Monday, 29 September 2008

Episode 31

Unfortunately I was not able to record episode 30, and while I did watch snippets of it while dad and I had lunch in a random restaurant on a very very very rainy Rebun Island off the north-west coast of Hokkaido, I can't write anything approaching a description so am skipping ahead to episode 31, the last one I agreed to do months ago (sorry for how horribly delayed I am) for Auberginefleur. I still haven't watched episodes after that, but am not planning on writing up any more episodes at this time.


Ii hiked crackdown on those in reverence for the Emperor and the exclusion of foreigners, and Muraoka, who serves the head of Konoe family in Kyoto and attended Tenshoin’s wedding as her mother, was imprisoned. Trying to save Muraoka, Tenshoin sends her a white kimono which she wore at her wedding. Clad in the kimono, Muraoka pressures the interrogators by telling to whom the white kimono belonged and successfully proves her innocence. Meanwhile, Ikushima tells Tenshoin her intention to resign.
(Official NHK Website English plot summary)

Ii’s attacks against Hitotsubashi supporters continue as more an more individuals are targeted, moving closer and closer to Tenshoin herself.

With the end of the year approaching, Tenshoin has all of her kimono brought out in order to give them away to the members of the Ooku, allowing them to chose their favourites. Ikushima becomes very annoyed when one of the ladies asks about a white kimono worn by Tenshoin on her wedding night.

The new shogun, Iemochi, comes to the Ooku to visit Tenshoin. He admits to Tenshoin that he was warned by Ii to focus on governing and to stop visiting the Ooku. Ii told him that it was Ii who was there to assist in governing, not the Ooku, not Tenshoin. Neither Tenshoin nor Iemochi, however, are impressed with Ii's methods of "strengthening" the bakufu, and agree that while they may not always be certain of the right thing to do, they will discuss anything and everything and move forward together.

Tatewaki and Okubo are discussing Nariakira's half-brother Tadayuki and whether or not he was involved in the banishment of Saigo to Oshima. Tatewaki defends Tadayuki and says that he believes the latter is dedicated to following Nariakira’s will.

Ii’s rounding up of anti-bakufu supporters continues, affecting not only masterless samurai, but also those in higher ranked families. Tenshoin discovers that Muraoka of the Konoe family has been arrested for her involvement in passing the letter to Saigo. With Tenshoin's connections to the Konoe family, Tenshoin and Ikushima are desperate to do something for Muraoka. Tenshoin demands to see Ii, but he refuses to see her, sending a low-ranked minister in his place. Tenshoin is greatly angered by this and is only stopped from going to see Ii herself by her new lady-in-waiting, Shigeno (chosen as a replacement by Ikushima). Tenshoin instead instructs the minister to tell Ii that lord Konoe is her father, and Muraoka acted as her mother in her marriage to Iesada. They are important people to Tenshoin and, as such, must be treated properly. When the message is passed to Ii he remarks sardonically that those who supported the Hitotsubashi have yet to figure out the danger they are in.

Konoe is removed from his position as Imperial Minister of the Left. When Ikushima hears of this she begs Tenshoin to speak to Iemochi about it, but Takimiya steps in and says that Tenshoin should not speak to Iemochi about this matter as it would play into Ii’s plans perfectly and involve the Ooku. An angered Ikushima retorts that it was Takimiya who supported Ii's appointment. Takimiya agrees that it was her fault and she regrets it, but that it makes no bearing on the issue, and begs Tenshoin not to involve Iemochi in a personal matter of hers.

Later, when Iemochi and Tenshoin meet at daily prayers, Iemochi can tell that something is wrong. He asks her what is wrong, and tells her she does not need to suffer by herself, but Tenshoin brushes away his worries.

With Muraoka sent to Edo and imprisoned awaiting her trial, Tenshoin and Shigeno discuss what could be done. As Tenshoin is praying to her Buddhist statue, she is suddenly hit by inspiration and calls for Ikushima – who arrives bearing a tray and wrapped gift - the two have both come up with the same plan. Tenshoin calls for a palanquin and is ready to leave when Ikushima stops her, saying that if Tenshoin goes herself things will get too big, and that Ikushima will go instead.

