“Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan” – Excellent Docu-Drama

I have previously posted about one of my favourite places in Japan being Sekigahara – some of which owes to its place in Japanese history. Although I wouldn’t say that the Sengoku Period is my favourite part of Japanese history, there is something compelling about what happened towards the end of the period and how it came to influence many aspects of Japan and Japanese culture. Because of this, I may well have watched the Netflix series “Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan” anyway, but I was actually drawn to it after seeing a post by former-student and friend Darren Ashmore, who contributes to the series, about it.

While I have watched a number of documentaries about this period in Japanese history, read some books, and have taught about it at university, I wouldn’t say that I am a specialist in this period of history. Consequently, I cannot comment about all of the historical accuracy of what is contained – I know from my own experience with documentaries (both in being filmed (for example, see Plane Crash Recreated: JAL123/Japan) and also studying them for my research on the JL123 crash) how they don’t always maintain factual integrity when entertainment and watchability are considerations for the maker.

When it comes to Age of Samurai, I really enjoyed the balance between interviews/narration with academic and the dramatizations. It was also great that for the dramatizations (and relevant academic input) that no dubbing of Japanese was used, with subtitles provided instead. If I were to quibble about one thing it would be the overuse, and at times inconsistency, of using first names rather than surnames for Japanese people – I know this is frequently done due to the number of people coming from one clan, but it still sounds odd and the flicking between the two systems particularly bugs me.

Given one of my research interests being about symbolism and kamon, together with my interest in maps, I particularly enjoyed the use of the maps such as the one below.

Image from Episode 2 of the series

It’s great to see docu-dramas like this being made and the current average rating of 7.5 on IMDb for Age of Samurai is definitely justified, and I would recommend watching it to anyone with an interest in Japan.

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