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August 2005 Archives

The influence of one's uttermost passion in life may very well become a driving obsession even after you have died, or so A Dead Secret strongly suggest. This sad amd mysterious ghost story strikes several chords with traditional Japanese views of love, death and the stoic concealment of one's innermost desires, even following death.

Taking place in the ancient province of Tamba (contemporary Kyoto), the life of the beautiful maiden O-Sono seemed one of joy and hope. Only after death does her ghost betray any evidence that her truest heart had been elsewhere.

When I first saw the film Haunted Lantern I did not realize that it so faithfully followed a century-old tale entitled Botan Dourou (Flower Lantern). Performed initially by a theatre group in Tokyo during the Meiji-Era, the tale slowly made its way to the West through the writings of Lafcadio Hearn. In his In Ghostly Japan written in 1898, Hearn provides a translation the theatrical version which he himself attended.

The tale itself is said to tap into core Japanese intuitions and superstitions regarding karmic love, fated destinies, and the afterlife. Though slightly different from the original, director Yamamato Satsuo's 1968 film Haunted Lantern retains a wide range of Botan Dourou's original elements from character names and ranks to the golden statue of Buddha.

Below is Lafcadio Hearn's retelling of the tale as told in his In Ghostly Japan.

Yankees in the Land of the Gods : Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan

Genre: Japanese History
Author: Peter Booth Wiley (1991)

review in one breath

Author Booth Wiley has done some immaculate research here and lays this early history out in a narrative which is easily read and engaging. The apex of the historical tale is the role of Commodore Perry in opening Japan to the Western world, but this is about so much more than Perry's own adventures. Fundamental aspects of early Japanese culture and characters come to life and are given an invaluable historical context, including even the minute details of how each local region treated these mysterious foreigners. It is also filled with excellent original illustrations, maps and photos of the encounters, including Japanese art depicting the sunken-eyed, large-nosed Westerners.

This book seems to be out of print and rather obscure but you can buy it very cheaply on Amazon. I even had to upload my own cover scan so Amazon could show a graphic.

Blessed Be The Fan Base

For those of you curious about SaruDama, let me divulge that I was not born with a Japanese film grasped in my goopy little hand. No. I want you all to know that my unrivaled skill in Z-grade film analysis and ninja-ette bOObie parlay is something I have spent considerable years and effort in perfecting. But without doubt, one of the primary inspirations on my venture thus far has been Snowblood Apple.

Run by the husband-wife team of Alex and Mandi Apple, Snowblood provides a truly robust discussion forum for fans of Japanese and other Asian film. I'm serious. Check it out.

As a community forum, Snowblood is undoubtedly one of the core pillars of the contemporary J-Horror/ Asian-Horror Underground.

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