This article contains spoilers for Shogun episode 7.

Though it won’t air for another three weeks, the ending to FX miniseries Shōgun isn’t much of a mystery. Those who really want to know how the story of Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), Mariko (Anna Sara), and Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) concludes need only watch the 1980 Shōgun miniseries, read James Clavell’s original 1975 novel, or just peruse the Wikipedia entry for either.

But even if viewers don’t feel like doing extra research, they must intuitively understand that there’s only one way this story can end: with progress. That’s because, in Shōgun, Japan is on the verge of entering the peaceful and prosperous Edo period of 1603 through 1868, which was responsible for ushering in many of the distinct cultural hallmarks that we’ve come to associate with the land of the rising sun. One incredible moment in Shōgun episode 7 reminds us of that.

Near the end of “A Stick of Time,” the cunning Gin (Yuko Miyamoto) requests to redeem her “stick of time” with Toranaga. This means she will be granted an audience with the powerful lord for as long as it takes for a stick of incense to burn down to ashes. With time of the essence (or of the incense…sorry), Gin is sure to get right to the point.

As the proprietor of the Willow World, Gin is responsible for the health and well-being of her courtesans like Kiku (Yuuka Kouri). She also understands that her employees’ talents and artistry go far beyond just sex work. Courtesans of the Sengoku Period were also known as yūjo or ukareme and they were well-versed in all sorts of entertainment arts like singing, dancing, and acting. Recognizing courtesans’ cultural value, Gin requests that Toranaga allow for the creation of a guild for courtesans in his new city in Edo and to grant them all the same protections as any other business.

If the establishment of a district for courtesans to hone and practice their craft sounds familiar, it should. That’s because Gin just essentially created the concept of geishas. Many modern viewers will be more familiar with the term “geisha” than they were with yūjo or ukareme as the profession came to flourish and represent a big part of Japanese culture in the Edo period. In episode 7 of the companion Shōgun podcast, host and series writer Emily Yoshida discusses just how quietly revolutionary Gin’s request is.

“Set on the cusp of the Edo period, [Gin’s] work represents many customs that would come in the following decades. Courtesans in Japan had long been seen as more than just those who traded intimacy for money. Women like Kiku had to be skilled entertainers, musicians, and dancers. Gin sees underutilized value in her courtesans, petitioning Toranaga for the creation of a guild in his new empire. This formalization of the profession would lead to the creation of the highly organized and hierarchal geisha class and be the foundation of a rich cultural district in Edo, built on the skills of entertainers who brought their performances and artistry to the city.”

What’s remarkable about Gin’s request isn’t just how accurately she calls her shot for the future but the fact that she envisions a future at all. Episode 7 is undoubtedly the lowest point yet in Toranaga’s struggle against the Council of Regents. His own half-brother Saeki Nobutasu (Eita Okuno) has betrayed him and promised his army to Lord Ishido and Lady Ochiba in return for a seat on the council. For the first time in the series, Toranaga is without a plan. Or at least that’s how he appears to virtually everyone in his circle. Everyone save Gin, that is.

When Toranaga asks Gin why she would make this request of him when he will surely be dead soon, Gin replies:

“Is it? Your advisors believe your end is near, but myself, I wonder…Fate is like a sword. Useful only to those who can wield it. I was born in a gutter. Raised as a ukareme. Most would curse such a loathsome fate. But my hardships taught me ambition and guile, and made me the most successful Lady in Izu. Just as your hardships made you into the cunning man you are today. It’s only that it doesn’t make sense … Lord Toranaga – any spy could tell him about the army coming his way. Why leave your weakened garrison so exposed? Why make such a careless mistake?”

Why indeed make such a careless mistake? We have only a few more episodes to find out. Or just a Wikipedia entry or two to read.

Seven episodes of Shōgun are available to stream on Hulu now. New episodes premiere Tuesdays on Hulu and Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

The post Shogun Episode 7: Gin’s Request Teases Japanese History and the Show’s Ending appeared first on Den of Geek.

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