(Japanese 1956 c 104')
Based on Hideji Hojo’s play and Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel, two samurai are going to have a duel and have to respond to the women who love them.
Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) feels he is an unrecognized fencer, and he kills a swallow. Akemi (Mariko Okada) asks why he must fight Musashi. She embraces him, and he calls her a devil and conceited. He does not want to fight him because of her, but it is his dream. She says he scares her. He says she is going to Musashi and asks her to take him a message that he wants to fight him. She runs off and calls to Musashi.
In the ancient city of Nara temple priests sponsor a martial arts tournament. A champion asks for a challenger and says he will accept a group. A youth insults him, and the champion grabs him. Musashi Miyamoto (Toshiro Mifune) asks him to forgive the boy; but he refuses. Musashi kneels and forgives him. He grabs the fighter’s spear, and they struggle. A priest tells Agon that he is no match for him and says Musashi has never lost in more than sixty matches. The priest stops the fight and declares Agon the winner of the tournament.
Musashi sits and talks with the priest Ogon (Kichijiro Ueda), who says a samurai must be strong and just. Musashi says he has regrets and wants to be able to fight without them. The old man says his suffering will polish him. He asks Musashi if he has been in love because a person is longing for him. He says a man is longing for him—Lord Yagyu. He suggests he go to Edo to see him.
Musashi walks on a road with the boy Jotaro (Kenjin Iida). Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusha) has come to see Ogon, and she admits she is looking for Musashi. He says he left that morning for Edo. She leaves to follow him, and he realizes she cares for him.
The crowded city of Edo is the headquarters for the Shogun, and ambitious samurai seek employment. Kojiro tells Okaya to uncover his spearhead. Lord Yagyu watches and tells Okaya to fight him as Kojiro wishes.
In a home Kojiro talks with Omitsu (Michiko Saga) and says he should have been more gentle with his opponent. He tears up her present and says he is still unemployed. Omitsu likes his directness, and he asks her to elope with him. He loves her and asks if she loves him and will leave with him. She leaves the room. Her father sees Kojiro leave and calls him conceited. Omitsu says he is worried about today’s match.
Kojiro apologizes to Okaya, who says he was lucky Kojiro did not use a sword. Okaya says he is sorry and asks if Kojiro got the job. Kojiro bows and leaves. Okaya says that Kojiro is fine.
An aide asks Lord Yagyu if he will employ Kojiro, but he wants to see Musashi. He practices archery.
At an inn Jotaro is asked about his master. In his room Musashi is carving wood. Jotaro asks him when he will see the Shogun’s teacher and where the letter is the monk gave him. He says he threw it away. Jotaro wants him to succeed so that he will too. Jotaro asks if he is waiting for Otsu, and Musashi calls him a fool. Jotaro says his carving is of her face. Musashi remembers trying to kiss Otsu, but she is afraid and turns away. He gets up and leaves her. He admits he wants to see her, but she will not see him. They hear men outside talking about a fight.
Three men are lying on the ground, and another says he is not finished yet. Musashi runs to him and is told he left a note, which says the four are students and that Kojiro is responsible.
Musashi sits before Obana, teacher of the Shogun, and he says his hundred students are accomplished men. Musashi asks forgiveness for bringing the four corpses, and he leaves. On the street he pulls the cart with the bodies, and others ask him to give them to them. He says he knows sutras and will bury them.
The grave is marked, and Jotaro prays. They see Kojiro, and Musashi thanks him for his help last year. Musashi says he learned of his ability today. Kojiro challenges him and tells the boy to go away. Musashi suggests they postpone it, or else people will think he fought for Obana. Kojiro agrees and says tomorrow evening he will be at the east gate. Musashi accepts.
Kojiro grabs Omitsu’s arm and says she has been avoiding him. She says she does not want to elope with him. He says he meant it, but he changed his mind. Tomorrow night he may be dead, and she will not see him. If he wins, he will seek a larger fortune. If he loses, he will be dead.
