Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction
Christian based service movement warning about threats to rights and freedom irrespective of the label, Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
Edmund Burke

Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction

Kurosawa's Sanjuro

June 2005

Kurosawa's Sanjuro (1962, 96 minutes) stars Toshiro Mifune in his most popular role ever, the nameless, wandering samurai first introduced in Yojimbo.

The Story

A shrine in the woods outside a castle-city. Nine young samurai. Their leader, Iiro, has been to see his uncle the Chamberlain, who is responsible for civic matters while the lord is in Edo. The youngsters have on their own discovered graft in the clan. All their samurai blood is up, and Iiro was their messenger. He reports that his uncle had the effrontery to tear up their petition and even hinted that for all they knew, he might be behind the graft! So he betook himself to another official, Superintendent Kikui, who promised to help (sounds of approbation all round) and asked them to meet him here tonight!

Suddenly there is a noise, and a stranger saunters in from a dark room, where he had taken shelter for the night. The youngsters jump to martial positions. A masterless samurai, middle-aged, unshaven, unkempt, he stares at them, scratches, cracks his limbs, gives a huge yawn: "Idiots! I wouldn't come out if I meant to run!"

He has listened in on their conversation, thinks the Chamberlain sounds like an honest man, and guesses that their readiness to judge him must mean he is ugly. (We will never see this ugly face till the very end of the film.) Kikui, on the other hand . . . Calling them to this remote place is suspicious. In fact (peep out) . . . yes, they are surrounded by armed men! They prepare to die, and the stranger says, "Go ahead. Make Kikui happy."

Outside the shrine. When the armed men order those within to surrender, the doors are flung open by the angry stranger, who demands to know what they want. The shrine appears to be empty. He growls, "You woke me up. I'm in a bad mood." He throws the intruders out and kills others outside before their leader, Muroto, calls off the attack and even offers the stranger a job. In Muroto we get an impression of great cunning. As the stranger later says, "This one is a tiger."

To light music, the youngsters pop up one by one out of the floorboards. The rude stranger appears in the incongruous role of their mother.

He doesn't stand on ceremony. The samurai habit of bowing just never took with him, and he is not even ashamed to ask for money for food. Expressions of gratitude make him fidget uncomfortably. He is leaving, when he suddenly realizes the Chamberlain is now in danger: "If I were Kikui, I'd kidnap him." The boys gird themselves for a rescue, crying, "Live or die, we nine men!" -- to which the stranger sighs, "Ten. Too dangerous watching you."

Sure enough, Uncle's house is occupied. In the barn they run into Koiso, the family servant, who was sent out for sake. They learn from her that Uncle's wife and daughter, Chidori, are detained here, while Uncle has been taken away under arrest. The stranger persuades her to go back and give them their fill of sake. He makes a point of praising her bravery.

He sends five to scout out Uncle, keeping four for the rescue. One of the nine, Terada, lives next door to Kurofuji, one of the high-up crooks. The stranger likes the idea of hiding under their noses, so they agree to meet there.

At the changing of the guards, they make their move, and it's over in seconds: two killed, one captured, and the ladies rescued.

The breathless ladies are taken to the barn. From Aunt -- delightfully played by Takako Irie (Teacher from The Most Beautiful, eighteen years later) -- they learn that the crooks are cleverly framing Uncle for their own crimes. Aunt is a wonderful character full of nobility and charming innocence. She is so innocent, she has never been in her own barn before; and she seems to see the world through rose-colored walls. She is the perfect foil to the stranger, who has ensconced himself in a corner, being uncomfortable with ladies.

When she first notices him and Iiro explains who he is, she very graciously thanks him, leaving him totally at a loss. She brings out his awkward shyness, and this is what makes this movie.

As if she and her daughter hadn't a care in the world, the sweet smell of the hay makes them drowsy. When the daughter casually mentions that she and her cousin Iiro come here sometimes, he is greatly embarrassed and invents an errand. This leaves the ladies alone with the stranger, but they have forgotten him. They can't resist falling back on the soft, sweet-smelling hay, and in a moment they are fast asleep. He peers at them and is somehow struck.

