Set in the Tokugawa era (1600-1868), Kobayashi’s classic film is a searing indictment of the hypocrisy and exploitation of the ideal of samurai honor. After the shogunate embarks on a campaign to wipe out provincial lords, thousands of ronin (masterless samurai) flood the cities looking for work. An older samurai, Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai), arrives at the gate of the Iyi clan requesting the right to commit ritual suicide in their forecourt rather than starve. He is told that another ronin previously made the same request, hoping to be rewarded with alms but instead forced to commit the act with only a bamboo sword. Though Tsugumo feigns ignorance at first, the connection between the two impoverished samurai is gradually revealed.