The meaning of the word “samurai” is “to serve,” to serve the good, to serve love, and for that you need to have love and a soul within yourself. A true warrior should have love and compassion in his soul in order to practice martial arts. – Japanese American actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, recently baptized as Panteleimon in the Russian Orthodox Church Recently the Russia Analyst sat down to watch the first two episodes of The Man in the High Castle, Amazon’s exclusive television miniseries based on the early 1960s novel by legendary science fiction author Phillip K. Dick. Despite its somewhat ludicrous premise that Hitler’s Third Reich and the Japanese Empire could’ve conquered not only the enormous and industrialized USSR but also the United States (for which the show makes up by implying that the Nazis got the H-bomb first, similar to the back story of the 2014 first person shooter game Wolfenstein: The New Order), TMitHC does depict the banality of evil in a fascist occupied United States very well. For example, with TV spots like this trailer:
or this one, showing the newsreel footage from the ‘alternate universe’ where the Allies and Soviets actually won WWII:
…to the point that the Russia Analyst detects a hint of ‘it [still] could happen here’ warning in the show’s presentation of a Nazi-fied America.
The show has been renewed for Season 2, which is good news for the cast which includes Japanese-American actor and martial artist Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The son of a Japanese woman from a long line of bushido code influenced warriors and a Nisei American serviceman from Hawaii, Tagawa says he struggled with lingering racism from WWII growing up in Texas and the South during the 1950s. In an interview with the Russian Orthodox Church site Pravmir.com, Tagawa explains how he channeled his childhood anger into playing the ‘Asian gangster/bad guy’ characters he became known for in Hollywood, with 1990s screen credits like Rising Sun and Mortal Kombat.
In The Man in the High Castle, Tagawa plays a Japanese Pacific Trade envoy, Nobusuke Tagomi. While the Japanese are brutal and eventually gas one of the characters’ relatives for being Jewish at the Nazis’ behest, it’s implied in Phillip K. Dick’s novel that the Imperial Japanese occupation of the U.S. West Coast has been more humane than the Greater Nazi Reich’s extermination of Jewish and black ‘untermenschen‘ in the eastern United States. Tagomi’s hobby is collecting antique pieces of Americana, and he also consults oracles on whether a world war between the victorious Axis allies can be prevented. In short, Tagomi is the closest thing the Japanese occupiers present as a ‘good guy’ in the story, as he is secretly meeting with a Nazi envoy who represents the ‘peace’ camp in Berlin that doesn’t want to drop H-bombs on the West Coast and start another world war. But with Adolf Hitler on his last legs and suffering from Parkinson’s, it’s implied the SS hardliners around Himmler are gearing up for a final war of the Aryan race for world domination against their Japanese allies.
A Japanese-American Martial Artist Comes to Russia, and is Baptized With the Name of an Orthodox Christian Saint Known as a Healer
In addition to The Man in the High Castle, Tagawa has also acted in a new Russian movie called Yerei-san, Confessions of a Samurai. The story of a Japanese martial artist turned priest whose brother is a boss in the Yakuza is not all that far fetched — Tagawa tells his Pravmir interviewer that many ex-Yakuza gangsters became priests in Japan. In the plot of the movie, which has yet to be released with English subtitles, Tagawa’s character Father Nikolay fails to save a Japanese girl from the cross fire of a Yakuza hit. With a mob war in full swing he is forced into exile in a small Russian village in order to save his own life. However, Father Nikolay quickly discovers that in the village where he lives and attempts to minister, the inhabitants are under the domination of a Russian gangster, and he must make a choice about whether to fight again.
Soul of the East (a blog run by translator and Russian studies MA Mark Hackard I heartily recommend every RogueMoney reader add to their blog roll/reading list) has an excerpt from Tagawa’s Pravmir interview here. The full interview as well as scenes from Tagawa’s baptism and a press conference in which he announces his intention to acquire Russian citizenship are reproduced below: