nihongo|"Jidaigeki"| is a genre of film, television, and theatre in Japan. The name means "period drama", and the period is usually the Edo period of Japanese history, from 1603 to 1868. Some, however, are set much earlier — "Portrait of Hell", for example, is set during the late Heian period — and the early Meiji era is also a popular setting. "Jidaigeki" show the lives of the samurai, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants of this time. "Jidaigeki" films are sometimes referred to as chambara movies, a word meaning "sword fight", though chambara is really a sub group. They have a set of dramatic conventions including the use of makeup, language, catchphrases, and plotlines.

Types of "jidaigeki"

Many "jidaigeki" take place in Edo, the military capital. Others show the adventures of people wandering from place to place. The long-running television series "Zenigata Heiji" and "Abarenbō Shōgun" typify the Edo "jidaigeki". "Mito Kōmon", the fictitious story of the travels of the historical daimyo Tokugawa Mitsukuni, and the "Zatoichi" movies and television series, exemplify the travelling style.

Another way to categorize "jidaigeki" is according to the social status of the principal characters. The title character of "Abarenbō Shogun" is Tokugawa Yoshimune, the eighth Tokugawa shogun. The head of the samurai class, Yoshimune assumes the disguise of a low-ranking hatamoto, a samurai in the service of the shogun. Similarly, Mito Kōmon is the retired vice-shogun, masquerading as a merchant. In contrast, the coin-throwing Heiji of "Zenigata Heiji" is a commoner, working for the police, while Ichi (the title character of "Zatoichi"), a masseur, is an outcast. "Gokenin Zankurō" is a samurai, but due to his low rank and income, he has to work extra jobs that higher-ranking samurai were unaccustomed to doing.

Whether the lead role is samurai or commoner, "jidaigeki" usually reach a climax in an immense sword fight just before the end. The title character of a series always wins, whether using a sword or a "jitte" (the device police used to trap, and sometimes to bend or break, an opponent's sword).


Sengoku-jidai (Warring States era setting) is a Japanese genre that has been used as the setting for novels, films, video games, and even anime and manga. It bears some similarities with Western; Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", for example, was remade in a Western setting as "The Magnificent Seven". The famous anime and manga series "InuYasha" is set in this period despite some moments that were set in the modern era.

Roles in "jidaigeki"

Among the characters in "jidaigeki" are a parade of people with occupations unfamiliar to modern Japanese, and especially to foreigners. Here are a few.


The warrior class included samurai, hereditary members in the military service of a daimyo or the shogun (themselves samurai). Ronin, samurai without masters, were also warriors, and like samurai, wore two swords; they were, however, without inherited employment or status. "Bugeisha" were men, or in some stories women, who aimed to perfect their martial arts, often by travelling throughout the country. "Ninja" were the secret service, specializing in stealth, the use of disguises, explosives, and concealed weapons.


Craftsmen in "jidaigeki" included metalworkers (often abducted to mint counterfeit coins), bucket-makers, carpenters and plasterers, and makers of woodblock prints for art or newspapers.


In addition to the owners of businesses large and small, the "jidaigeki" often portray the employees. The "bantō" was a high-ranking employee of a merchant, the "tedai", a lower helper. Many merchants employed children, or "kozō". Itinerant merchants included the organized medicine-sellers, vegetable-growers from outside the city, and peddlers at fairs outside temples and shrines. In contrast, the great brokers in rice, lumber and other commodities operated sprawling shops in the city.


In the highest ranks of the shogunate were the "rojū". Below them were the "wakadoshiyori", then the various "bugyō" or administrators, including the "jisha bugyō" (who administered temples and shrines), the "kanjō bugyō" (in charge of finances) and the two "Edo machi bugyō". These last alternated by month as chief administrator of the city. Their role encompassed mayor, chief of police, and judge, and jury in criminal and civil matters.

The machi bugyō oversaw the police and fire departments. The police, or "machikata", included the high-ranking "yoriki" and the "dōshin" below them; both were samurai. In "jidaigeki," they often have full-time patrolmen, "okappiki" and "shitappiki", who were commoners. (Historically, these people were irregulars, called to service only when necessary.) Zenigata Heiji is an "okappiki". The police lived in barracks at Hatchōbori in Edo. They manned "ban'ya", the watch-houses, throughout the metropolis. The "jitte" was the symbol of the police, from yoriki to shitappiki.

A separate police force handled matters involving samurai. The "ōmetsuke" were high-ranking officials in the shogunate; the "metsuke" and "kachi-metsuke", lower-ranking police who could detain samurai. Yet another police force investigated arson-robberies, while Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples fell under the control of another authority. The feudal nature of Japan made these matters delicate, and jurisdictional disputes are common in "jidaigeki."

Edo had three fire departments. The "daimyo-bikeshi" were in the service of designated daimyo; the "jōbikeshi" reported to the shogunate; while the "machi-bikeshi", beginning under Yoshimune, were commoners under the administration of the "machibugyō." Thus, even the fire companies have turf wars in the "jidaigeki".

