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5 Ways Japan Has Influenced Star Wars: A Cultural Exchange

5 Ways Japan Has Influenced Star Wars: A Cultural Exchange | Reflekt Sabers™

Star Wars is an iconic media franchise that has captured the imagination of millions around the world. With its wide-ranging influence spanning film, television, books, comics, toys, and more, Star Wars has become a cultural phenomenon. The franchise has taken inspiration from several reference points, including old sci-fi movie serials, such as Flash Gordon and World War II dogfights, but Japan has had an outsized influence on the galaxy far, far away. Here are five ways that Japan has influenced Star Wars.

Akira Kurosawa Films

George Lucas was a big fan of Akira Kurosawa, a Japanese film director. The parallels between Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope are striking. Both films feature a bickering pair of commoners embroiled in an adventure with a sassy young princess and a weathered general, played by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune. In fact, Lucas even approached Mifune about playing Darth Vader when casting the first film.

The influence of Kurosawa’s work on Star Wars goes even deeper. Lucas, along with Francis Ford Coppola, produced Kurosawa’s 1980 film, Kagemusha, about a warlord’s doppelgänger getting thrown into the thick of things. This story idea also made its way into The Clone Wars. Specifically, the fourth episode of the fourth season, “The Shadow Warrior,” (also the English translation of the Japanese word, kagemusha) with Jar Jar Binks playing the double.

Kurosawa’s arguably most famous film, The Seven Samurai, was the inspiration for The Mandalorian episode, “Sanctuary” in the first season. Hiding from the Guild, Mando leads a group of mercenaries to repel raiders from attacking a local village, a clear parallel to the movie. Not coincidentally, this is also the premise for Zack Snyder’s upcoming Rebel Moon, which started life as a Star Wars project.

Lone Wolf and Cub

Lone Wolf and Cub was a manga series that ran from 1970 to 1976. It was also made into numerous films and television series. It’s the story of Ogami Itto, the former executioner for the shogun, who is forced to go on the run with his young son, Daigoro, after being framed for a crime he did not commit.

The similarities to The Mandalorian are numerous, with Grogu following Mando in a floating cradle. Although Daigoro does not have supernatural powers, he is sometimes brought into the fray. The scene in The Book Of Boba Fett, where Luke offers Grogu the choice between the life of a Jedi and being with the Mandalorian, is almost shot for shot from the first Lone Wolf and Cub film.

Samurai and bushido

The connections between Star Wars and Japanese samurai culture run deep and are no coincidence. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, has said that he was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's films, especially The Hidden Fortress, which he used as a template for the original Star Wars film. Lucas even approached Kurosawa himself to direct a Star Wars movie, but Kurosawa declined.

In addition to the visual and thematic inspirations, there are also similarities in the way the stories are told. Kurosawa's films often focused on a lone hero or small group of heroes facing overwhelming odds, and this is a recurring theme in Star Wars as well. The idea of a masterless warrior, or ronin, is also a common trope in both cultures.

It's interesting to note that despite being from different cultures and times, the samurai and the Jedi share similar values and ideals. Both emphasize discipline, self-control, and a commitment to a code of honor, and both are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. This may be one reason why the samurai have had such a lasting impact on popular culture, both in Japan and around the world.

Kendo Martial Arts

That's a great observation. The lightsaber fighting style does resemble a fusion of various martial arts, with kendo being a prominent influence. The elegant and precise movements of kendo, combined with the acrobatics and athleticism of other martial arts, make for a unique and exciting fighting style that has become a hallmark of the Star Wars franchise. The lightsaber's resemblance to a samurai's sword is also fitting, given the Jedi's similarities to samurai in their code and philosophy. Overall, the lightsaber and its associated fighting style are a testament to the creative vision and attention to detail that has made the Star Wars franchise so iconic.

Japanese language

It's interesting to note the Japanese influence on the Star Wars franchise, particularly with the use of Japanese-inspired words and concepts. The word "Jedi" is said to be inspired by the Japanese term "jidaigeki," while the name "Obi-Wan Kenobi" contains Japanese words for sash/belt and sword. Additionally, the use of the term "daimyo" in The Book of Boba Fett as a descriptor for a crime lord shows further Japanese influence in the franchise. Overall, the use of Japanese language and culture adds to the diverse and global appeal of Star Wars.

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