The men bring in the captured guard, and the stranger says he must be killed, as he knows their faces. Aunt, roused, is shocked:

AUNT: No you must not do that. Did you kill the other guards? STRANGER: Had to, to save you. A: Forgive me, since you saved us, but killing people at the slightest excuse is a bad habit. You glisten too much. S: Glisten too much? A: Yes, like a drawn sword. S: A drawn sword? A: You are like a sword without a scabbard. You cut well, but really good swords are kept in their scabbards. S: . . . ? A, to the prisoner: We will see that no harm comes to you.

A shout is heard. They haven't a moment to lose. The stranger releases the horses to throw their pursuers off and runs to the rear wall, where he finds Aunt fanning herself from the unaccustomed exertion and remonstrating that she cannot possibly climb it. The stranger gets down on all fours to be a footstool, saying, "Hurry, before I'm forced to kill again!" -- and after several polite expressions of reluctance and an apology for the rudeness of it, Aunt consents to put her foot upon his back. There's a bit of broad humor as he winces under her not inconsiderable weight.

Terada's villa. A pretty streamlet runs through it from Kurofuji's, which is separated from it by a wall. They fear Uncle will be forced to write a confession or even commit seppuku. "What shall we do?" cries Chidori. But Aunt says, "Don't worry. Your father is a shrewd old fox. They won't be able to force him to kill himself so easily." She formally begs the stranger to help rescue her husband, "but don't be too rough about it!"

By the way, what is your name? S: Name? My name is . . . (tours the room, gazes out the open doorway, spying the camellias) Camellia . . . Thirty Camellia -- but soon I'll be Forty. (Everyone laughs) A: My, my, you're an interesting fellow!"

Thirty in Japanese is Sanjuro, hence the movie's title. In Yojimbo he calls himself Thirty Mulberry. Yet the stranger remains as anonymous as at the beginning. Significantly, Aunt is the only one who ever uses his "name" and that only after he has left.

Kurofuji's villa, where in fact Uncle is being held. The crooks' best efforts (threats? torture?) have not persuaded him to confess, and now Muroto comes with the news that the ladies are no longer in their possession.

Suddenly, the emergency drum! Kikui smiles knowingly. The people gather in the square to read that a conspiracy has been discovered and its leader the Chamberlain arrested, his co-conspirators still being at large. The crooks concoct a plan to send their empty litters to a remote meeting-place in order to flush out our heroes, whom they imagine to be numerous.

The eager youngsters follow the litters into the woods and are just about to attack against the stranger's advice, when suddenly horsemen arrive. The youngsters witness Kikui's men spring the trap meant for them and arrest the horsemen, who had actually come to offer escort.

Returning to Terada's, our heroes find their prisoner being entertained like a royal guest by Aunt. Asked why he didn't escape, he says he didn't have the heart to. Terada admits, "The lady is somewhat naïve," to which the stranger retorts, "A little stupid!"

They are at a loss for a plan. Finally, the stranger says he's going to go see Moroto at Kikui's. What for? "To ask for a job." At Kikui's he finds a big troop of armed men on horse and on foot heading to Kurofuji's. Kikui wants a showdown.

Meanwhile, at Terada's the youngsters have become hotly divided about the stranger, some of them trusting him, some not. Even the prisoner pops out of his closet to side with the stranger:

He offered to be her footstool when the lady climbed the wall. Her character impressed him. It shows he's good. A Samurai: He said she's stupid. Prisoner: As someone said, that's the way he talks.

They finally agree that four of them will tail him.

Meanwhile, Muroto and the stranger drink together. Muroto has sized the stranger up as a rascal like himself and so speaks without reserve. Everything on the public notice was lies. If the Chamberlain is out of the way, the clan will be easy prey. Kikui is vain and a useful tool. A smart man could profit from the situation. He will recommend the stranger to Kikui.

