Lone Wolf & Cub takes place in mid-eastern Japan, sometime during the early Tokugawa Era (approximately 1603-1868, also called Edo Period), the period named for the 15 generations of Tokugawa Shogun (Military Overlords) who ruled the nation, maintaining a relatively static society, for over 250 years. This period of military-rule was characterized by its relatively peaceful order overall, clear division of the social hierarchy, extravagance by the privileged classes, isolation from the West, and a lot of convoluted treachery, as well as many important cultural and intellectual developments.
For many centuries, Japan had a form of feudal system, in which the servants, vassals and palace guards of the Daimyo (the military Lords of independant regional domains, who maintained a castle, a home base, and several strategically-located satellite fortresses) were granted a piece of land (a fief), or in most cases, a stipend that came with a specific official post. In return, the vassals were expected to dedicate their lives to the service of their masters. The relationships between masters & vassals were based on this reciprocity of services and rewards, and were emotionally very strong. It was not uncommon for the servitors and followers of a Lord to join him in death. Such a custom (or at least, a public declaration of such an intent) is portrayed in the opening scene of "Sword of Vengeance." Similar master-follower relationships and customs developed among the Samurai and their servants, craftsmen and their assistants, and so on.
Almost two-hundred Daimyo-ruled domains and their associated castle-towns existed in the early Tokugawa period, whose sizes varied according to the Daimyo's holdings and the agricultural production of the fiefs under their control. However, the number of Daimyo decreased quickly during this era, as the Tokugawa Shogunate practiced strict enforcement over Daimyo domains; the severe taxation, as related in the narration following the opening scene in LW&C, did indeed take place, and the Shogunate was always maneuvering to reduce the power of the Daimyo.
Daimyo also employed vassals who acted as spies, solely to monitor other "trusted" members of his entourage to make sure that no one is plotting against him. Turncoats in Daimyo domains were in fact not uncommon. This was "The Age of Turncoats," referred to as such by many historians, and its portrayal plays an important part in LW&C.
The Shogunate was the official governing body of the Nation, consisting of the Samurai centered around their Lord, a Shogun. He was the chief administrator, who gave orders through his councilors, the Tairo (Great Councilor, only appointed during special circumstances) and the Roojuu (Senior Councilors). Although the former were only required to be present at the Shogun's castle 2 days each month, Roojuu were officially at the top of the administrative hierarchy, and were mostly responsible for managing the various administrative affairs of the Shogunate. They in turn gave orders to the commissioners which were responsible for matters relating to finance, taxation, the monasteries, and city administration & justice. In "The Razor," (Goyoukiba), the story is centered around an officer working for an office of the Commissioner for city administration and justice. Also taking orders from Roojuu were the Oometsuke (Inspector Generals), which dealt with examining a person's loyalty to the Shogunate, Shogunate-associated members and officials' conduct and performance, and the Shogunate's relationship with the many Daimyo that still remained. Under them were the 16 Metsuke (Inspectors) and further below, the Wakadoshiyori (Junior Councilors). Many of these officials appear in both Lone Wolf & Cub and The Razor.
Also notable in LW&C are the 'emblems' of the Shogunate and the Yagyu. They were called "mon," and were similar in function to flags, designating each Daimyo or the Shogunate itself. Like flags, it was considered sacrilegious to desecrate them. In fact, any official Shogunate document was considered somewhat sacred, and as such demanded great respect. This is illustrated in LW&C when Ogami first shocks the Yagyu by not only disobeying but destroying his death-sentence, and then escapes their wall of swords by revealing his official Shogunate robes, hidden under the white Death-robes he had been wearing.
Tokugawa society as a whole was divided into four basic classes. Class was somewhat hereditary, in that once born into a particular class, it was impossible to become a member of a higher class. Although not a wealthy class and owning no land (land was owned by the Daimyo alone), at the top were the privileged class of Samurai (about 10% of the total population), the governing, sword-carrying members of the society. The Samurai class originally emerged around 800 AD, and they were highly skilled in military arts, and highly educated, especially in Confucianism, whose basic philosophy taught virtues of benevolence, propriety, righteousness, fidelity, wisdom and loyalty.
Each person was expected to follow the virtuous examples of the ancient sages. The Shogunate demanded that Samurai closely follow these rules of conduct and ordered that they study Confucian classics. In the early years of the Tokugawa Era, the Shogunate was heavily concerned with the problem of a large number of Samurai who became masterless as many Daimyo fell and lost their domains. These detached Samurai were called "roonin," and many of them went on to become teachers of swordsmanship, Confucian scholars, somewhat-privileged farmers, or simply became a part of the townspeople.
