawa family that pushes Yoshitomi to become shogun, visits Honjuin to ally with her. Atsuhime, under Nariakira's order to make Yoshinobu the next shogun, is driven into a corner. Nariakira submits an official statement declaring his position on the next shogun to the Tokugawa shogunate, which stirs the shogunate including "Ooku."
(Official NHK Website English plot summary)

Honjuin meets with Ii Naosuke and asks him to promise to push for Yoshitomi to become the next shogun. Ii agrees, and Honjuin offers to help Ii in the future, saying he is the only one she can trust.

Atsuhime receives a letter from Nariakira and fights with Ikushima over influencing Iesada to choose Yoshinobu as the next shogun. Meanwhile Nariakira gives a new name to Naogoro (Tatewaki) and charges him with an important role in relations with America. Naogoro asks Nariakira how he wants to change Japan, and is told that Nariakira wants to get rid of the bakufu and create a new country. Naogoro, worried about Atsuhime’s safety, asks how this will affect her. Nariakira assures Naogoro he intends to look after Atsuhime, but Naogoro worries deepen when he hears about the kenpakusho (petition/letter) written by Nariakira. The kenpakusho reaches Ii, who sends a copy to Honjuin. Upon reading the letter Honjuin cannot suppress her rage and just about collapses in anger.

When Atsuhime and Iesada are playing go and discussing politics, Iesada tells Atsuhime about Hotta, who is going to Kyoto in the new year to ask for the Emperor’s blessing for the opening of the country. Atsuhime finally asks Iesada to make Yoshinobu the next shogun, but when she responds to Iesada’s question by stating that Yoshinobu is her choice and not just that of her father, Nariakira, Iesada gets up and leaves the room. As he leaves he tells Atsuhime that he thought she was the only woman he could actually believe.

Hotta goes to Kyoto to speak with the Emperor and Ii sends his retainer Nagano to Kyoto as well. Despite a belief that getting the Emperor’s agreement would be a straightforward matter, Hotta discovers that the Emperor is not pleased with the idea of the sacred earth of Japan being befouled by foreigners. The Emperor refuses to support the treaty with the United States and Hotta returns to Edo in disgrace. Meanwhile Saigo’s actions trying to drum up support for Yoshinobu prove useless as the court decides that matters of succession and who will be the next shogun are internal Tokugawa family matters and not to be interfered with by the court.

Iesada turns to Atsuhime to discuss the emperor’s refusal to support the treaty with the United States and the future of US-Japanese relations. During their discussion Atsuhime remarks that she is happy to have been born at this time in history as she is excited to meet foreigners and feels it is time for Japan to be opened to the rest of the world. Iesada apologizes for having spoken harshly to her about Yoshinobu, and Atsuhime apologizes in turn, admitting that she lied about her true feelings. She admits that she doesn’t know whether she should support Yoshinobu or Yoshitomi and, as a result, has decided not to support either one. As they are falling asleep Iesada says that if he could choose he’d like to have been born a bird so he could fly away and be free. Atsuhime starts to reply that she would still want to be herself, but then stops. Iesada attempts to tickle her answer out of her, but stops when the two get too close. Atsuhime follows him back to his futon, however, and tickles him until he hits his head on the standing mirror. After Iesada falls asleep, Atsuhime completes her answer, saying that even if she could change everything she would want to be herself so that she could be still married to him.

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