The Choice of Hercules /Totsunyu-seyo Asama-sanso Jiken
Koji Yakusho: Atsuyuki Sassa
Ryudo Uzaki: Shinichi Udagawa
Fujita Makoto: Masaharu Gotoda
Yuuki Amami: Sachiko Sassa
Kosuke Toyohara: Uchida
Eugene Harada: Ushiroda
Director: Masato Harada
Scinario: Masato Harada
Based on the Memoir by
Running time:133 minutes
Release date: May 11, 2002
Story based on the Japanese program notes for the film "Totsunyu-seyo Asama- sanso jiken"
--- A PARTIAL SYNOPSIS ----
"Why don't you go to Karuizawa to direct operations?", asked the Chief in Tokyo.
Standing in the office of the Chief of Japan's National Police Agency (Keisatsucho), Masaharu Gotoda,
on the afternoon of February 19th, 1972, Atsuyuki Sassa got dismayed on being given this new mission
by his boss. Earlier that day some radical students -- fugitive members of Rengo Sekigun ("The United
Red Army") had invaded a mountain lodge called "Asama Sanso" in the resort town of Karuizawa in
Nagano Prefecture, taking captive the wife of the mountain lodge proprietor, as their hostage.
Notwithstanding that he had gained extensive experience in dealing with massive university student
protests in Tokyo, Sassa hesitated, saying that he was too junior for the assignment, but Gotoda,
believing that Sassa was the best man for this mission told him that Sassa must make the same kind of
choice as the Greek hero, Hercules. Sassa was then appointed as sub-chief of a specially organized
National Police Agency team, set up to deal with this incident; and Sassa's senior, Maruyama was
appointed as commander-in-chief.
Sassa was given six strict injunctions by Gotoda:
1 Be sure to rescue the woman hostage alive.
2 Arrest the criminals alive, since if shot and killed,they will be regarded as martyrs.
3 Never accede to a request to exchange the hostage for anybody else.
4 Special permission must be secured to use any firearms, including hunting rifles.
5 Keep on friendly terms with media people.
6 Take care to avoid loss of life on the police side.
Arriving in Karuizawa early on the morning of February 20th, Sassa and his colleagues were stunned to
see Asama mountain lodge. What they found was a building looking like a real fort, impregnable
against attack and situated in an area over 1169 meters above sea-level where the temperature during
the night time dropped to -15 degrees centigrade. What the police had to find out first was whether or
not the hostage, Mariko Kojaku, was still alive, but it was utterly impossible to get any confirmation.
There was not one single request from the Red Army members, nor any response from them; all the
time they just kept on shooting at the police laying siege to their fort.
In due course, those police who had been sent from Tokyo came to realize that the 'enemy' which they
had to cope with was not only the group of Red Army radicals; they had also had to deal with various
other matters: the incredible mid-winter chill in Karuizawa, which caused even their food to freeze; the
confrontation between the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and the Nagano Prefectural Police, who both
tried to do things in their own ways because of their pride; the media journalists who grew irritated at
the uncertain situations; troublesome lookers-on from all over Japan; and their bosses at the National
Police Agency who didn't trust any of the police on the scene, either ordering or suggesting totally
impracticable tasks over the telephone.
As time went on, Sassa and his colleagues came up with one possible solution to keep in mind, which
might help break this stagnant situation and enable them to gain entry to the lodge.....
( For the rest of the story, please view the film)
For a certain TV program, Koji Yakusho (who was interviewed at a deeply snow-covered
mountain area in Niigata prefecture in December, 2001 just before filming the scene of
gaining entry to the Asama sanso lodge), recollected the events of the actual ten-day siege
from February 19, 1972.
"I was then 16 years old. All of my family members watched the news on TV. I too sat
up rather late, watching the TV news. While the construction firm's wrecking ball was
smashing the walls of the lodge, we felt as if we were watching a TV drama. I could sense
the TV news announcer's excitement with his tone of voice gradually rising in pitch."
"In this film version of those events I wish I could show the suffering, courage and pain of
the man who had to take the leadership in a crucial situation, caught between the senior
officers in Tokyo giving orders, and the police actually working on the spot in
Director Masato Harada talked about Koji Yakusho in the same TV interview program:
When I read Mr. Sassa's documentary, I thought that no other actor could play his role except
Yakusho-san. I always think about the next film in which I can work with him. When he comes to the
filming place, the atmosphere becomes relaxed, and together with his existence as a star and his charming
character, we definitely need Yakusho-san.