Swordsmanship was an interesting tradition that was carried on from one school of practitioners to the next. Each 'school' or 'style' was called a "ryuu," and is centered around a set of teachings, principles, customs and techniques. There were and are many ryuu in existence, in various sectors of martial arts. Shin-kage-ryuu (New Shadow), was devised by Yagyu Muneyoshi in 16th century. His son, Munenori (1571-1646), a character mentioned in LW&C, had taught swordsmanship to the first 3 Tokugawa Shoguns. One of Munenori's sons, Jubei-Mitsuyoshi (1607-1650), a Samurai upon which many movie and video game characters are based, formulated his own ryuu called "Yagyuu-ryuu" between the years of 1644-1648, laying upon many principles of the Shin-kage-ryuu.
In addition to strict adherence to Confucianism, also among the Samurai's codes were many related to ritual combat. As cumbersome as it may seem, if, for example, Samurai from two different Daimyo domains decided to fight each other, both sides would agree on the site of combat and avoid using dishonest means to take unfair advantage of each other. This is portrayed in "Sword of Vengeance," in the scene where Retsudo offers Ogami a duel in return for removing his Shogunate robes -- and Ogami accepts because he knows that even the evil Retsudo would not act treacherously after making such an offer in public.
Accounting for approximately 80% of the population were the peasants, the class of people whose functions were, in short, to serve the Shogunate and the ruling classes' economic requirements. These villagers were required to till the land, producing grain (rice, barley, and wheat), and were taxed harshly; 50% or more of the crop (esp. rice, which often played a role of currency in many official functions) they produced. However, as the Shogunate's expenses (which included expensive constructions and renovations, as well as the extravagant lifestyles of its members) skyrocketed, the tax burden on the peasantry became higher and higher. Many families were severely punished for failing to pay the required taxes, and some had to sell family members into temporary bondage (slavery was illegal, but this form of service was a common practice).
In fact, the brothels (whose customers were largely Samurai) were filled with daughters of these peasants. In addition, the Shogunate considered the peasants to be a readily-available labor force. They regularly called upon the peasants to participate in maintaining public roads and facilities.
The majority of the townspeople consisted of artisans and merchants. Many of these, as well as the retainers of the Daimyo and Shogunate gathered around castle-towns where most of the business was done. Among these were wholesalers and money-lenders, some of whom accumulated enormous fortunes and survived into the modern era, transforming themselves into some of Japan's largest companies.
One interesting trade that boomed during this era was the messenger service. Although it had been in existence for many centuries, the "express" (about 60 miles a day) messenger-horsemen in the Tokugawa period were affiliated with the Shogunate, and were instrumental in carrying official documents and letters, especially via many trunk highways which were constructed during these years. Eventually, private entrepreneurs took over these functions, laying a foundation for the modern information network.
At much lower social rank were the 'commoners,' which the Shogunate classified as a part of the 'outcast' population. These included exiled and ostracized members of villages, as villages had their own appointed chiefs who punished unruly members of their villages by sentencing them to exile. Others, the so-called "non-people" and "lowly-people" included: descendants of slaves, people with physical disabilities and abnormalities, beggars and prostitutes. This class was at the bottom of social hierarchy, and as such, they were not accounted for in official surveys, and were required to live in certain fixed (and undesirable) areas. The Shogunate even went so far as to state that a sub-class of outcasts were only worth a seventh as much as other individuals. Interestingly, actors and performers were officially considered to be outcasts, as they were also required to live near their theaters, and to hide their faces in public.
Administration of justice was loosely based on rule-by-status, therefore the governing class of Samurai was allowed to take the law into their own hands against the lower classes at will, if they so desired. Crimes carried extreme measures of punishment, and many criminals were indeed put to death. However, the official edicts stated that no individual could be punished unless a confession was obtained. As such, the use of many forms of torture, many more gruesome than their medieval counterparts, was often authorized. Some of these may be seen at work in "The Razor."
Seppuku was a ritual form of suicide-execution, mainly indulged in by the Samurai, which originated in the late 1200's. It involved disemboweling oneself with the sword, after which the execution-assistant, or "Second," delivered the decapitating coup-de-grace. This was Ogami Itto's official role in LW&C. There were many reasons for which Samurai committed, or were sentenced to commit, seppuku (breaking the code of conduct or being on the losing side of a plot were the most common) but Samurai would also sometimes commit seppuku to protest an action by their Lord which they felt to be unfair. In LW&C, the three Ikoma Clansmen allegedly commit seppuku to gain attention for their protest that Ogami is a traitor.
Long before the Tokugawa Era, in the ages plagued by many catastrophic disasters, both natural and man-made, people felt as though the end of the world was coming, and therefore looked to religion for emotional comfort and security. The role that Buddhism (the philosophical and religious movement that was introduced to Japan in 552 from Korea) played in Japan was enormous. Like some world religions, various sects had emerged since its introduction, but virtually all Buddhist sects in Japan spent great efforts to organize their doctrines during the Tokugawa period, yet they did so by carefully accommodating portions of Confucianism (the core philosophy of the ruling class) to avoid disastrous political conflicts. Amida Buddhism belonged to a branch of Buddhism that taught that there exists a land of bliss, a paradise in another world, to which the faithful may gain access. Many prominent monks taught that reciting the name of Amida Buddha would be the absolute minimum requirement for seeking salvation, but one monk, Hoonen (1133-1212), had even stated that it would be the most sufficient. In LW&C, there is a monk who is constantly praying, reciting Amida's name, and getting on everyone's nerves. For most common people, this became a spiritual goal of a sort, and they found Amidism's simple demands, and a reliance on Amida's (though a non-deity) saving power, attractive. Amida Buddhism had gone through several schisms over the centuries, yet because of its egalitarian beliefs, it remains today, and has one of largest bodies of followers.
In the last years of the Tokugawa Era, the Shogunate's expenses were increasing at a much more rapid pace than their revenues, despite their ability to raise taxes at will (mostly from the agrarian base). Also, the last of the Shoguns had employed many prominent scholars, who showed great interest in western science and technology, in an era when the nation adhered to isolationist disciplines. In 1853, Commodore Perry arrived in Japan. The US was developing its power in the Pacific, and wanted to develop commercial relations with Asian nations. It also had many whaling ships in the Pacific which required shelter and supplies in the vicinity, another reason why it felt a need to open Japan's doors using any possible means. Upon Perry's arrival, coupled with a great scholarly interest in western knowledge, many leading Bakufu (another word for Shogunate) officials felt that the western powers were so far advanced that it would be irrational for Japan to continue to refuse to establish full diplomatic ties. The Shogunate thus felt a great internal pressure to abandon isolationism and anti-foreign sentiments. In 1866, the 14th Shogun, Iemochi, died, and Hitotsubashi Keiki was appointed the 15th Shogun. Keiki appealed for unity, by restoring political power to the Imperial Court (restricted by the Shogunate until then to only handling scholastic affairs). In a matter of months, faced with opposition within the Shogunate, Hitotsubashi resigned. A new provisional government, with no former Tokugawa associates, was formed, and a brief civil war followed. In the ensuing power vacuum, it was relatively easy for the Imperial Court to gain influence, and more than 250 years of Tokugawa rule was at an end.
During this era, there were also great cultural developments, many of which would not have been possible without the extravagance of the ruling classes. Such developments included literary works, especially haiku (seventeen-syllable poetry) and fiction. The higher classes enjoyed literature, because education, which included literature among other topics such as military arts, was fairly well organized. Even the commoners could receive some form of education at temples, or by masterless Samurai. Puppetry and Theater also became very popular, primarily in the Yoshiwara entertainment district of Edo (Edo was renamed Tokyo, in 1868, after the new Meiji government was established), where many Kabuki theaters, tea houses, and brothels, were located. (Hanzo "The Razor" spends a lot of his time in the Yoshiwara district on business). Aside from these were developments in the fine arts. Woodblock printing and painting, originally introduced to Japan from China around the 8th century, while mainly commercial productions subject to the censorship and approval by the city magistrates, took art to new heights. Ukiyo-e, "the pictures of the floating world," and others by such famous artists as Hokusai and Hiroshige, influenced many European artists, especially the French Impressionists. Military crafts were also being perfected by a few artisans, most of whom worked as retainers for Daimyo and Shogunate. Prior to the isolation of Japan during the Tokugawa rule, Japan had a short-term trading relationship with the Portuguese, and in 1543, muskets were introduced, and many smiths quickly learned to produce them. Despite the Samurai preference for honorable swordplay, a fair amount of dirty-work "got done with guns."
1) eternal craving for things --- the so-called "hungry ghost" state.
2) ignorant outlook, not examining theoretical possibilities --- the "animal" state.
3) eternal anger, constantly at fight with himself or others --- the "hell" state.
4) overly-competitive, always out-doing others using any means --- the "jealous-god" state
5) overly-contemptuous with a false sense of having attained a god-like state --- the "god-being" state
The sixth state is what Buddha taught as being free from the other five states, calling it the "Human" state, which lacks the preoccupations of the other states, and exhibits inquisitiveness and virtuous reasoning abilities. In LW&C, Ogami named his son "Daigoro" as a Japanese mnemonic warning about the 5 states.
In LW&C 1, Ogami Itto found himself travelling along the Nikko Road, carrying out his assignment in a small village near Otawara (a city south of Utsunomiya in what is now the prefecture of Tochigi - no more than 100 miles south of Tokyo). In LW&C 2, we see him confronting his enemies many hundreds of miles to the south-west, first in the sea-side province of Akashi (which is now a city just west of Kobe). Later, he crosses the Sea of Seto, landing in the province of Takamatsu (now a major harbor city, in the Kagawa prefecture). By the standards of the time, he really gets around!
The Untranslated Song
Peasants during this period were ordered not to consume all of their stocks of rice and other cereals after the fall harvest; instead, as their normal staples they were supposed to eat barley, millet, cabbage, and "daikon" (a large radish-like vegetable whose shape makes it the subject of many rude jokes). In the scene where Ogami battles the Akashi clanswomen, several of them pretend to be peasant women who are cleaning daikon in a stream. They are singing a folk song about cleaning daikon. We chose not to subtitle this song because it is not in the original script for the film, it was impossible to properly translate it from the video, and we were unable to track down other source materials to verify our translation.
Igamono, Shinobi, and Ninja
These words are often used almost interchangeably in Samurai films.
Iga (far south-west of Edo, now a part of Mie prefecture), one of many provinces that was not a part of the scattered Shogunate domains, and thus not under the Shogunate control, also was home to many spies, Ninja and gangs that regularly infiltrated the Shogunate domains on behalf of various causes. So many of these spies, etc., were from Iga that the words "Igamono" (Iga-person) and "Igashuu" (Iga-people) eventually became synonymous with such infiltrators regardless of their true origins.
The kanji character used in the verb "shinobu" (to snake, stealth about, or hide) is the source for "shinobi" or "shinobi no mono" which literally means someone who engages in stealthy acts. The two kanji used in "shinobi no mono," when joined together as one word, is read "ninja," which is an equivalent term that's more commonly known throughout the world.
Unless it is clear that a reference to "Igamono" is actually a reference to someone from Iga, we translate this term as "Ninja." For the other two terms, we typically use the term that is spoken unless it would be confusing.
What is now called "Judo" has its origins in various ryu's of "juujutsu," all of which teach various fighting techniques, with or without the use of weapons, of more or less defensive nature.
In the film, the brothers Benma, Tenma, and Kuruma, are said to be the masters of Takeuchi-style "Harness" techniques. This is loosely based upon the teachings of the same name. In real life, the Takeuchi-style is among the most influential of the juujutsu styles.
Sayaka mentions an Ota Dokan, who is said to have used piles of rocks as signs. Ota actually did a lot more than that during his day (c. 15th century): in addition to being a renowned warrior, he also built castles and rerouted rivers.
The Awa Clan
The Awa Clan ruled a large domain (what is now the prefecture of Tokushima) in the Shikoku islands. Their main castle-city is now called Tokushima City, and one of their tourist attractions is the historic, annual dance festival called the "Awa Odori."
Because of a remarkable growth in cotton production and sericulture during the early years of the Tokugawa Period, the demand for dyes to color the fabric increased. The Awa Clan prospered, thanks to dyes extracted from indigo plants which were harvested in the fief. The Yoshino River, the largest river in Shikoku, had banks which provided an ideal environment for the cultivation of indigo, and thousands of acres of indigo fields existed during this period.
The Awa Indigo dyes have a unique and beautiful mix of blue and purplish tints. Although Awa dye production during the Tokugawa Period was enormous, the introduction of artificial dyes has greatly reduced demand in modern times. Consequently, there are only a few small indigo farms left. Still, although little indigo is produced at present, it is highly treasured and appreciated nationwide.
The Takamatsu Clan
The Takamatsu Clan ruled a small domain in what is now Kagawa prefecture, south of Awa (or Tokushima), in the island of Shikoku. Today, Takamatsu is the capital city of Kagawa Prefecture, located at the north tip of the island.
The River of Sanzu
In Buddhist cosmology, the river of Sanzu performs a role similar to that of the River Styx. Sanzu is said to separate a life from the next life; a dead soul will cross the river in order to reach the subsequent world (or plane) in which it will exist.
In 1634, in an effort to control the Daimyo, the Shogunate instituted a policy known as "Sankin Koutai", or the "Alternate Residence System" - a regulation that obliged the Daimyo to spend every other year in service to the Shogun in Edo. The Shogunate was interested in hitting the Daimyo with the enormous expenses of constant relocation, but a side-effect was the rapid expansion of Edo, as the Daimyo established great urban mansions there - which in turn promoted the development of the town.
To manage their residences in Edo, and to handle other small duties while they were out of town, the Daimyo appointed chamberlains, called "Edo-garou," which literally means "Master of the House in Edo." The chamberlain who requests Ogami's assistance is the Edo-garou of the Awa Clan.
"Koku" and other matters monetary
The so-called "Koku-daka" system of calculating rice production was adopted before the Edo era. During the Tokugawa period, it became the standardized way to rate the holdings of the villages and fiefs. A "100,000-koku" Daimyo meant that he ruled a domain that produced 100,000-koku of rice.