In the dark, deserted streets, they surprise and capture the youngsters who were tailing them. The stranger persuades Muroto to send three men ahead to guard the road to Kurofuji's, then goes to be a fourth, then runs immediately back to say the three are already dead. (Of course, he killed them himself.) Muroto takes the bait and runs for reinforcements, leaving the stranger in charge.

The stranger cuts the prisoners loose with a stroke and then like a storm unleashed cuts up all the guards. Then in a rage he slaps the youngsters, then makes them tie him up. Muroto returns to the mess and tells the stranger it's impossible to recommend him now.

At Terada's the ladies find a scrap of paper in the stream with Iiro's name on it in blood. It's the boys' petition that Uncle had torn up and stuffed in his sleeve. They realize he had it on his person when he was arrested and has disposed of it in the stream to save them from discovery -- "to save us fools!" And they now know he is next door.

The stranger comes up with a rescue plan. He'll go next door and tell Muroto he was sleeping upstairs in a temple and saw armed men. This will lure the troops away from Kurofuji's. The boys give him the name of a temple, Komyoji. They agree the boys will attack and rescue Uncle only on the stranger's signal. What signal? "When you see the house burning."

"No, that is shocking!" cries Aunt, up to now out of sight behind the standing men. "I know!" cries Chidori:

Send something down the stream. A: What a marvelous idea! C: Since it is Camellia Mansion, why not send camellias? Red camellias as the signal, so beautiful. A: I prefer white ones.

The men endure this discussion, the stranger idly tracing the lines of a calligraphy hanging on the wall. Finally he says, "What difference does it make? Camellias then. I'll dump a lot of them in," and leaves. Too late the prisoner (who has imperceptibly changed sides) remembers: "How awful! Komyoji has no second story!"

The troops leave for Komyoji. Muroto invites the stranger along, but the latter says: "I haven't eaten today. Give me a meal. I'll catch up with you." Left alone to eat, he slips out and starts grabbing camellias, when there's a sword at his neck. Muroto.

The stranger is tied to a rock. It suddenly dawns on the crooks that the Komyoji story was a lie. Muroto stares at the stranger in horror, realizing it was he who killed all his guards before. Muroto hastens after the troops to call them back, leaving the three old crooks with the prisoner. The stranger hoodwinks them into giving the signal themselves (the ladies squeal with delight at the pretty flotilla), and the rescue is over in seconds.

Aunt and the nine youngsters are formally seated in a room. Uncle enters and notices an empty place:

U: Who's late? A: It's Camellia. It's not nice to forget the name of the man who saved you. [Chidori is sent to fetch him.] U: Kikui committed hara-kiri. I regret it very much. . . . I could at least have saved his life. I had hoped to handle it in a quieter way, after gaining unshakable proof. . . . I was not popular with the people. I find this long horse face of mine a great drawback. Long ago someone saw me on horseback and said, "The horse's face is shorter than the riders."

Aunt can't stifle a laugh, then all join in.

Chidori comes bringing the new clothes they left for the stranger still in a neat stack, to report he is gone. Uncle says:

I thank him for not returning. He is a great man. But an extraordinary man like him would prove too much for me. We would inconvenience him, too, if we tried to hold him here. He is not meant to wear these clothes and work for the clan.

The youngsters find him and Muroto in a field. The stranger does not seek a fight, but Muroto must have satisfaction. They stand motionless inches apart for several seconds, then suddenly there is a movement, and in one stroke it is over. Muroto falls, cut through the heart. Iiro can't resist a "Splendid!" but the stranger is furious:

Idiot! Don’t be impudent! Be careful. I'm in a bad mood. He's exactly like me, a drawn sword. We're not in our scabbards. But the lady is right. Really good swords are kept in their scabbards. You'd better stay in your scabbards. (He heads off.) Don't follow me or I'll kill you!

They fall to the ground and bow and blink, fighting back their tears. The stranger says, "Bye," and strides off, giving his shoulders a shake.


