Yae's Sakura: 7 reasons to watch this Japanese epic starring Haruka Ayase as the extraordinary heroine
Yae's Sakura, or Yae no Sakura in Japanese, means "Yae's Cherry Blossom." It is a very unique Japanese historical drama in that its central figure, Yae, is a young woman. Yae's life is full of such amazing surprises that you would not have believed that she lived in the 19th century. Here are 7 reasons to watch Yae's Sakura.
1. NHK decided to present Yae's dramatic life for its annual "big" historical drama in 2013, as a story to hopefully provide healing inspiration after the great 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck east Japan. The natural disaster led to tremendous losses of life along with incredible damages to infrastructures and agriculture in the surrounding areas.
2. Yae Yamamoto was born in 1845 in the waning days of the Shogun rule. During her lifetime, she experienced great loss but also great recovery. The era in which she lived saw Japan going through transformative changes under the influence of warfare and modernization. She was skilled in gunnery, which was highly unusual for a woman at that time. During the Bushin War, Yae fought against the Meiji Emperor's forces to defend Aizu Domain, her native region. Although the Meiji government won, Yae acquired the nickname “Bakumatsu Joan of Arc.”
3. Another unusual aspect of Yae's life is that she married twice. Her first marriage resulted in divorce after the Bushin War. She then moved to Kyoto, where she met and eventually married Joseph Hardy Neesima, whose own life story is also quite compelling as he was the first Japanese person to graduate from an American college and also the first Japanese man to be ordained a Protestant minister.
4. Yae helped her husband, Rev. Neesima, establish the Doshisha University in 1875, which now has approximately 30,000 students enrolled in four different campuses in Kyoto.
(Photo of Doshisha University's Imadegawa campus, where Doshisha was founded 140 years ago.)
5. Yae later joined the Japanese Red Cross and became a nurse during the First Sino-Japanese War. She led a team of 40 nurses to care for wounded soldiers and also worked to improve the social status of nurses. For her efforts, she received her first "Order of the Precious Crown," an honor bestowed by the Meiji Emperor. She was, therefore, also known as "Japan's Nightingale."
6. Singer-Actress Haruka Ayase won Best Actress for playing the unique heroine Yae in the 50-episode epic.
7. Actor Joe Odagiri plays Yae's second husband, the enigmatic Rev. Joseph Hardy Neesima, who was a believer in women's rights and treated his wife with respect and courtesy.
This fantastic period drama is infused with history, romance, conflicts, and more. I only picked out a few out of the many reasons to watch the epic Yae's Sakura, which is supported by a stellar ensemble cast in its vivid portrayal of the life and times of an extraordinary Japanese heroine.
Just like the sakura cherry tree which returns to bloom year after year, Yae's courageous life continues to inspire us to this day.
Will you be watching Yae's Sakura and see how Yae rises from defeat to win her greatest love?
(Photo credit as referenced or as tagged)