Of Koku, George Sansom says that: "...the product of one choo (approx. 2.5 acres) of first-class paddy," which are wet fields where rice is grown, "is of the order of 10 koku, a koku being the equivalent of about 5 bushels of dry measure in England or the United States." Furthermore, "...in all discussion of the amount and quality of the crop, the ruling fact is that 1 koku of rice is the average annual consumption of one person." He also states the amount of labor that's needed for producing such a sizable amount: "To cultivate one choo of mixed (wet & dry) arable land required the full-time labor of four or five men."
To give you a better idea, the Shogunate, combining all of its scattered fiefs, controlled about 7 million-koku. There were almost 300 Daimyo, who altogether controlled 25 million-koku. Kaga, which was the richest fief, was a "million-koku fief."
In 1601, the 'gold' coin called a "koban" was first minted, and was worth 1 ryoo. At first, it weighed 44 momme of silver (1 momme = 3.75 grams, or 0.13 oz.) and contained 67.7% gold, 27.8% silver, and 4.5% copper. But the value (and content) fluctuated widely over the years. In early-mid 1700's, it equalled 60 momme of silver, and also equaled 1 koku of rice.
For simplicity, we've chosen to use "gold pieces" when necessary.
Among the seemingly-strange customs of the Tokugawa Era is that of dental cosmetics, especially the black-painted teeth (called "Ohaguro", lit. "the teeth-blacking") made possible by applying a special acidic solution to the teeth. Ohaguro had started many centuries before, popularized by wealthy women, but young men also began to blacken their teeth around 8-9th century. This 'fashion' became quite popular among the remaining population, but by the Tokugawa Era it was more or less narrowed down to a fashionable decoration sought by a limited few to show that its wearer is married.
Picking up food and eating it
The scene where Ogami smiles as Daigoro picks up the dropped rice and eats it might need a brief explanation. It is said that, as it takes an entire year (and a year of hard labor) for a grain of rice to be produced, wasting of it is considered highly disrespectful and immoral.
Carrying two swords
Even within the samurai class, there was a hierarchy of rank and status. The upper ranks of samurai enjoyed such priviledges as being able to ride horses, carry more than one sword, go hunting, and so on. They were usually paid much higher stipends than lower-ranked samurai. In fact, many low-ranked samurai were paid so little that they were forced to find part-time employment in handicraft work.
It should be noted that such rank was preserved even when a samurai had become a ronin and jobless (for example, when a Daimyo house fell).
The Province of Sanshuu
In LW&C3, Ogami finds himself spending a lot of time in the Province of Sanshuu. "Sanshuu" (lit. "three rivers") is a nickname for the Mikawa Province, which is now the prefecture of Aichi (mid-east prefecture, capitol Nagoya, approx. 200 km south-west of Tokyo). The nickname comes from the fact that Mikawa literally means "three rivers", though written using a different kanji character for "river".
Kariya is a city just outside of Nagoya.
The Province of Tootoomi (now the prefecture of Shizuoka) was Mikawa's neighboring province just to the east.
Trivia: where the sign reads "1-ri to Tootoomi Springs", the camera stops before showing the remaining characters. In the script, it is supposed to say "1-ri and 3-cho", a cho being approximately 100 meters.
Joro were women whose job it was to entertain men. This almost always meant prostitution, and most Joro were the daughters of peasants who had been forced to sell them to make ends meet.
Boohachimono were the owner-merchants of Joro and operated private clubs and other adult-entertainment houses. The term "boohachi" refers to those who lost 8 virtues as described in the movie, and it also came to mean "outcast."
Boohachimono used various tortures to punish their joro when necessary. In the Kozure Ookami book, this method of torture is described as the most cruel, in which the victim is spun around and beaten until unconscious, while the torturers shout "buri-buri".
Yamauba (or Yamanba), the Mountain Witch, said to live and hide in the mountains, is a well known character in Noh plays and in many tales. In the most well-known Noh play, a city yujo, named Yamanba, actually meets a real Yamanba in a mountain.
While the tale of Kintaro takes on different forms, he's said to be a son of a certain yamauba from a mountain in central Japan. Kintaro, it is told, is a child who was blessed with extraordinary strength, and was able to befriend animals.
