This film was recently released (February 14, 2006) by Tokyo Shock in Region 1 DVD format and is now available in all mainstream US venues.
This is directed by Gosha Hideo (????) whose directorial resume includes 25 films between the years 1964 and 1992. The only other Gosha film I remember seeing is his 1989 226 (Ni-ni-roku) depicting the infamous Japanese political coup attempt by revolutionaries on February 26, 1936. Starring herein, however, is a veritable line-up of incredibly well-known actors/actresses including Nakadai Tatsuya (????) as the lead character Magobei, Tanba Tetsuro (????) as his nemesis Tatewaki, Tsukasa Youko (???) as his wife Shino, and Asaoka Ruriko (?????) as the rough and tumble survivor Oriha.
This is a straight-out, serious samurai tale deeply embedded within a very specific geographical and historical setting. To date, this is perhaps the only TRULY traditional samurai tale reviewed on SaruDama. And by that I mean herein lies absolutely NO implausible narrative constructions nor any unrealistic characters. Instead, what you get in Goyokin is a very plausible and engaging (samurai/ronin) hero tale involving highly accurate historical plot elements.
I really enjoyed this, and believe it easily stands among the best of this (narrow) genre.
The historical setting here is within the late Tokugawa Era and revolves around the historical significance of Sado Island (Sado ga Shima / ???) off the northwestern shore of Japan. I spent a summer on Sado Island without really understanding its vital history which comes so prominently to the fore in this film. Perhaps that contributes to my appreciation of this film. Go figure.
Apparently Sado was a literal gold mine during the Tokugawa reign, and according to this storyline, one major difficulty consisted of the shipment of gold by boat from Sado to the safest direct route at “Sabai” on the mainland.
(Again, according to the film) The gold extracted from Sado during this period was referred to as “goyokin” (???), perhaps best translated as “Gold for Official Use”. Thus rather massive amounts of gold headed for the Tokugawa regime (aka “bafuku”) are potentially vulnerable upon the jutting rocks of Japan’s northwest coast.
(BTW: the photo serving as the SaruDama logo above was one I took off Akita’s shore, somewhat further north from where “Sabai” would have been (in Niigata) but nevertheless demonstrating the precipitous rock formations buffeting the entire northwestern face of Tohoku. Here endeth the lesson…)