The last thing I expected to find in a film called A Boy and His Samurai, and with an image of delicious looking custards on the cover, was a story that would embrace the fact that in these modern times, every woman should have the opportunity to be independent along with ability to join the work force. The film asks us to re-assess gender roles that have been in place in some cultures for centuries.
The film is called, in Japanese, Chonmage Purin. The title for Western markets is A Boy and His Samurai. We first meet a single divorced Mom with a five-year old son. She is called Hiroko and she’s played by Rie Tomosaka. Her son, Tomoya is played by Fuku Suzuki – and he’s got to be one of the all-time cutest kids you’ll ever see on television or in the movies. Hiroko works at an ad agency and she’s a mid-level manager. She oversees a team of computer developers and programmers. She’s resented because she’s a woman, because she arrives late and leaves early – dropping Tomoya off and picking him up at day-care as her colleagues think that this is a perk that they don’t have. Even her boss, throws an occasional verbal jab at her about this. Of course, you’ve known forever that life in the corporate world is never easy.
One day after work and shopping, Hiroko and Tomoya, while heading home, the film is set in modern-day Tokyo, they see a decidedly incongruous samurai standing in front of a supermarket. He carries his swords, his hair is in a top-knot, and he wears a samurai robe over a kimono and sandals. They dismiss it as a shopping promotion. A few days later, he’s still around, though this time his movements are furtive, and he’s taking steps to not be seen. But they meet unexpectedly, and they’re both shocked. Hiroko screams, clutching her son, and the samurai, called Yasube Kijima, brandishes his sword.
We come to discover that this Samurai is actually from the Edo Period in Japan – roughly 1820, and he’s traveled through time, more than 180 years to the present. No explanations are given – one moment he was praying to a stone Buddha in his own time and place, then the next minute he was here in Modern day Tokyo, likely the same place, but definitely not the same time.
He’s desperately hungry, he stinks, and he has no idea at all as to what happened. Hiroko takes him in and offers a few days lodging and food. Hopefully, things would get sorted out. Well, easily enough, they are able to conclude that Yasube is from another time – each of them have severe culture shock regarding the other.
Yasube is shocked that Hiroko is a single mother, that she’s divorced, and that she was the one who forced the divorce. Even more shocking to Yasube, is that Hiroko does not stay at home, that she goes out and works. In his time, this didn’t happen. Men went out to ‘earn the rice’ as he put it, and the women stayed home to raise the children and see to the household. Yasube lived in the time and place of a patriarchal society, which at that time went unquestioned and unchallenged.
Hiroko, doesn’t quite ‘get’ Yasube’s perception of her situation being a puzzle to him. In her mind, in the contemporary world she inhabits, going to work, raising a child, and taking pride in both efforts and achievements seems perfectly natural to her. It is the way things are and should be.