The Yagyu New Shadow-Style
The "New Shadow-Style", or Shin-kage-ryu, founded by Yagyu Muneyoshi, is a school of swordmanship which Yagyu Juubei-Mitsuyoshi extended to create the Yagyu-Style in the early to mid 1600's. The Shadow-Style was perhaps the most influential during the Tokugawa Era, as Yagyus were the official swordmanship instructors for the Shogunate. For more on the Yagyus, see the liner notes for Lone Wolf & Cub 1
Goumune (literally "street beggar")
The ruling class classified the commoners into the "good people", or ryoumin, and the "bad people", or senmin. Most commoners were considered ryoumin, but by the end of the Tokugawa Era there were almost 400,000 people who were regarded as senmin. Of the senmin, there were sub-categories such as hinin and eta. Goumune people, as told in the movie, are of the senmin. Hane states that the hinin included "itinerant entertainers, beggars, scavengers, prostitutes, and castoff commoners..." who were used to "take care of prisoners and to execute and bury criminals." Eta, who were so lowly that the Shogunate considered their lives to be worth only a seventh of the value a human being's life, were harshly discriminated against, and often resorted to occupations such as the butchering and slaughtering of animals in order to make a marginal living.
The Owari Fief
Because of its location on the Toukaidou Roadway, Owari was an important commercial province. Among the greatest of the castle-towns (though not as great as Kanazawa, the capital of the head of the Maeda family, the richest daimyo in Japan), Nagoya was the capital city of the Owari fief, held by one of the three Tokugawa collaterals - The Lord of the Owari did in fact come from a Tokugawa lineage, as he clearly states.
Trivia: The Lone Wolf & Cub movies are based on the original comic book (Story by Koike Kazuo, Illustrations by Kojima Goseki), a 142-episode epic, which ran in the "Manga Action" comic book between September 10, 1970, and April 1st, 1976. Repackaged and re-issued in 28 volumes (over 8400 pages), it is still among the most popular of its kind.
The Beasts of Hell
"Gozu-mezu," short for "Gozu-rasetsu" and "Mezu-rasetsu," refers to beasts that exist in hell (in Buddhism). With heads resembling those of cows ("Gozu-") and horses ("Mezu-"), they are said to torture and feed upon the flesh of those of the dead who have committed sins.
The Saikaidoo region
The Saikai-doo (lit. "The Road of Western Seas") region is roughly equivalent to what is now called "Kyuushuu" (lit. "Nine states"), a large land mass in southern end of Japan. Kyuushuu is named for the nine major provinces, including Chikuzen and Satsuma, that were located there until the end of Tokugawa Era.
Zen and the Art of Assassinating Buddhas
To properly appreciate the role of the buddhist priest, Jikei, in the Lone Wolf and Cub, some understanding of Zen Buddhism may come in handy. As a full discussion is of course beyond the scope of these notes, those who are interested should refer to the many books available on the subject.
In Zen Buddhism, emptiness is defined as a state of mind. Clearer understanding of the world can come only when the mind is empty, cleared of extraneous thoughts (for example, through meditation). This is a fundamental concept, analogous to the mathematical concept of the number "zero" (the discovery of which had caused quite a philosophical revolution) which made possible mathematics that were once considered impossible.
"Mumonkan" is a collection of forty-eight koan (philosophical questions) compiled in China by a monk, Mumon Ekai, in 1228 A.D. Each koan is followed by a commentary by Mumon. One koan, entitled "Joshu's Dog," states:
A monk asked Joshu Jushin, a Chinese Zen master: "Does a dog have Buddha-nature?"
Joshu answered: "Mu."
Even though "Mu" is the Chinese character meaning "nothing," "null," etc., the answer does not mean that a dog lacks Buddha nature. What does Mu mean then? That is the point of the koan! Zen practitioners must try to find the answer by themselves. Mu has no concrete definition. The solution to the Mu problem is for one to be integrated with it.
(Editor's Note: this means that in Zen, to become part of the solution, you must become part of the problem. But I digress...)
What Jikei recites in one scene inside a temple, in fact, are parts of Mumon's commentary on Joshu's Dog.
The Sanyo-Doo Road
In Lone Wolf & Cub 5, Ogami Itto accepted an assasination request by the Kuroda Clan in Chikuzen - a southern province, approximately 100 miles north of Nagasaki (which is around the southernmost tip of Japan), in what is now the prefecture of Fukuoka.
We now find him a few hundred miles northeast, heading towards central Japan along a major roadway called the Sanyo-Doo; we are told that Ogami is heading towards the capital city of Japan, Kyo (which literally means "capital"), or what is now known as Kyoto.
Great political reforms took place in 8th century Japan, one of them being the establishment of a capital city. Prior to this, each ruler (the emperor) designated his own residence as the capital; as such, every new emperor had a new capital. The concept of the central government based inside an imperial court, and thus of a permanent capital, came from the Chinese. In 710 A.D., the city of Nara was selected as the capital, and massive architectural developments were undertaken. But, as the mid-700's were beset with a plague of all-too-powerful monasteries, in 784 A.D. the Emperor Kanmu decided to move the capital to the city of Nagaoka, and once again, in 794, to the city of Kyoto (called "Heian-Kyo", meaning "the capital of peace", at the time).
