Tenchijin <天地人>

Ten no toki, chi no ri, hito no wa – or the blessings from the heavens, the benefits of the earth, and the harmony among the people, is a phrase that should always be kept in the mind of every ruler. The emphasis is on the harmony of the people, because it is the pillar of a strong nation. Without it, natural resources will be wasted and opportunities for advancement will be missed. In the 48th NHK Taiga drama, such principle of governance, that is the governance for the people, is demonstrated by Naoe Kanetsugu, the Chief Councillor of the Uesugi clan during the Sengoku period.

Born as Higuchi Yoroku, Kanetsugu became the vassal of the clan at the age of five. Separated early from his family, Yoroku studied along with Kiheiji, later known as Uesugi Kagekatsu. The inseparable bond between them is said to be as the Big Dipper to the North Star, meaning that Kanetsugu (the Big Dipper) will always stay beside Kagekatsu (the North Star). Kanetsugu himself proved to be loyal to Kagekatsu, even when he was approached by the Taiko himself.

After the death of Uesugi Kenshin, Kanetsugu helped Kagekatsu to defeat Uesugi Kagetora. Shortly after, he was appointed as the Chief Councillor of the clan at a very young age. Kanetsugu married Osen, who supported him later throughout his turbulent life. Although Kanetsugu refused to serve Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he and Ishida Mitsunari forged a close friendship that supported the Toyotomi, even after the death of Taiko Hideyoshi. Uesugi clan was spared from the Battle of Sekigahara where Mitsunari’s side was defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu after Kobayakawa Takakage defected to Ieyasu’s side. It was Naoe’s Letter that Kanetsugu wrote which was said to be the trigger to the decisive Battle of Sekigahara.

Mitsunari’s death began the weakening of the Toyotomi rule, as Toyotomi’s loyalists were stripped off their territories and incomes, including the Uesugis. Formerly holding the Echigo, the Uesugi was transferred to Aizu by Hideyoshi to watch over Tokugawa and Date clans. After Sekigahara, Ieyasu transferred the Uesugis to Yonezawa to limit their resources. Despite all the problems faced by the clan, Kanetsugu continued to work hard for his people. Thus, the people of Yonezawa enjoyed the benevolent rule of the Uesugis just like the people of Echigo and Aizu.

Kanetsugu’s Kabuto of Love reflects his love for the people and along with Kagekatsu’s principle of Justice inherited from Kenshin, both steered the clan to survive the violent Sengoku period.

Tenchijin is based on the novel of the same title by Hisaka Masashi. The central theme of the series is Kanetsugu’s loyalty and love towards his clan and his people. Tsumabuki Satoshi played the lead role as Naoe Kanetsugu while Kitamura Kazuki played as Uesugi Kagekatsu. Uesugi Kenshin is portrayed by Abe Hiroshi and Tokiwa Takako was cast as Osen. As always, the performances from the entire cast are great, although Oguri Shun seemed to be too soft to play as Ishida Mitsunari. Other notable performances come from Kikkawa Koji (Oda Nobunaga), Takashima Masanobu (Higuchi Soemon), Matsuda Ryuhei (Date Masamune) and Shirota Yu (Sanada Yukimura).

The set is pretty much standard for a Taiga drama, while the storytelling is not as impressive as similar Sengoku series such as Toshiie to Matsu or Aoi Tokugawa Sandai. Perhaps the plot was too much spread across many issues while not giving too much emphasis on Kanetsugu’s way of governance which reflects the meaning behind Techijin. For Sengoku period enthusiasts however, this is surely another fair addition to the overall genre.

Final rating: 7.0

Directed by Kataoka Keiji, Takahashi Yoichiro, Noda Yusuke, and Ichiki Masae
Screenplay by Komatsu Eriko
Based on the novel Tenchijin by Hisaka Masashi
Starring: Tsumabuki Satoshi, Tokiwa Takako, Kitamura Kazuki, Abe Hiroshi, Oguri Shun, Matsuda Ryuhei, Sasano Takashi, Kikkawa Koji, Takashima Reiko, Matsukata Hiroki, Shirota Yu, Nagasawa Masami, Higa Manami, Takashima Masanobu.
Broadcast year: 2009

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