Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire
Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire 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. 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 went from chaos and violence to a land of ritual refinement and peace. But stability came at a price: for nearly 250 years, Japan was a land closed to the Western world, ruled by the Shogun under his absolute power and control.
Episode 1 ~ The Way of the Samurai
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. In the same year, a samurai boy named Tokugawa leyasu is born to a low-ranking daimyo family. To prove his family's loyalty to their ruling warlord, leyasu is given as a hostage, remaining there for most of his childhood. When he is finally freed, leyasu reclaims his family's domain and allies himself with the most powerful rulers in Japan. When daimyo rebels challenge his control, leyasu's armies defeat them at the Battle of Sekigahara. The victory brings him the title of Shogun. It is the beginning of a dynasty that would endure for more than 250 years.
Episode II ~ The Will of the Shogun
With leyasu in control, peace descends on Japan, and a new society based on the samurai ethics of obedience and loyalty is established. In 1600, William Adams becomes the first Englishman to set foot in Japan. When he dies at 72, leyasu's vision of a strictly controlled class system based on the rule of the samurai is a reality. But his grandson, lemitsu, will rule more harshly. In 1637, impoverished peasants and persecuted Christians explode in anger in the Shimabara Rebellion, and thousands die. In order to prevent further dissension resulting from foreign influence, lemitsu closes Japan to the Western World. It will be more than 200 years before the nation will open its doors again.
Episode III ~ The Return of the Barbarians
By 1690, Japan is a nation completely isolated from the outside world, except for a small community of Dutch traders. Culture and commerce flourish. But ruling daimyo warlords and their samurai armies continue to grow restless. Under the rule of the Shogun Tsunayoshi, art and education excel, and "Laws of Compassion" are introduced. Japanese interest in Western science increases, making the policy of isolation more difficult. In 1853, Matthew C. Perry sails American ships into Edo Bay and demands a formal opening of the nation. Realising that resistance is futile the Japanese negotiate treaties with the US and other nations in the West. After 265 years of isolation the modern era of Japan has begun.