Kyoto continued to serve as Japan's capital and the home of the imperial family for the next thousand-plus years. Several hundred castles, temples and shrines were built there over the centuries, and we are told that it is here that Ogami's wife, Azami, was buried. Consequently, in this film, Ogami pays a visit there.
(Note how Daigoro pours water to cleanse his mother's tombstone. This is a ritual which continues to this day.)
During the Tokugawa period, the imperial family and the court aristocrats (who were actually living on Shogunate stipends) were almost totally powerless, and their activities were closely monitored by Shogunate officials. Their influence was limited to having a small say in certain literary matters. Nevertheless, Kyoto remained a major cultural and educational center.
Governmental affairs were administered in Edo, of course, the city which the Shogunate had made its primary home. However, when the Tokugawa Shogunate fell, in 1868, the new Japanese government changed the name of Edo to Tokyo (which is actually written with two characters for "To-", meaning "east", and "-kyo", from the Heian-Kyo and Kyoto) making Tokyo the new capital city. The imperial family were relocated to what was Edo Castle, and they continue to maintain residence there (albeit still without any governmental power whatsoever).
Kyoto, like other big cities of the world, is a busy one, yet it is full of beautifully-maintained castles and monasteries from ancient times, as well as state-of-the-art educational and commercial centers, thanks to an expensive effort both to preserve the old and to develop the new. It is one of the most popular tourist locations in Japan.
The Tsuchigumo Tribe of the Kiso-Ontake Mountains
Running mostly east-west to connect Edo and Kyoto, another major road, the Nakasen-doo, measured approximately 400 miles in total length. It is said that during the Edo period, travellers spent anywhere between 2 to 3 weeks to travel from one end of the Nakasen-doo to the other. The Shogunate built 69 stations throughout the Nakasen-doo, which included lodgings, for the use of their officials. Several such stations were concentrated around the Kiso Mountain Range (in what is now Nagano Prefecture), which was a major source of high quality lumber for Shogunate building projects. Ontake Mountain of Kiso, which is about 10,000 ft high, is one of the tallest mountains in Japan. It is here that the film's legendary Tsuchigumo Tribe is said to live.
The word "Tsuchigumo" literally means "Spider of the Ground (or Earth)". The Tsuchigumo are actually loosely based on the ancient, mythical natives that were said to exist in certain regions of Japan, mostly in the southern areas. The tales tell that these native people, who were referred to as "Tsuchigumo", were small but violent, had long arms and legs, and lived in caves or other dug-out places.
The Zeze Clan
From Kyoto, Ogami travelled a few miles to the east to Oomi Province (what is now called Shiga Prefecture), home of the Zeze Clan. Once there, Ogami enters a shrine by the Lake Biwa and waits to be contacted.
Lake Biwa, which measures almost 300 square miles, is Japan's largest lake, located just south-east of Kyoto.
Ogami's journey then continues hundreds of miles to the north-east, partly moving up along the Nakasen-doo. The Tsuchigumo and Retsudo's men make a stop in Kiso, but by then Ogami has travelled further north to unspecified, snow-covered mountain ranges. Compared to the southern (or the "bottom") half of Japan, which includes Kyoto, the northern parts of Japan are notorious for treacherous winters - the northwest in particular for large amounts of snow.
In an early scene where Ogami is travelling through what appears to be a peasants' village near Kyoto, he takes a couple of daikon (a kind of giant, white radish) and leaves some coins. During the Edo period, daikon was among the basic staples. Its shape makes it the source of much earthy humor in Japanese movies.
Katsu Shintaro died of cancer on June 21st, 1997 at the age of 65. The famous, multi-talented actor-director-producer, affectionately called "Katsu-shin" by most Japanese, began his career in the 1940's, and was perhaps best known for his portrayal of the blind swordman, Zatoichi, in a long-running film series which was among the most successful in the history of Japanese cinema. As a producer, he fathered such hit movies as "Lone Wolf and Cub," which starred Katsu's brother, Wakayama Tomisaburo, and "Nemuri Kyoshiro," both of which are now being released in the US by Samurai Cinema.
Known for his love of alcohol and cigarettes, in the recent years Katsu-shin spent increasing amounts of time in the hospital, only to be seen lighting up cigars at press conferences held to announce his recovery.
On the 23rd of June, five thousand people attended his memorial service at a Tokyo temple.
Notes about Names
The Japanese, like most Asians, put their family name first; all of the credits in these liner notes and the videos follow this convention. They also often refer to people by their family names; this is considered to be more polite. Use of a given name implies a certain level of familiarity and intimacy. In addition, the Japanese often use "terms of reference" such as "big-brother," "little-sister," "Aunt," and so on, both alone, as a suffix, and even in a friendly way to refer to people they are not related to, but who, if they were, would fit into that category.
