NHK Drama Special 2009 ~ Saka no Ue no Kumo (Part 1)

Saka no Ue no Kumo

Official Website

Sundays, 8.00 – 9.30 p.m. from 29 November – 27 December 2009
Sundays, 8.00 – 9.30 p.m. from 5 December – 26 December 2010
Sundays, 8.00 – 9.30 p.m. from December 2011


It is 1868, the birth of the modern state of Japan after the collapse of the shogunate system which lasted for 260 years. The fifth son of the Akiyama family of Iyo Matsuyama in Shikoku is born. He is named Akiyama Saneyuki (childhood name: Akiyama Jungoro). After the Meiji Restoration, the Matsuyama domain’s public finances run out and feudal retainers live in dire poverty. It is especially miserable for the Akiyama family which has many children. However, Saneyuki’s older brother, Yoshifuru, (childhood name: Akiyama Shinzaburo) is more delighted than anyone about Saneyuki’s birth and takes good care of him. The 16-year-old Yoshifuru aims to enter a normal school (now called teachers college) which does not require school fees and sets off for Osaka. After that, he goes up to Tokyo and enrolls at the military academy before returning home. Yoshifuru suggests that his parents let Saneyuki go on to junior high school using his own allowance. A few years later, Saneyuki’s classmate and childhood friend, Masaoka Shiki (known as Noboru) drops out of junior high school and goes up to Tokyo with his sights set on Daigaku Preparatory School (predecessor of Daiichi Preparatory School). Saneyuki would also like to study in Tokyo. His wish is granted by Yoshifuru and Saneyuki enters the Kyoryu School (now Kaisei Junior & Senior High School) in Kanda that Shiki attends. One day, the two of them are invited by their English language teacher to go to the enclave for foreign residents in Yokohama. Saneyuki and Shiki see the most advanced cruiser over there and are overwhelmed by its majestic appearance …

Motoki Masahiro as Akiyama Saneyuki
Born in 1868 as the fifth son of Akiyama Heigoro and the younger brother of Akiyama Yoshifuru. Saneyuki, who was called the strategist in the history of the Japanese navy, graduated from the naval academy at the top of his class. He was in charge of planning the strategies of the combined fleet throughout the course of the Russo-Japanese naval war and guided the Japanese navy to a crushing victory over the enemy in the Battle of the Sea of Japan.

Abe Hiroshi as Akiyama Yoshifuru
Born in 1859 as the third son of Akiyama Hisataka and the older brother of Akiyama Saneyuki. Yoshifuru, who learnt the art of cavalry warfare when he studied abroad in France, is called the father of Japan’s modern cavalry. He distinguished himself by stopping the offensive of the Russian Cossack cavalry, particularly in the Battle of Sandepu, and guiding the Japanese army to a victory in a battle that was called “the greatest challenge of the Russo-Japanese War”.

Kagawa Teruyuki as Masaoka Shiki
Born in 1867 as the eldest son of Masaoka Tsunenao. Saneyuki’s childhood friend. His father died early but because his mother was the eldest daughter of the scholar, Ohara Kanzan, he had literary, artistic lineage. While he was a junior high school student, he was influenced by the democratic rights movement and aspired to be a politician but the countryside of Matsuyama did not satisfy him, so he dropped out of school and went up to Tokyo to study. However, he suffered a lung haemorrhage. During his recuperation, he switched paths to haiku and sought to revolutionise haiku and tanka. He played an important role in Japan’s modern literature.

Kanno Miho as Masaoka Ritsu
Born in 1870 as the younger sister of Masaoka Shiki. She nursed Shiki during his battle with illness and supported him in his literary revolution. After his death, she entered a vocational school and became a teacher at the school after her graduation but resigned to look after her sick mother. She later opened a needlework classroom at Shikian to make a living.

Matsu Takako as Akiyama Tami
Born in 1869 as the eldest daughter of the Sakuma family, a former vassal to the shogun. Yoshifuru’s wife. Yoshifuru lodged with the Sakuma family when he was a junior officer after he left the military academy. Because of her dignified personality, she is also the pride of her mother-in-law.

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About jadefrost

This blog contains information and musings on current and upcoming Japanese dramas but is not intended to be comprehensive.
This entry was posted in Fall 2009 Drama Specials, NHK and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to NHK Drama Special 2009 ~ Saka no Ue no Kumo (Part 1)

  1. Greetings from Ohio State University. Might someone know if NHK is planning to release this series on DVD? It would be great to acquire this wonderful work on video.

    Domo arigato gozaimasu

    Carlos R. Rivera, Ph.D.
    LCDR USNR ret
    Deparment of History
    Ohio State University

    • jadefrost says:

      The DVD box set for the first five episodes can be ordered on Amazon Japan. The date of release is 15 March 2010. It is retailing for about 15,000 yen. I’m not sure if the region code allows the drama to be played in other parts of the world.

  2. Gary Kim says:

    My wife loves this story and we watch it together and she explains it to me. What I don’t understand is, why is it being released over a three year period instead of continuously like other Taiga Drama’s?

    • jadefrost says:

      I’m not sure what the logic was behind staggering the dramas over three years. It’s really bad from a viewer’s standpoint to pick things up a year later. The drama is like a filler for the weeks in between the period one annual taiga ends to the time the next one begins.

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