We’re only halfway into February but NHK have already announced the first details of next year’s taiga series. The public network’s annual drama airs on Sunday nights for almost the whole year and is based around a single historical figure. In this year’s “Ryomaden,” that figure is Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-67), the samurai who helped lead Japan out of centuries of isolation. The 2011 taiga returns to a more feminine theme that has been the focus in several recent series – the ladies of the royal court. Popular actress Ueno Juri (23) will play the princess Gou (1573-1626), third daughter of warlord Azai Nagamasa (1545-73). Gou was married three times to various offspring of the legendary Toyotomi and Tokugawa warlord clans. As the wife of shogun Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632), she created the “Ohku” or inner palace at the Edo Castle, with its intricate web of female intrigue.
Ueno has established herself as a talented actress, particularly in the Fuji TV dramatization of the “Nodame Cantabile” manga and a subsequent big screen adaptation. Like Gou, she is a third daughter and found that she identifies with the role. “In the script, she is strong willed and really speaks her mind. I might be like that!” But she has a lot of preparation to do for the role before filming starts in August. “I’d never watched a taiga series or performed in a period drama. So I recently started watching Ryomaden.” Though she shares the same management agency with its star, Fukuyama Masaharu (41), she has never met or even seen him. So she was delighted when he sent her a message of encouragement for her upcoming challenge.