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Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire

Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire

Commanding shoguns and samurai warriors, exotic geisha and exquisite artisans - all were part of the Japanese "renaissance" - a period between the 16th and 19th centuries when Japan evolved from chaos and violence to ritual refinement and peace. But stability came at a price: for nearly 250 years, Japan was a land ruled by the shogun under his absolute power and control, and closed to the western world. This series brings to life the unknown story of a mysterious empire, its relationship with the West and the forging of a nation that would emerge as one of the most important countries in the world.

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  • The Way of the Samurai/The Will of the Shogun/The Return of the Barbarians (#101)

    In the early 16th century, Japan is a warlike society ruled by samurai and their daimyo warlords. When Portuguese merchants arrive in 1543, they are the first Europeans to set foot in Japan. Missionaries quickly set out to convert the nation to Christianity. In the same year, a samurai boy named Tokugawa Ieyasu is born to a low-ranking daimyo family. To prove his family's loyalty to their ruling warlord, Ieyasu is given as a hostage, and he remains so for most of his childhood. When he is finally freed, Ieyasu reclaims his family's domain and allies himself with the most powerful rulers in Japan: Oda Nobunaga, and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Awarding him a small fishing village named Edo, later to be known as Tokyo, Hideyoshi provides Ieyasu with a vast area to rule. But the two are uneasy allies. At his deathbed, Hideyoshi places Ieyasu in command until his true heir and son Hideyori is able to rule. When daimyo rebels challenge his control, Tokugawa Ieyasu's armies defeat them at the Battle of Sekigahara. The victory brings to Ieyasu the title of Shogun. Hideyori is now Ieyasu's only obstacle to total control of Japan. In 1614, Ieyasu renounces his allegiance to Hideyori and attacks Osaka Castle, slaughtering more than 100,000. It is the beginning of a dynasty that would endure for more than 250 years. [162 minutes]

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