A messenger comes to the house and says his master wants to hire Kojiro as a teacher because he heard about Obana’s four students. Lord Hosokawa wants to hire him as a retainer, but Kojiro says he does not need a protector. The man says the chief retainer is recommending Musashi. Kojiro says he is dueling Musashi tomorrow.
At an inn Musashi and Jotaro can hear men gambling while they eat. Jotaro opens the door and tells them to be quiet. A man opens the door and crawls in. He asks if Musashi is scared. Musashi asks who he is. He is Kumagoro (Haruo Tanaka) the horse-dealer. He says he has a big voice and asks him to apologize to them, or he will punish him. Musashi laughs. Kumagoro asks for an answer and takes out a knife. Musashi catches flies with his chopsticks and tells Jotaro to wash the sticks. Kumagoro gets up and leaves.
In the street Kumagoro practices with his sword and says Musashi is his teacher. A man with a hat hiding his face asks if Musashi is there. Musashi meets with a man whose teacher wants to hire him, but Musashi says he is fighting Kojiro today.
In the late afternoon Kojiro waits at the east gate. Jotaro throws a note to him and runs off. Kojiro reads that Musashi left on a journey and postponed the match for a year.
As they walk, Musashi asks Jotaro why he is crying. Jotaro says Kojiro will be Hosokawa’s teacher. Musashi says he dreamed of worldly success, but now he must train himself further.
Kuma with a horse follows behind Jotaro, who says he is his senior. Two arrows land near Musashi, and they take cover. Four men on horses approach. They demand the horse and their swords. Musashi throws a knife at one and kills another with his spear. The other two ride off. Now they have two horses. They come to a town and say what happened. A woman says they steal their crops. Musashi asks for an axe.
The three work cutting down trees. Musashi says they will live there and plow.
In a house a madam tells the prostitutes to get ready because rich men are coming. One says the pimp is greedy. Kojiro is dining and asks the keeper if all the girls wear bells. He says only Hanagiri does, and he asks for her at once. She comes in, and he sees it is Otsu, who says he is laughing at her. He says he did not touch her. She cares for Musashi. Kojiro tells her where he is now. The pimp says he will lose, and Kojiro tosses him a sack of money.
Two men on horses see Otsu walking and fight over her. The winner grabs her, and she cries for help. Jotaro and the other man get on their horses and go to her. The man flees on his horse. Jotaro recognizes Otsu. Jotaro runs and tells Musashi that Otsu is washing her face and getting ready. Musashi goes to her. She says she missed him. He thought she was mad at him. She says she was to blame. He asks if she forgives him. She says she will not leave him again. He shows her the hut they built and the land they have tilled. He used to hate farm-work and dream. Now he is learning the value of life from the soil. He calls Jotaro and tells him to cook for Otsu. Musashi walks away. She says he is still angry at her, and she cries.
At night Musashi is working on wood, and he hears her playing a flute. He remembers. She stops and cries.
The next day farmers see people leaving. Other people come to Musashi and ask him to teach them how to fight the brigands. He says it is no use; they must learn to run. Akemi is going to walk, and a man warns her about brigands. A woman advises her to disguise herself as a man. She wants to see her man and die content. The shopkeeper advises her to wait until men come there she can join. Three men arrive and come in. Kohei asks for bigger bowls and knocks the tray. Two other men bring Akemi, and she is identified. She recognizes Toji Gion (Daisuke Kato). She asks about her mother, and Kohei says he killed her. She blames Toji, and Kohei says he avenged his brother. She says the two killed her father, and he threatens her.
Toji and Akemi get off a horse, and he points out a village. She is to tell them the brigands were arrested and then set Musashi’s hut on fire tomorrow evening. Then they will attack. She says she won’t do it; but Toji says she must, or he will kill her.
