This movie Onmyoji (also distributed as The Yin-Yang Master) is set in Japan, the years are around 1100's. The young, carefree, twentysomething Lord Minamoto Hiromasa isn't interested in politics, having no thoughts of power-struggles, and generally loving to be alive with no grand narratives at all. He wouldn't have believed it if someone told him he's gonna be the defender of the realm against an all-evil scheme involving demons of all sorts, and that without him the Emperor of Japan would have been crushed to oblivion along with the entire country.

And he would have disbelieved it even stronger if told that in that sacred mission he would be one in a pair consisting of himself and the greatest but notorious shaman of the era, Lord Abe Seimei (the one he eyes with suspicion here in the picture). Doesn't care a fig about political power himself, Abe Seimei is a reluctant hero as well; he only saves Japan because Minamoto Hiromasa wants him to, and he loves this sidekick that much.

'Minamoto' is not just another name

'Sherlock' Seimei's first case brought them together: Lord Kaneie (might be a Fujiwara clansman) finds a fruit growing on a cypress at his backyard. Hiromasa, when called to figure out what to do, thinks it is fun to let it be, but Kaneie forces him to fetch Abe Seimei to get rid of the fruit and the curse embedded therein. As a clan of warriors, the real-life Minamotos were not detectives; instead they have been famous as great archers and swordsmen. Hiromasa is rather beneath the clan's treshold of mastery in warcraft.


The bridge connecting the city with Abe Seimei's suburban estate lets him know who's coming and for what purpose. Right in the middle of the bridge is the unseen boundaries of the real and the supernatural. The cart hauled by a bullock here means a nobleperson is on board (in this case Minamoto Hiromasa); princes and lords rode on such vehicles those days, instead of carriages pulled by horses.


Abe Seimei's front yard is let to go wild like this, confusing Hiromasa who's accustomed to neatly-kept gardens around the palace.

The spirit of the real historical period is such that makes the dramatic stuff in this movie believable; the Heian years were characterized by courtly elegance, decorous taste, and aspiration to everything noble and beautiful.

Music, dancing, calligraphy, painting, and poetry thrived best in this era of Japanese history. Poems were (as they should, I think!) very much alive in themselves, and they were parts of daily life, sort of functional items in private and public, personal and social setting alike.


The bond between Minamoto Hiromasa and Abe Seimei starts from friendship then moves on to biz instead of the other way around. Their Japanese world was, in truth, a narrow circle of court nobles; both individually and collectively they had no eyes for anything beyond themselves. These guys were gay and smart and their lives were generally safe and sound -- unless, of course, things like what happen to Hiromasa and Seimei here did happen.

Click here for history of Japanese music and dance that involves Minamoto Hiromasa, Abe Seimei, and
the actor Nomura Mansai
| Click here for the Real-Life Abe Seimei & Minamoto Hiromasa | Click here for Nomura Mansai as flutist | Click here for "Onmyoji II" (the sequel)

'Heian' (today's Kyoto) means 'City of Peace'. Emperor Kuammu moved the court there in 794.The main street of this Japanese capital city in 1100's is one of the wonders in this movie. Abe Seimei asks Minamoto Hiromasa to go downtown with him, tracking the source of Prince Kaneie's supernatural annoyance.


Click here for Everything About Shintoism,
i.e. Abe Seimei's Job in Real Life


Faithful to the spirit of the era that lavishly pampered the aesthetes, Hiromasa is a great flutist; but even with this superb melody-weaving and the heart-throbbing looks he fails to get the woman he loves. She's one of the Emperor's concubines, that's why; being left behind, she crosses the border of goodness, right into the darkest recesses of human souls.

Sanada Hiroyuki

Ito Hideaki plays Minamoto no Hiromasa (anglicized: 'Lord Hiromasa of the Minamoto clan'), a flute-playing swordsman attending to the Mikado (Emperor). Nomura Mansai takes up the role of the legendary mediaeval magi Abe no Seimei ('Lord Seimei of the Abe clan'). Seimei is the Sherlock Holmes of the supernatural sphere of the era, while Hiromasa is the constantly-amazed Watson. Ito is gorgeously lovable as usual, and the part fits him perfectly. Nomura plays his part magnificently, giving us a 100% believability although some of the props and setting are obviously disastrous -- such as the tomb of Prince Sawara and Doson's spying bird, which are too unconvincing even to be quasi-real and too badly-created to be surreal.

Real-life MINAMOTO clan of Kamakura


Continue to "ONMYOJI II" (the sequel, 2004),
starring Ito Hideaki, Nomura Mansai, Nakai Kiichi

The antagonist, fellow-magi of Abe Seimei's, named Doson, official shaman for the empire (that's the meaning of the word 'onmyoji' to begin with), is vividly alive because the man playing the part is one of the greatest Japanese actors of this century, Sanada Hiroyuki (see the man in red above these lines). Sanada plays a stereotype here, so it's utterly no sweat for him. When Tom Cruise filmed The Last Samurai (2003), a fictionalized story of the Saigo clan (in the movie it is called Matsumoto) in their hopeless fight against the new order of things in the Meiji era, late 1800's, Sanada was given a part as a Saigo swordsmaster, backing up a fellow greatest actor of the day, Watanabe Ken. This, too, is a stereotypical role. For the best of Sanada Hiroyuki, see 'his own' movie The Twilight Samurai (2003).



Continue to History of Japanese Music
(including Minamoto Hiromasa's flute)
and Dance (including Abe Seimei's dance)



Movie: Pyrokinesis   Movie: The Princes Blade   Onmyoji (The Yin-Yang Master)
Other Movies:
Blister!, Sea Monkeys, etc.
  Best Pictures of Ito Hideaki   Ito Hideaki's Fans in Indonesia
Is Minamoto Hiromasa Real?   All About Ito Hideaki   Imagining Ito Hideaki's Gifu
The Real-Life Abe Seimei   The Real-Life Minamoto Clan   Ito Hideaki's Co-Star:
Sanada Hiroyuki
Ito Hideaki's Co-Star:
Sorimachi Takashi
  Ito Hideaki's Co-Star:
Nakamura Toru
  Ito Hideaki's Co-Star:
Nomura Mansai
Ito Hideaki Co-Star: Nakai Kiichi   More Pictures of Ito Hideaki   Ito Hideaki in Historical Pages
Movie: Onmyoji II   Movie: Kunitori Monogatari    









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