Ikushima goes to where Muraoka is being held and demands to see the prisoner. The official guarding Muraoka refuses, but Ikushima insists, saying she has a gift from Tenshoin to Muraoka. When he refuses still she draws herself up and insists that turning away a gift from Tenshoin, the widow of the late shogun, is the same as turning away the very bakufu itself. The official is cowed and allows Ikushima to see Muraoka. Ikushima unwraps Tenshoin’s white wedding night kimono – to which Muraoka tears up in gratitude. With the official telling them to hurry up, Ikushima tells Muraoka that she is in the prayers of both Ikushima and Tenshoin.

Muraoka shows up to her trial in the white kimono the judge is shocked by the symbolism, and questions Muraoka harshly. With a dark and stormy backdrop of thunder and lightening, Muraoka explains that the robe is a wedding gown and she is wearing it to represent the occasion. For never in her 72 years did she ever imagine she would be in a situation like this. As if by magic, the weather clears, and she is bathed in a halo of sunlight. The judge demands that the kimono be removed from her. The samurai attempt to do so but she will not let them touch her, insisting that it is a gift from her daughter, Tenshoin, who was married to the shogun, the peak of the Tokugawa family. She says that touching the gown is the same as touching the very symbol of the Tokugawa family, and should not be done lightly. The judge is visibly shaken by this and angrily tells her that he will continue with the trial, simple clothing will not save her. He demands to be told of the meeting between Gessho, the Konoe family and representatives from Satsuma. Muraoka responds that as Rojo she knows nothing of those who visit. He presses for a straight answer, and she repeats forcefully that she knows nothing. It is clear she is not going to say anything. In the end she was held for 30 days and then released.

Having heard about Muraoka and Tenshoin's connections to her, Iemochi asks Tenshoin why she did not tell him. She responds that there was nothing he could have done, and he is angered, telling her that it doesn’t matter, he wanted her to tell him anyways so he could have at least shared her pain. Besides, if she won’t tell him what is bothering her, he will not be able to tell her when things are upsetting him, and that will be a problem. She smiles and tells him how happy she is to have been blessed with such a wonderful son.

In Satsuma, Narioki passes away. With his last breath he regrets that his life is ending just as his role was starting. Tadayuki is now in sole charge of the domain, and announces his intention to follow Nariakira's will to his high-ranking retainers. Some of the low-ranking samurai are meanwhile meeting to discuss Ii and read a letter from compatriots in Edo. The men are angered by Ii’s actions, and get worked up, deciding that if they want something done they’ll have to do it themselves. They are ready to storm off to Edo and do something about Ii, but Okubo stops them, telling them Saigo's advice just before he was banished to Oshima. Saigo told Okubo that if they were to make a move they should wait until things were at a boiling point, or else they’d get burnt themselves. Okubo doesn’t think things are there quite yet, and as a result they should wait before making their move.

Tenshoin’s wedding kimono is returned to her, with the message from Muraoka that at least this one should be kept by Tenshoin. Tenshoin comments that it is remarkable how both she and Ikushima thought of the same thing, the same way to save Muraoka. Ikushima responds that having served Tenshoin for so long she knows what Tenshoin is thinking. Tenshoin asks Ikushima to guess what she is thinking right now. Ikushima responds by reminding Tenshoin that she wants to retire and leave the Ooku. Tenshoin asks why and Ikushima responds that she wants to leave before she creates a problem for Tenshoin. For at some point in the future she knows she would be in the way when Tenshoin had to decide between Satsuma and the Tokugawa family. And besides, she says that there is nothing left for her to teach Tenshoin, that Tenshoin has it in herself to lead the Ooku all by herself now. Tenshoin fondly remembers how far the two have come together, how Ikushima was by her side in Nariakira’s palace in Satsuma, on the tempestuous boat trip to Edo, and throughout her time in the Ooku, Ikushima was her guardian shadow. Tenshoin tells Ikushima she wants her to take the precious wedding night kimono. There is only ever one wedding night in a girl's life, and she wants Ikushima to take the kimono as a memento of everything that the two have been through together. As a final request, Ikushima requests that Tenshoin put on the robe one last time. Seeing Tenshoin dressed in the kimono, Ikushima remembers sending Atsuhime off on her wedding night and starts crying. The two teas each other for their sentimentality as they cry.

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