“Higurashi no Ki” to star Yakusho Koji & Okada Junichi

Yakusho Koji and Okada Junichi will be teaming up in the period movie “Higurashi no Ki” based on the 146th Naoki Award winner novel by Hamuro Rin which sold 200,000 copies to date. They will be joined by co-stars Harada Mieko and Horikita Maki who plays Yakusho’s wife and daughter respectively. This is the first time Yakusho and Okada are working together and they both commented that they are looking forward to the filming. As for Horikita and Okada, they last worked together in the 2003 movie “COSMIC RESCUE” which also happens to be her debut movie.

The movie is set in the later part of the Edo era where Okada plays the character Danno Shozaburo who had been involved in a bloodshed incident with his longtime friend but was left off the hook and did not get punished. In return, a minister of the feudal lord orders Danno to keep tabs on Toda Shuukoku (Yakusho), a man who had been ordered to kill himself three years later after he was caught committing adultery with a nobleman’s concubine seven years ago. As Shuukoku used to be a feudal lord and had been tasked to finish the family register of the aristocrats, Shozaburo’s mission is to make sure Shuukoku doesn’t run away with the secrets he knows and he has to kill him and his wife Orie (Harada), son Ikutarou and daughter Kaoru (Horikita) if Shuukoku tries to escape. While living in confinement with Shuukoku’s family, Shozaburo happens to see Shuukoku’s diary i.e. Higurashi no Ki and is touched by the latter’s dedication to finishing the family register despite being on death row so he decides to find out the truth behind the adultery case 7 years ago.

Filming is scheduled to be done from late April to late June at 10 different places in Iwate and Nagano Prefectures. The filming of the other scenes will be completed by end September and the movie is due to be released in 2014.

Yakusho Koji to portray Yamamoto Isoroku in “Rengo Kantai Shirei Chokan: Yamamoto Isoroku”

Yakusho Koji (55) is set to star in a film called “Rengo Kantai Shirei Chokan: Yamamoto Isoroku,” directed by Narushima Izuru. He will play the part of Yamamoto Isoroku, who was the commander-in-chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet during the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II.

The movie is a 1 billion yen project that has been in the works for the past four years. It promises to show a side of Yamamoto that has not been publicly known before, and the production staff declared that it wants to present an image of “what a Japanese leader should be.”

Born in 1884, Yamamoto grew up to become a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1904, and he served during the Russo-Japanese War. He later studied at Harvard University, then was promoted to captain within the Japanese Navy in 1923.

He continued to rise in the ranks, though he was personally opposed to many of the military actions taken by Japan before and during World War II. Although he was strongly reluctant to engage in war against the United States, Yamamoto was responsible for the planning of the preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor, which Japan hoped would be devastating enough to prevent the American naval forces from being able to interfere with Japanese operations in the Pacific.

After his defeat at the Battle of Midway, Yamamoto died in 1943 during a flight to the Solomon Islands when his aircraft was ambushed by American fighter planes.

The movie appears to focus on portraying Yamamoto as one who loved peace, cherished his subordinates, and agonized after becoming commander-in-chief. The production team describes Yamamoto as someone who “thought about human life and the future of Japan, and who possessed decisiveness and a forward-looking international sensibility.” Because of Japan’s current plight due to the recent Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear crisis, the staff also hopes to somehow present the meaning of true leadership.

According to a quote from someone involved in the project, Yakusho was the only actor ever considered for the role, and the movie would have been canceled if he turned it down. He was offered the part during the summer two years ago, and he accepted during the winter of last year.

The battle scenes will make extensive use of CG and special effects. Filming starts in Tokyo on May 15, and will continue in various parts of Japan with cooperation from the Ministry of Defense.

Toei plans to release the movie in theaters on December 23, 2011.