Toshiro Mifune's portrayal of this character is simply fascinating to watch. He is a samurai who has left the posturing and gesturing behind and is therefore more human. In complete contrast to the youngsters' choreographed movements, he stretches, scratches, yawns, staggers sleepily, stuffs his face, rubs his beard or neck, without shame. Under the unwanted attention of the ladies, however, he becomes uncomfortable and squirms like a little boy.

The underlying fragility of this man of action that the ladies bring out is what makes this character so interesting. We see that his growling laconicism, blunt manner of speaking, and cynical humor are the ironic self-expression of a sensitive soul, who has the instincts of a mother toward the youngsters. And so his flower-name is not inappropriate. It is significant that the only one to actually use this name is Aunt, for she, too, is a sensitive soul. They are like one another, except that he wears a rough mask to deflect attention from his goodness. As the prisoner out it, "Abuse is easier than praise."

His sensitivity has come from humility. He has wandered the highways and byways of the world, not too moral, living by his wits. Being no paragon himself, he has learned to accept -- nay, to love (though he would never admit to it) -- stumbling humanity. His roughness is his way of keeping people at arm's length for fear of loving them too much.

The youngsters, on the other hand, are possessed by the samurai ideal and so dare not stoop to real love. Their postures and movements are all precise, their readiness to die for honor unflinching, and their humility itself a noble gesture. Like Katsushiro in The Seven Samurai, they have merely grasped the surface of being a samurai, and this makes them underestimate both Uncle and the stranger.

Despite his genial self-effacement, Uncle is the really great man here and the one the conspirators fear most, with good reason. He is a sword in its scabbard, working assiduously behind the scenes to retire the crooks without bloodshed -- "a shrew old fox" with a distaste for war like Kambei in The Seven Samurai.

Aunt brings out the stranger's fragile side in an interesting way, and that is why they are so funny together. In her presence, he simply cannot fall back on his usual gruff demeanor. Her patent goodness disarms him, just as it disarms the prisoner who could no longer act like a prisoner.

Nor is she as stupid as she appears. If she has no experience in the world, she knows her man through and through. It is she who assures others that the crooks hardly appreciate what sort of man they are dealing with. And her observation to the stranger, "You glitter too much," goes right to the core. It sums up the recurring motif in the movie of internal substance versus external show. The youngsters are merely grasping at the surface of what it is to be a samurai. The stranger is deeper. Yet he is still conscious enough of the surface to have to wear a mask. He is divided and ironic, and that is what makes him so interesting. He has a love for humanity that he conceals most of all from himself, never letting a good deed go unseasoned with a sarcastic excuse.

As the stranger is deeper than the youngsters, so Uncle is deeper than he. As a consequence of wandering and living by his wits, the stranger has got a bit thick-skinned about burning down houses and killing people. Indeed, in battle, a rage comes over him, he is a tiger like Muroto. He lacks the reverence for life and patience that motivates Uncle to find a better way. Uncle says, "I could at least have saved [Kikui's] life." The stranger would never have thought of that. Unlike the stranger, Uncle has social skills; yet unlike the youngsters, his manners are so casual that he puts you at ease. Fittingly, this beautiful-souled man is ugly on the surface.

We hardly see him, though. Mostly, it is through Aunt that we know him; and we may infer that her loving and trusting nature is the secret of his strength. The stranger is uncomfortable around women and also thinks of his sensitive soul as a weakness, rather than a strength. So Uncle's ability to derive strength from seeming weakness reveals a new dimension. Yojimbo is a great film, but this the sequel is even better and dovetails better with the films we have looked at so far because of the influence of these feminine energies.

The film ends on a masculine note, however. And indeed, we like the hero too much to want him to change. The youngsters have been moved to the core and break samurai form completely as they can't hold back their tears, for love of this man. Characteristically, he doesn't acknowledge their tears; but equally characteristically, his rough mask (even threatening to kill them) conceals nothing at all, except from himself. Now that we know him, we know "that's the way he talks." The shake of the shoulders to settle his robe is a trademark of Yojimbo (but carefully omitted from this film up to now) and so tells us that the incorrigible hero is off to the next adventure.