For example, children will often call young women "Onee-san," which means "Big Sister." These same young women dread the day the children start calling them "Oba-san," or "Auntie."
On top of all this, suffixes are tacked on to names to add inflections of politeness, and to specify the position the person holds. Thus, if Mr. Suzuki were a company president, he would often be referred to as "Sukuzi Shachoo," "Mr. Company President Suzuki" or just "Shachoo."
How to appropriately deal with all of these terms in a natural manner is the recurring nightmare of Japanese translators - in particular in samurai films, where archaic terms are frequently used.
Since many of these terms of reference and suffix combinations are either rarely used or nonexistant in English, it is inevitable that some of the flavor of the original Japanese dialogue is lost when it is translated into English. The following brief guide to the most common terms should help you notice some of the nuances and increase your appreciation of the film.
Suffixes: suffixes are added to names to denote different levels of politeness or intimacy between the speaker and the person being mentioned. There are 4 basic suffixes.
-san: the basic neutral polite suffix, equivalent to "Mr.," "Mrs.," "Miss" or "Ms." in English. We usually do not subtitle this suffix.
-sama: denotes someone in a higher social position than the speaker, or whom the speaker holds in great esteem. Depending on the situation, this suffix might become "Sir," "Lord," "Lady," "Master," and so on.
-kun: is the standard suffix added to the names of boys and young men. It is also used by older men in reference to younger men, especially subordinates. "kun" is also more intimate than "san." To our knowledge, we've never encountered "kun" in a samurai film.
-chan: is the equivalent of "kun" for babies and girls, but it is also used when an intimate friendship or other relationship exists between the speaker and the person being referred to. While "chan" is rarely applied to adult men, in situations where two men have had a long and close relationship, they will often be "chan" to each other. "chan" also pops up in the mass media a lot, because of its intimations of intimacy; perhaps the strangest example of this is that in Japan, Arnold Schwarzenegger is often called "Shuuwaa-chan." In Lone Wolf & Cub, Daigoro refers to his father as "chan," although most children would call their father "Too-chan" and their mother "Kaa-chan." Perhaps because he doesn't have anyone else to use "chan" with, Daigoro dispenses with the prefix.
In addition to the top 4, there are many suffixes that denote job relationships, such as the above-mentioned "Shachoo." Of these, the most commonly heard is "-sensei," or "teacher," which is applied not only to teachers, but also to doctors, masters of particular art-forms (such as tattoo) and mentors. Recently, due to all the people sucking up to other people by calling them "sensei," real sensei have been complaining about "sensei-inflation" reducing the prestige of the term, but in samurai films, a sensei is really a sensei.
There are several suffixes that are often used in samurai films but which are now considered archaic.
-tono: roughly equivalent to "sama." Also pronounced "-dono."
-himei: Princess or Lady.
Terms of Reference: The most common terms of reference are:
otoo-san: someone's father.
chichi: my father (very polite).
okaa-san: someone's mother.
haha: my mother (very polite).
onii-san: older brother.
onee-san: older sister.
otooto: my younger brother.
otooto-san: someone else's younger brother.
imooto: younger sister.
imooto-san: someone else's younger sister.
omae: lit. "in front of me." A less polite way of saying "you."
kisama, onore: Very impolite ways of saying "you." The average lifespan of a bad guy after calling the good guy this is measured in seconds.
kimi: A very sweet way of saying "you."
sempai: "someone above me in a heirarchy."
kohai: "someone below me in a heirarchy."
A considerable amount of historical research was necessary in translating Samurai Cinema's films and in compiling the information contained here. Among the many sources we have consulted, the following were especially helpful:
1) "Tokugawa Japan - The Social and Economic Antecedents of Modern Japan" Chie Nakane, Shinzaburoo Ooishi and Conrad Totman, eds. Univ. of Tokyo Press, 1990
2) "Japan - A Historical Survey" Mikiso Hane. Scribners, 1972
3) "A History of Japan: 1615 - 1867" George Sansom. Stanford Univ. Press, 1963
4) "Kozure Ookami", vols.1-28, Koike Kazuo & Kojima Goseki, published by Koike Shoin, 1995 (re-issue)
|Lone Wolf & Cub 1 Liner Notes (PDF)||48.06 KB|
|Lone Wolf & Cub 2 Liner Notes (PDF)||41.93 KB|
|Lone Wolf & Cub 3 Liner Notes (PDF)||40.76 KB|
|Lone Wolf & Cub 4 Liner Notes (PDF)||44.5 KB|
|Lone Wolf & Cub 5 Liner Notes (PDF)||32.47 KB|
|Lone Wolf & Cub 6 Liner Notes (PDF)||35.5 KB|