Each daimyo maintained a residence in Edo, where he lived during "sankin kotai." His wife and children remained there even while he was away from Edo, and the ladies-in-waiting often feature prominently in "jidaigeki." A high-ranking samurai, the "Edo-garō", oversaw the affairs in the daimyo's absence. In addition to a staff of samurai, the household included "ashigaru" (lightly armed warrior-servants) and "chūgen" and "yakko" (servants often portrayed as flamboyant and crooked). Many daimyo employed doctors, "goten'i"; their counterpart in the shogun's household was the "okuishi". Count on them to provide the poisons that kill and the potions that heal.

The cast of a wandering "jidaigeki" encountered a similar setting in each "han." There, the "karō" were the "kuni-garō" and the "jōdai-garō". Tensions between them have provided plots for many stories.

What would a "jidaigeki" be without characters to give the flavor of the times? Jugglers, peddlers, fortune-tellers, candy-sellers, rag-pickers, blind moneylenders, itinerant singer/shamisen-players, effete courtiers from the imperial capital at Kyoto, the Dutch "kapitan" from Nagasaki, streetwalkers and prostitutes from the licensed and unlicensed quarters, the million-dollar kabuki actor, flute-playing mendicant komusos wearing deep wicker hats, and of course geisha, provide a never-ending pageant of old Japan.


There are several dramatic conventions of "jidaigeki":

*The heroes often wear eye makeup, and the villains often have disarranged hair.
*A contrived form of old-fashioned Japanese speech, using modern pronunciation and grammar with a high degree of formality and frequent archaisms.
*In long-running TV series, like "Mito Kōmon" and "Zenigata Heiji", the lead and supporting actors sometimes change. This is done without any rationale for the change of appearance. The new actor simply appears in the place of the old one and the stories continue.
*In a sword fight, when a large number of villains attacks the main character, they seldom act simultaneously. Instead, the villains wait their turn to be dispatched, often standing motionless until their turn to be easily defeated arrives.
*On television, even fatal sword cuts draw little blood, and often do not even cut through clothing. Villains are chopped down with deadly, yet completely invisible, sword blows. Despite this, blood or wounding may be shown for arrow wounds or knife cuts.
*On film, most often the violence is considerably stylized, sometimes to such a degree that sword cuts cause geysers of blood from wounds. Dismemberment and decapitation are also common.

Clichés and catchphrases

Authors of "jidaigeki" work clichés into the dialog. Here are a few:

* "Tonde hi ni iru natsu no mushi": Like bugs that fly into the fire in the summer [, they will come to their destruction]

* "Shishi shinchū no mushi": A wolf in sheep's clothing (literally, a parasite in the lion's body)

* "Kaji to kenka wa Edo no hana": Fires and brawls are the flower of Edo

* "Ōedo happyaku yachō": "The eight hundred neighborhoods of Edo"

* "Tabi wa michizure": "Travel is who you take with you"

In addition, the authors of series invent their own clichés in the "kimarizerifu" (catchphrases) that the protagonist says at the same point in nearly every episode. In "Mito Kōmon", in which the eponymous character disguises himself as a commoner, in the final swordfight, a sidekick invariably holds up an accessory bearing the shogunal crest and shouts, "Hikae! Kono mondokoro ga me ni hairan ka?": "Back! Can you not see this emblem?", revealing the identity of the hitherto unsuspected old man with a goatee beard. The villains then instantly surrender and beg forgiveness. Likewise, Tōyama no Kin-san bares his tattooed shoulder and snarls, "Kono sakura fubuki o miwasureta to iwasane zo!": "I won't let you say you forgot this cherry-blossom blizzard!" After sentencing the criminals, he proclaims, "Kore ni te ikken rakuchaku": "Case closed."

The "kimarizerifu" betrays the close connection between the "jidaigeki" and the comic-book superhero.

Famous "jidaigeki"


* "Ansatsu" "Assassin"
* "Aragami"
* "Azumi"
* ""
* "Chushingura"
* "Hanzo the Razor" series
* "Harakiri"
* "The Hidden Blade"
* "The Hidden Fortress"
* "Incident at Blood Pass"
* "Kagemusha"
* "Kill!"
* "Kurama Tengu" series
* "Lady Snowblood"
* "Legend of the Eight Samurai"
* "Lone Wolf and Cub" series
* "Mayonaka no Yaji-san Kita-san" ("Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims")
* "Men Who Tread on a Tiger's Tail"
* "Mibu gishi den" ("When the Last Sword Is Drawn")
* "Onibaba"
* "Ran"
* "Rashomon"
* "Rebel Samurai"
* "Ronin Gai"
* "Red Beard"
* "Samurai Assassin"
* "Samurai Banners"
* "Samurai Rebellion"
* "Samurai Spy"
* "Samurai Trilogy"
* "Samurai Wolf"
* "Sansho The Bailiff"
* "Shinobi No Mono"
* "Shinsengumi"
* "Shogun's Vault"
* "Sword of Doom"
* "Sword of the Beast"
* "Throne of Blood
* "Sanjuro"
* "Seven Samurai"
* "Shogun Assassin"
* "Shogun's Shadow"
* "Tange Sazen" series
* "Tasogare Seibei" ("Twilight Samurai")
* "The 47 Ronin"
* "Ugetsu Monogatari"
* "Yagyu Ichizoku no Imbo"
* "Yojimbo"
* "Zatoichi" film series