Musashi makes Otsu stop hoeing, and she asks him to tell her what to do. She asks why he avoids her and if he hates her. He says nothing. She says she can’t live and runs away. He runs after her. She wants to die, and he calls her stupid. Again he stops her from running. He follows her into a pond and picks her up and carries her out. He sees Akemi approach and lets Otsu run off.
Akemi runs to Musashi by the fire and embraces him. He says she has changed. She says she has loved him since they lived in the hills. He did not understand her. She asks him to elope with her. He says her mother Oko asked him to do that. He says she is like her, but she says she is different and never loved anyone but him. She says it is not his fault because he has Otsu. She will leave in the morning and wishes him good luck with her. She runs back and cries on his shoulder. She asks him to hold her tight and choke her to death as his last favor. He walks away, and she cries.
In the morning Akemi tells men that all the brigands were arrested. They are happy that they are safe. Musashi learns what she said and asks her if she is sure. She says she will stay there a while.
At night the people are celebrating. On a hill Toji tells the brigands that she will signal with a fire. Kohei says he will handle Musashi. Akemi asks Otsu to walk with her. Jotaro goes to find Otsu. In the house Akemi tells Otsu that she loves Musashi. Otsu asks why she is coming between them. Akemi tosses a hatchet to her and picks up another. Akemi tries to fight her, and a flame starts a fire in the straw. Otsu calls for help. People see the fire, but the two women have got out of the burning house. The brigands attack on horses with torches setting fire to the houses. Kohei finds Musashi and says he is avenging his brother’s death. They fight with swords, and Musashi kills him. Kuma is wounded, and Jotaro sees him die. Toji praises Akemi, and he grabs Otsu. Akemi takes a sword and stabs Toji, who cuts her also. Otsu tries to keep Akemi alive. Musashi takes Akemi in his arms, and she says it is over for her. Otsu cries, and Akemi tells them to be happy and dies.
The next day people are mourning their losses. A rider brings Musashi a letter from Kojiro asking for the match in April.
Jotaro walks with Otsu on a road and says his master was unreasonable to leave her. She says he likes fencing more than her.
In Lord Hosokawa’s town of Kokura people read an announcement that his retainer Kojiro will fight Musashi in five days. Hosokawa instructs Kojiro. At his house Kojiro says that now even strangers want to see him.
Jotaro and Otsu talk about the match, and she wants to see Musashi. He takes her on the street.
A message to Hosokawa from Musashi says he will arrive in a boat to the isle. Jotaro says Otsu is sick. Kojiro and Omitsu burn papers. He says he will win with his own ability, and prayers are useless. He does not want sympathy but to fight alone. He feels relieved.
Kojiro rides a horse in a procession.
Musashi comes to Sasuke (Minoru Chiaki) the boatman, who asks him to see someone before he goes. Jotaro appears, and Musashi goes in a room and sees Otsu. He asks if she is ill, but she says she is cured now. He suggests they take a walk, and she says it is the first time he asked her. They walk on the beach at sunset. He asks her to forgive him. She knows he is not heartless and loves him. They embrace, and he says he can fight with a clear conscience. She wishes he was not a samurai. She asks him to abandon his sword. She wants happiness, but he says that is impossible. He says a samurai’s wife sends him off with a smile. She says yes. Musashi gets in the boat, and she bows.
Kojiro is dining. Musashi asks Sasuke about the island. He says if he falls and dies, to take his body back to Otsu. Kojiro hears that Musashi’s boat has been seen. Kojiro takes his sword, bows to his teacher. Musashi gets out of the boat and walks with his sword. Kojiro meets him alone on the beach. Kojiro draws his sword, but Musashi fights with a stick. Musashi retreats into the water, and the setting sun is in Kojiro’s eyes. Musashi is cut on the forehead, but Kojiro falls down dead. Two men approach and commend Musashi, who says Kojiro was the best swordsman he encountered. Musashi gets back in the boat, and Sasuke says he was praying. Musashi cries.
This drama portrays two samurai who fight with different motives and values. The women find it difficult to love samurai because of the dangers they face.