Memoir of Japanese Assassinations

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Memoir of Japanese Assassinations
Directed bySadao Nakajima
Written byKazuo Kasahara
Sadao Nakajima
Tadashi Suzuki (story)
Based onSecret Assassination (暗殺秘録) by Tadashi Suzuki
Produced byHiroshi Okawa
StarringSonny Chiba
Jiro Tamiya
Sumiko Fuji
Tomisaburō Wakayama
Ken Takakura
Kōji Tsuruta
Chiezō Kataoka
Narrated byHiroshi Akutagawa
CinematographySadaji Yoshida
Music byIsao Tomita
Distributed byToei
Release date
  • October 16, 1969 (1969-10-16)
Running time
142 minutes

Memoir of Japanese Assassinations (日本暗殺秘録, Nihon ansatsu hiroku) is a 1969 Japanese historical drama film written and directed by Sadao Nakajima. The movie was based on a 1958 novel Secret Assassination by historian Tadashi Suzuki. This anthology film consists of nine incidents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when assassins changed the course of Japanese history.

Much like the more well-known movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, which would premiere a year later in 1970, Memoirs of Japanese Assassins in a docudrama, which some might find boring, but have a certain love for these types of historical films. Unlike Tora Tora Tora, this movie has no overall plot or protagonist and is just a series of scenes.

Despite being a country with low crime, political assassination has a long history in Japan. Although not nearly as common before World War II, there have been assassinations post-1945, most notably when 17 year old nationalist Otoya Yamaguchi killed chairman of the Japan Socialist Party Inejiro Asanuma on live TV in 1960.

Japanese assassins occupied a special place in the Japanese psyche. Often times, the sincerity of their beliefs were given consideration, and if they were motivated by selfless causes, their punishments were often less severe than a nonpolitical murder. That being said, this was not the case of all assassinations, with Japanese society far more divided than some postwar historians have portrayed it as, i.e. a regimented military dictatorship.

The assassinations depicted alternate between cold detachment and a sympathetic biopic.

Overview[change | change source]

The film set during the 19th and 20th centuries such as the bakumatsu era, the Meiji Restoration, the Taishō period, and the Shōwa period. Throughout the whole story, it depicts a young assassins who is full of pure and beautiful energy of the dissident and confronts the power of time with the spirit of abandoned stones

This work focuses on the sadness of joining the clan and turning into a terrorist from the birth of the main character, Shō Onuma (played by Sonny Chiba), and the League of Blood Incident from the assassination of Junnosuke Inoue in 1932.

Chiba took a break from the TV drama "Key Hunter", which he starred in, and devoted himself to it, awakening while suffering , and politely played Onuma in his youth. Chiezō Kataoka for Nissho Inoue, a radical Buddhist preacher of Nichirenism who leads Onuma, Jiro Tamiya for Hitoshi Fujii, a cadet officer of the Imperial Japanese Navy who participate in the May 15 Incident, and Sumiko Fuji for Takako, an employee whom Onuma meets again. it was arranged and the sides are solidified.

Of the 142 minutes of screening time, the shooting for the League of Blood Incident chapter was about 100 minutes, and the rest is mainly the moment of assassination on the omnibus. These incidents are the Sakuradamon Incident (1860), the Kioisaka Incident (1878), the Assassination of Ōkuma Shigenobu (1889), the Attack on Hoshi Tōru (1901), the Killing of Yasuda Zenjirō (1921), the Guillotine Society Incident (1924), the League of Blood Incident (1932), the Aizawa Incident (1935), and the February 26 Incident (1936) in that order.

Cast[change | change source]

Chapter 1: Sakuradamon Incident (桜田門外の変, Sakuradamon-gai no Hen)

Date: March 24, 1860

Location: Sakurada Gate, Edo Castle, present-day Tokyo, Japan

Period time: Bakumatsu era

  • Plot: Infuriated by his unequal treaties with the West and perceived slights against certain daimyo lords, these samurai marked him for death, killing him outside the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle. The late Tokugawa Era – Bakamatsu – from 1853 – 1868 was notorious for political assassinations, bordering on civil war.


Chapter 2: Kioisaka Incident (紀尾井坂の変, Kioi-zaka no hen)

Date: May 14, 1878

Location: Kojimachi. Tokyo Prefecture

Period time: Meiji era


Chapter 3: Okuma Shigenobu Case Incident (大隈重信遭難事件, Ōkuma shigenobu sōnan jiken)

Date: October 18, 1889

Location: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Period time: Meiji era

  • Plot: In 1889, Foreign Minister Ōkuma Shigenobu was attempting to renegotiate some of the “unequal treaties” with Western countries. Like China, Japan was forced to accept some of these lopsided agreements, though they were never as humiliating as what the West inflicting upon China. Added to that was the “weak-kneed” foreign policy like not interfering with Korea’s internal politics that enraged right-wing nationalists. Chief among them was the infamous Dark Ocean Society (Genyosha) which led to one of its members, Tsuneki Kurashima, lobbed a bomb at Okuma, which only succeeded in blowing off his leg, before committed a grisly suicide.


