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zjpd| Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire
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Director: Deborah DeSnoo
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Cast: Japan-Memoirs of a Secret Empire
Genre: History, Educational

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Studio:  PBS DVD Region:  1
DVD Release:  Discs:  1 (DVD) []
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Reviews:  The mysteries of feudal Japan are thoroughly explored in "Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire", originally presented on PBS as part of its excellent nonfiction series "Empires". The history covered in this 160-minute, two-part program is concise yet comprehensive: The period of 16th- to 19th-century Japan was an eventful renaissance dominated by the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a 250-year dynasty that began (in Part 1: "The Way of the Samurai") under the leadership of Tokugawa Ieyasu (b. 1543), saw the arrival of Portuguese merchants and European Christian missionaries, and endured despite uneasy alliances and eventual war between opposing daimyo warlords. Part 2 ("The Will of the Shogun") finds Ieyasu successfully establishing a lasting piece based on samurai codes of ethics and obedience; the harsher rule of his grandson Iemitsu results in the expulsion of foreigners, leading to the Shimabara rebellion of 1637 and the start of Japan's 200-year prohibition of foreign visitors. Part 3 ("The Return of the Barbarians") chronicles the thriving metropolis of Edo (which would eventually become Tokyo) and 18th-century re-opening of Japan's borders, including the 1853 arrival of American Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his demands that Japan open trade relations with the United States or face possible warfare. As the Tokugawa Shogunate ended, the era of modern Japan began, and all of these events are recounted in rich detail by narrator (and "Shogun" TV star) Richard Chamberlain, visualized through elaborate re-creations and Edo-period artworks. All in all, this is a highly recommended primer for a deeper, book-related study of Japanese history, with a detailed website link for those seeking greater detail on the events and personalities showcased on this fine DVD. -KENTFLIX


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