Television series

* "Abarenbo Shogun"
* "Chōshichirō Edo Nikki"
* "Edo o Kiru"
*"Gokenin Zankurō"
* "Hissatsu series"
* "Jitte-nin"
* "Kage Dōshin"
* "Kage no Gundan" ("Shadow Warriors")
* "Kenkaku Shōbai"
* "Mito Kōmon"
* "Moeyo Ken"
* "Momotarō-zamurai"
* "Ōedo Sōsamō"
* "Onihei Hanka-chō"
* "Onmitsu Kenshi" ("The Samurai")
* "Ōoka Echizen"
* "Sanbiki ga Kiru!"
* "Shinsen gumi Keppūroku"
* "Shogun Iemitsu Shinobi Tabi"
* "Taiga drama" (NHK annual series)
* "Tenamon'ya Sando-gasa"
* "Tenga Dōdō"
* "Tenga Gomen"
* "Tōyama no Kin-san"
* "Ude ni Oboe ga Aru "
* "Zatoichi" (television series)
* "Zenigata Heiji"

Video games

* "Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki dayo Zen'in Shūgō" - sequel to "Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari" ("River City Ransom" in America) set in feudal Japan.
*"Sengoku Ace"
*"Kengo series"
*"Bushido Blade series"

Anime and manga

*"Blade of the Immortal"
*"Fire Tripper"
*"Ninja Scroll"
*"Princess Mononoke"
*"Rurouni Kenshin"
*"Samurai Champloo"
*"The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls"

Famous directors

Names are in Western order, with the surname after the given name.

* Kon Ichikawa
* Akira Kurosawa
* Masaki Kobayashi
* Shozo Makino
* Kenji Mizoguchi
* Kihachi Okamoto
* Tomu Uchida

Famous actors and actresses

Names are in Western order, with the given name, then the family name.

* Kanjūrō Arashi
* Yoshimi Ashikawa
* Shin'ichi Chiba (Sonny Chiba)
* Makoto Fujita
* Kimiko Ikegami
* Kōji Ishizaka
* Chiezō Kataoka
* Shintarō Katsu
* Morio Kazama
* Kin'ya Kitaōji
* Hitomi Kuroki
* Machiko Kyô
* Ken Matsudaira
* Hiroki Matsukata
* Keiko Matsuzaka
* Meiko Kaji
* Toshirō Mifune
* Yoshiko Mita
* Kunihiko Mitamura
* Hiroaki Murakami
* Akira Nagoya
* Tatsuya Nakadai
* Nakamura Kichiemon II
* Umenosuke Nakamura
* Kō Nishimura
* Megumi Ōji
* Hashizō Ōkawa
* Matsunosuke Onoe
* Teruhiko Saigō
* Masato Sakai
* Hiroyuki Sanada
* Asao Sano
* Koichi Sato
* Kōtarō Satomi
* Takashi Shimura
* Ryōtarō Sugi
* Yoshie Taira
* Hideki Takahashi
* Reiko Takashima
* Masakazu, Ryō, and Takahiro Tamura (the three Tamura brothers)
* Sanae Tsuchida
* Eijirō Tōno
* Gō Wakabayashi
* Tomisaburo Wakayama
* Ken Watanabe
* Kinnosuke Yorozuya
* Kaoru Yumi


*Star Wars creator George Lucas has admitted to being inspired significantly by the period works of Akira Kurosawa, and many thematic elements found in Star Wars bear the influence of Chanbara filmmaking. In an interview, Lucas has specifically cited the fact that he became acquainted with the term "jidaigeki" while in Japan, and it is widely assumed that he took inspiration for the term Jedi from this.cite web|url=http://www.jedisanctuary.org/history.php|title=History of the Jedi & The Jedi Religion|publisher=Jedi Sanctuary|author=Jedi M. Duggan|first=Jedi M.|last=Duggan|accessdate=2007-07-19] cite web|url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/trivia|title=Trivia for Star Wars (1977)|publisher=Internet Movie Database|accessdate=2007-07-19] cite episode|title=Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed |network= The History Channel |airdate=2007-05-28 |minutes=about 90]


External links

* [http://www.greencine.com/article?action=view&articleID=70&pageID=138 A Man, a Blade, an Empty Road: Postwar Samurai Film to 1970] by Allen White on Greencine, this article discusses specific "chambara" films, their distinction from regular "jidai-geki," and the evolution of the genre.
* [http://www.kungfucinema.com/categories/jidaigeki.htm Jidai Geki - Introduction] a good overview of the genre with lists of the films and links through to individual reviews.

See also

*Cinema of Japan
*Samurai cinema
*List of jidaigeki

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