  • Teruo Yoshida as Tsuneki Kurashima: A right-wing nationalist, activist, ex-social class samurai from the former Fukuoka Domain and a terrorist. He is also a member of the Chikuzen Kyoai Public Association and the assassin for the Genyosha. Although he attempted to assassinate with a bomb, Okuma was seriously injured by losing his right leg, and Kurushima, who had failed to complete his task, committed suicide by slitting his throat with a dagger.
  • Kunijiro Yanagi as Ōkuma Shigenobu: Statesman and a prominent member of the Meiji oligarchy. He served as Prime Minister of the Empire of Japan in 1898 and from 1914 to 1916. Ōkuma was also an early advocate of Western science and culture in Japan, and founder of Waseda University. He served as Foreign Minister to deal with the difficult issue of negotiation revisions to the "unequal treaties" with the Western powers.
  • Michimaro Otabe as Police officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Chapter 4: Hoshi Tōru Case Incident (星亨暗殺事件, Hoshi tōru ansatsu jiken)

Date: June 21, 1901

Location: Tokyo City Hall

Period time: Meiji era

  • Plot: In 1901, a middle-aged fencing instructor named Iba Sōtarō brutally murdered cabinet minister Hoshi Tōru. A local politician, Hoshi was mired in a corruption scandal, but ultimately acquitted. He was stabbed to death while talking with the mayor, assistants, and council members. Sōtarō, who entered the room with a sword, said "I am killing the wrongdoers for the sake of the world."


  • Toshio Chiba as Toru Hoshi: A politician and cabinet minister in Meiji period Japan. He was accused by the Mainichi Shimbun of involvement in a corruption scandal within the Tokyo City Assembly. Although he protested his innocence, he was forced to resign three months later due to a relentless campaign against his name by the newspaper. In March, he was found innocent due to lack of evidence, but during the middle of the trial, he was assassinated by Iba Sōtarō.
  • Masaaki Okabe as Iba Sōtarō: A fencing instructor, director of Bunyukan Private School and 10th generation of the shingyōtō-ryū swordsmanship. He is also the perpetrator who killed corrupt politician Toru Hoshi in 1901. Sōtarō was guilty for first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was transferred to the Kosuga Prison in 1902 for the rest of his life until his death in 1907.
  • Hideo Fujimoto as the Meeting attendees who tries to stop Sōtarō from killing Hoshi.

Chapter 5: Assassination of Yasuda Zenjirō Incident (安田善次郎暗殺事件, Yasuda zenjirō ansatsu jiken)

Date: September 28, 1921

Location: Oiso, Kanagawa

Period: Taishō era

  • Plot: In 1921, the head of the Yasusa Zaibatsu Conglomerate – Yasuda Zenjirō – was assassinated by Heigo Asahi, leader of the patriotic society Righteousness Corps of the Divine Land. It has a better ring in Japanese. Determined to build a hotel for poor laborers, Asahi requested a financial donation from the wealthy Yasuda, but was turned down. Whether motivated by greed or pure ideals, Asahi proceeded to slaughter Yasuda with a yoroi-doshi sword.


  • Bunta Sugawara as Heigo Asahi: Political activist, right wing populist and leader Righteousness Corps of the Divine Land, a labor society group for the workers. Known as the assassin who murdered Yasuda Zenjirō, a businessman and founder of Yasusa Zaibatsu Conglomerate
  • Yasuhiko Shima as Yasuda Zenjirō: Entrepreneur and founder of the Yasuda zaibatsu (安田財閥). He is also the great-grandfather of Yoko Ono.

Chapter 6: Guillotine Society Incident (ギロチン社事件, Girochin-sha jiken)

Date: September 10, 1923

Location: Osaka

Period: Taishō era

  • Plot: In 1923, a young nationalist named Daijirō Furuta formed an anarchist group known as the Guillotine Society (ギロチン社, Girochin-sha). In the aftermath of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, the government murdered several prominent anarchists, including Ito Noe and Osugi Sakae – out of fear that they might take advantage of the chaos to overthrow Emperor Taishō. Outraged and seeking revenge, 26 year old Furata conspired with like-minded anarchists in his Guillotine Society to assassinate Crown Prince Hirohito. Lacking funds, Furata targeted a bank teller transporting funds in a briefcase. The awkward and bumbling Furata haphazardly stab the teller over and over, before finally wresting the briefcase from the dead man’s hands. Needless to say, this incompetent amateur was soon arrested, tried, and executed for treason.


  • Choei Takahashi as Daijirō Furuta: A 26 year old nationalist who formed his own group in revenge the death of two anarchists. He and his close college friends, Yoshio Ogawa and Kinichi Uchida are coming up with an idea of taking down members of government officials. But after he accidentally murder the banker in order to acquired funds, he was arrested by the police and judge sentenced him to death. On October 15, 1925, Furata wrote his last dairy entry called The Repentance of Death (死の悔い改め, Shi no kuiaratame) before he was hanged at Ichigaya Prison.
  • Yoshihiro Igarashi as Yoshio Ogawa: A close friend of Daijirō Furuta and a nationalist.
  • Ryozo Maekawa as Kinichi Uchida: Another nationalist and fellow member of the group
  • Toshimitsu Mori as the banker who was stabbed by Furuta
  • Tensaku Murata as the bank assistant who tries to stop the three nationalist
  • Tatsumi Hijikata as Jailer at Ichigaya Prison

Chapter 7: League of Blood Incident (血盟団事件, Ketsumeidan Jiken)

Date: 1932

Location: mainland Japan

Period: Showa era