Template:Infobox Film Kagemusha (影武者?) is a 1980 film by Akira Kurosawa. The title (which means "Shadow Warrior" in Japanese) is a term used for an impersonator. It is set in the Warring States era of Japanese history and tells the story of a lower-class criminal who is taught to impersonate a dying warlord in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable clan. The warlord whom the kagemusha impersonates is based on daimyo Takeda Shingen and the climactic 1575 Battle of Nagashino.[1]



The film opens as Shingen's brother, Nobukado, introduces a thief whom he spared from crucifixion, believing the thief's striking resemblance to Shingen would prove useful.

Shingen's army has besieged a castle of Tokugawa Ieyasu. When Shingen visits the battlefield to hear a mysterious nightly flute player, he is shot by a sniper. Mortally wounded, he orders his generals to keep his death a secret for three years. Shingen later dies while being carried over a mountain pass, with only a small group of witnesses.

Nobukado presents the thief to the generals and contrives a plan to have the kagemusha impersonate Shingen full-time. At first, even the thief is unaware of Shingen's death, until he tries to break into a coffin and finds the corpse.

Shingen's corpse, located within a large jar-like coffin, is disposed of at the bottom of Lake Suwa. At the time of burial, spies witness the disposal of the jar, and suspect the Shingen has passed away. However, the Takeda clan continues to cover up Shingen's death by saying they were making an offering to the god of the lake.


Spies working for Tokugawa and his ally, Oda Nobunaga, follow the Takeda army as they march home from the siege. They suspect that Shingen has been replaced, but are later convinced by the kagemusha's performance.

Returning home, the kagemusha successfully fools Shingen's concubines and grandson, who seems to prefer the substitute. By imitating Shingen's gestures, the kagemusha appears to take on the attitude of a zen master, and is able to awe even the bodyguards and wakashu who know his secret. When tested, he relies on the clan motto, which identifies Shingen with an unmoving mountain.

One of the tests comes when Tokugawa and Oda Nobunaga launch an attack against Takeda territory. Shingen's son, Katsuyori, launches a counterattack against the advice of other generals. The kagemusha is forced to lead reinforcements to the Battle of Takatenjin, and inspires his troops to victory.

In a fit of overconfidence, the kagemusha attempts to ride Shingen's unruly horse. When he is unable to tame the beast, he is revealed as an impostor. The thief is driven out of the palace as Katsuyori, despite being disinherited, takes over the clan.


Katsuyori leads an ill-advised attack against Oda Nobunaga, who controls Kyoto, resulting in the Battle of Nagashino. Wave after wave of cavalry and infantry are cut down by volleys of musket fire, effectively wiping out all the Takeda (though in reality, the clan continued under Katsuyori's leadership for years after the battle). The kagemusha, who has followed the Takeda army, witnesses the slaughter. In a final show of loyalty, he takes up a lance and makes a futile charge against Oda's fortifications. The final image is of the kagemusha's bullet-riddled body being carried down a stream.


George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola are credited at the end of the film as executive producers in the international version. This is because they convinced 20th Century Fox to make up a shortfall in the film's budget when the original producers, Toho Studios, could not afford to complete the film. In return, 20th Century Fox received the international distribution rights to the film.

File:Criterion Collection 2005.JPG

Kurosawa originally cast the boisterous comic actor Shintaro Katsu in the title role. Katsu left the production, however, before the first day of shooting was over; in an interview for the Criterion Collection DVD, executive producer Coppola states that Katsu angered Kurosawa by arriving with his own camera crew to record Kurosawa's filmmaking methods. It is unclear whether Katsu was fired or left of his own accord, but he was replaced by Tatsuya Nakadai, a well-known actor who had appeared in a number of Kurosawa's previous films. Nakadai played both the kagemusha and the lord whom he impersonates.

Kurosawa wrote a part in Kagemusha for his longtime regular actor Takashi Shimura, and Kagemusha was the last Kurosawa film in which Shimura appeared. However, the scene in which he plays a doctor consulting with Shingens advisors was cut from the western release of the film. The Criterion Collection DVD release of the film restored this scene as well as approximately another twenty minutes worth of footage which had not been seen previously in the west, most notably a scene where Uesugi Kenshin makes his only appearance in the film.

According to Lucas, Kurosawa used 5000 extras for the final battle sequence, filming for a whole day, then he cut it down to 90 seconds in the final release. Many beautiful special effects, and a number of scenes that filled holes in the story, landed on the "cutting-room floor."[citation needed]


At the 1980 Cannes Film Festival, Kagemusha shared the Palme d'Or with All That Jazz. Kagemusha was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Art Direction and Best Foreign Language Film). The film won the César Award in 1981 for Best Foreign Film.

Cast Edit

Tatsuya Nakadai as Takeda Shingen/Kagemusha
Tsutomu Yamazaki as Takeda Nobukado
Kenichi Hagiwara as Takeda Katsuyori
Jinpachi Nezu as Tsuchiya Sohachiro
Hideji Otaki as Yamagata Masakage
Daisuke Ryu as Oda Nobunaga
Masayuki Yui as Tokugawa Ieyasu
Kaori Momoi as Otsuyanokata
Mitsuko Baisho as Oyunokata
Hideo Murota as Baba Nobufusa
Takayuki Shiho as Naito Masatoyo
Koji Shimizu as Atobe Katsusuke
Noburo Shimizu as Hara Masatane
Sen Yamamoto as Oyamada Nobushige
Shuhei Sugimori as Kōsaka Masanobu

Additional CreditsEdit

  • Yoshiro Muraki- Art Direction

Quotes Edit

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Shingen Takeda: Even with this resemblance, Nobukado, he is so wicked as to be sentenced to crucifixion. How could this scoundrel be my double?
Kagemusha: I only stole a few coins. A petty thief. But you've killed hundreds and robbed whole domains. Who is wicked, you or I?
Shingen Takeda: I am wicked, as you believe. I am a scoundrel. I banished my father and I killed my own son. I will do anything to rule this country. War is everywhere. Unless somebody unifies the nation and reigns over us, we will see more rivers of blood and more mountains of the dead.

Masakage Yamagata: How old are you, sire? Fifty-three, as I remember.
Shingen Takeda: Why?
Masakage Yamagata (angrily chastening his lord): And you still behave like a five-year-old child! People gather, scatter, they go left and right following their interests. That is not surprising. But then I find you like this. With such a narrow mind, you must not dream of rulership. Go back to your own domain. You are a mountain monkey. You should be gathering nuts in the mountains of Kai!

Nobukado Takeda: I know it is difficult. I was for a long time the lord's double. It was torture. It is not easy to suppress yourself to become another. Often I wanted to be myself and free. But now I think this was selfish of me. The shadow of a man can never desert that man. I was my brother's shadow. Now that I have lost him, it is as though I am nothing.

Councillor 1: What of the horse? If he cannot ride it, everyone will know.
Councillor 2: His lordship has been ill, and must refrain from riding.
Councillor 1: And his mistress?
Councillor 2: His lordship has been ill, and must refrain from riding. (general laughter)


  1. Rayns, Tony (2006). Talking with the Director, Criterion Collection. Criterion Collection, 13. 

External linksEdit

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