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The Way of the Samurai 

In the early 16th century, Japan is a warlike society ruled by samurai and their daimyo warlords. When Portuguese merchants arrive in 1543, they are the first Europeans to set foot in Japan... See full summary »


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Episode credited cast:
Michael Auslin Michael Auslin ... Self - Nikko Toshogu Shrine
Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey ... Self - Otsuma Women's University
Richard Chamberlain ... Narrator
Michael Cooper Michael Cooper ... Self - Former editor, 'Monumenta Nipponica'
Ryonosuke Etoh Ryonosuke Etoh
Mariko Fujiwara Mariko Fujiwara
Daisuke Igakura Daisuke Igakura
Eiko Ikegami Eiko Ikegami ... Self - Otsuma Women's University
James Kent James Kent
Isao Machii Isao Machii
Alexei Podtheko Alexei Podtheko
Luke S. Roberts Luke S. Roberts ... Self - UC Santa Barbara
Toshihiro Satô Toshihiro Satô
Cecilia Segawa Seigle Cecilia Segawa Seigle ... Self - University of Pennsylvania
Will Shin Will Shin ... Japanese samurai (voice)


In the early 16th century, Japan is a warlike society ruled by samurai and their daimyo warlords. When Portuguese merchants arrive in 1543, they are the first Europeans to set foot in Japan. Missionaries quickly set out to convert the nation to Christianity. In the same year, a samurai boy named Tokugawa Ieyasu is born to a low ranking daimyo family. To prove his family's loyalty to their ruling warlord, Ieyasu is given as a hostage where he remains for most of his childhood. When he is finally freed, he reclaims his family's domain and allies himself with the most powerful rulers in Japan: Oda Nobunaga, and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi awards him a small fishing village named Edo, later to be known as Tokyo, and provides him with a vast area to rule. But Hideyoshi and Ieyasu are uneasy allies. On his deathbed, Hideyoshi, places Ieyasu in command until Hideyoshi's true heir--his young son, Hideyori--will rule. When daimyo rebels challenge Ieyasu's control, Tokugawa ... Written by Anonymous

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User Reviews

Could it get any better?
3 August 2013 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

This is the first part of an amazing three-part series about the first Shoguns. In other words, the period encompassing the 16th and 17th centuries. Fittingly, it's narrated by Richard Chamberlain, the man who starred in the wonderful mini-series, "Shogun".

Part One, "The Way of the Samurai" is made up of two major portions. The first begins with the Europeans coming in contact with Japan. And, the European reactions to these new people (and vice-versa) are discussed--in particular, the code of the samurai that demanded obedience--even obedience that led to ritual suicide. I was actually surprised that the similarities and dissimilarities with the medieval European knights was not discussed--though this is just the tiniest of quibbles. The second section discusses the fact that Japan had been in chaos for a very, very long time--with no unified government and tons of wars between various warlords. This discussion led to the Three Unifiers--three men who created the Shogunate--the real power in Japan for well over 250 years.

In this episode, the filmmakers managed to create a nice balancing act--between telling us important history as well as making it interesting and thought-provoking. Using interviews, old prints and recreations, part one left me with a strong desire to see the next two episodes. I am not sure if there's a better history of this period made for western audiences--though I doubt if it could get much better.

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Official Sites:

PBS [United States]

Release Date:

26 May 2004 (USA) See more »

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