Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Go Grrrls - Ishida Mitsunari, the Musical

The Takurazuka Revue is not really my cup of tea, but the poster looks dramatic.

For those of you who don't know, Takurazuka is an all female affair - playing to almost permanently packed houses, composed of devotees and wannabees. Like much of Japanese theatre, it is an institution and a way of life. There is a continual procession of new plays, many of them set in romantic European settings, with the rather odd combination of platinum blond wigs and Japanese faces (not to mention the cross-dressing and moustaches). In this poster, they look the best I have seen them - although a little 'manga-chic'.

Ishida Mitsunari is the star of this production, although he is not one of the more charismatic characters from this period. Of course, he suffers from the usual fate of the loser, whose faults seem overwhelming when he is cast as the foil to Tokugawa Ieyasu in his successful bid for power, which culminated in the Battle of Sekigahara. Wheras Ieyasu was a cunning straegist and battlefield general, who had benefitted from his close association with Oda Nobunaga and had the sense to allow himself to take a subsidiary position to both his predecessors while preserving a degree of independence, Mitsunari's strong skills lay in his powers of administration. Although he could command close loyalties, he had made personal enemies of several of Hideyoshi's generals in Korea (for reporting them for mismanagement of funds), and was not, primarily, a military leader.

Despite Ieyasu's skill in intrigue and politicking, it was still a close run thing (as someone said of another decisive battle).

Like many westerners, my first exposure to him was in James Clavell's Shogun, where he is portrayed as a cruel, power-hungry despot, set on controlling the country. Japanese portrayals tend to be kinder, making him a loyal follower of Hideyoshi, well-meaning but ultimately out-matched. This story, cashing in on the current NHK Taiga drama, concerns the relationship between Mitsunari and  Chacha, who was to become Hideyoshi's mistress. The title: "A Beautiful Life - Ishida Mitsunari, his eternal love and loyalty".


  1. I find it interesting that Japanese dramas including Tenchijin make Mitsunari out to be the loyal follower and somewhat of a victim of Ieyasu. I have little doubt that Mitsunari was a power hungry opportunist like Ieyasu.

  2. I'm sure he was, too. Maybe it's just an interesting dramatic angle. They do seem to love pathos. If I remember rightly in Tokugawa Sandai, he was also made out to be something of a good guy.