Tono-Monogatari/The Legend of Tono or Sayo (1982)
Daisuke Ryu: Takeo
Yoko Hara: Sayo
Kyoko Enami:Miko
Shiho Fujimura:Masako
Yusuke Takita: Tokutaro
Koji Yakusho: Hatsutaro
Tatsuya Nakadai: Otozo
Directed by Tetsutaro Murano
Written by Kunio Yanagida
Scenario: Yukiko Takayama
Release date: December 17,
Running time: 110 minutes
Koji Yakusho's role in this film is that of Hatsutaro Sasaki, the elder brother of the heroine, called Sayo (Yoko Hara)
whose father is a wealthy farmer of the area called Tono in Iwate Prefecture in the northern part of Japan.  The time is in
Meiji 37 (1905), during the Russo-Japanese War.
Yakusho appeared in this film as one of the Mumeijuku Studio students (Studio for the Unknown Performers). Yakusho's
acting teacher, Tatsuya Nakadai, and his classmates from Mumeijuku, Yoko Hara and Daisuke Ryu, who plays Takeo, are
with Yakusho.

Yakusho was 26 years old when the film was shot. Naturally he looks younger and very
handsome. He portrays a proud and confident Hatsutaro very well.

The synopsis of the film is as follows:

The 16-year-old Sayo is still passionately in love with Takeo, who was once Sayo's fiance but is now a servant looking
after Hatsutaro's white horse at the Sasakis: Takeo's father, who was also a wealthy farmer, failed in business, and became
bankrupt.   Hatsutaro (Yakusho), knowing his sister's love to Takeo, treats Takeo just as his servant. He is a proud,
unsympathetic rationalist. With such a brother, Sayo's being in love with poor Takeo is completely out of the question.
Takeo, who is still in love with Sayo, however, gives up his marriage plans, taking into consideration the difference in their
status. What he secretly wants is to be near Sayo. That explains why Takeo started working as a servant for the Sasakis.

Sayo, who is not certain about Takeo's love, gets dismayed and confused, and tells her brother a lie that Takeo attempted
to seduce her on a field. Hatsutaro whips him and Takeo determines to leave Tono with Otozo (Tatsuya Nakadai), who is
a travelling "biwa"  performer: Otozo used to be a poor tenant in Tono, who had to kill his two little starving children at
their urging, while the Tono area was suffering severe famine twenty years back.

Some time  later, Otozo comes back to Tono and secretly hands Sayo a beautiful Kimono,
telling her that it is a gift from Takeo, who had been working very hard as a fisherman,
after leaving Tono, with his message to her that he wishes her happiness. Sayo is then  told that Takeo had gone to a
Russian battlefield.

Sayo's parents arrange Sayo's marriage but Sayo leaves home on Hatsutaro's horseback,
which was looked after Takeo. Strangely enough, we see that Sayo is held firmly by Takeo in a white military uniform.
Takeo and Sayo make love passionately in a shrine, confessing their love to each other. At dawn Takeo leaves Sayo, fast
asleep, contented, and disappears into darkness where numerous "onibi" (will-o'-the-wisps) await him.

Takeo's family duly receives the notice that Takeo was killed in a battlefield.
At the end of the film we see Sayo happily holding a new born baby- boy in her hand, wearing the kimono given by Takeo
under a cherry tree in full bloom.
Miko (Kyoko Enami), a shrine maiden explains that there is a rumor among the villagers that Sayo must have made love
with the spirit of Takeo who died in Russia, but nobody can know the truth, for nobody understands what Sayo is saying.

Pymmik's Comment on "Tono Monogatari" (Japanese)
Sayo and Hatsutaro
Sayo and Takeo
Sayo, Masako, Tokutaro, Hatsutaro,and Otozo.
On Oct. 24, 1982, the film "Tono-monogatari" won the Grand Prix at the 35th Salerno Italy International Film Festival. Director
Ttsutaro Murano reported in the film program for "Tono-Monogatari" published in Japan in 1982 that on October 23, 1982, the last
showing day of the Salerno Film Festival, this film was shown with English subtitles, and the English title was "The Legend of Sayo".
Director Murano was invited to the festival and received the Grand Prix trophy on Oct 24.

Tono city in Iwate prefecture, Japan and Salerno, Italy became sister cities,
after the 35th Salerno Italy International Film Festival.

The Tono City official website reports:

"The film "Tono-monogatari (Legends of Tono)" directed by Tetsutaro Murano and produced by Iwate Broadcast Corp. in
commemoration of its 30th anniversary, won the Grand Prix at the 35th Salerno Italy International Film Festival. Albert Croucha,
then mayor of Salerno City, saw the film, and through Murano sent a letter to the mayor of Tono City expressing hope that Salerno
and Tono would establish a sister city relationship."
Updated on February 16, 2013
Click the picture for enlargement.