Atsu-Hime is an NHK fictional Taiga drama (translated: Big River drama) based on the novel Tensh?-in Atsuhime by Tomiko Miyao.
First broadcast in 2008 and lasting a lengthy 50 episodes the drama chronicles the life of Princess Atsu, the wife of Takugawa Iesada, the thirteenth Shogun of the Edo or shoguns of the Tokugawa family, which brought 250 years of stability to Japan.
This historical melodrama deals with Japanese Court life and the feudal system of government and society surrounding it during this period, which was dominated by the shogun who was in control of the military power of Japan and therefore, more powerful than the emperor who was basically just a religious and political leader.
Set around the castle town of Edo (the future Tokyo) towards the end of the Edo period and preceding the Meiji era, which restored imperial rule and ended the dominance of the Tokugawa shogunate.
This Taiga drama covers the time when the 13th Shogun Takugawa Iesada held office for only five years from 1853 to 1858 and for a period after his death.
A man of ill health, Takugawa Iesada rose to power shortly after Commodore Perrys armada, known as the Black Ships, forced a commercial treaty on Japan, which up until then only traded with the Dutch and Chinese and heralded the opening up of Japan to the rest of the world.
The drama unfolds during what was a controversial end to the Edo period and follows the intricate web of relationships and politics of a huge cast of characters who play different clan members in the story.
Miyazaki Aoi plays the role of Atsu-Hime, the wife of Takugawa Iesada and is the youngest female lead in Taiga drama history.
The series is divided into two parts. The first half deals with Atsu-Himes life in her home town Satsuma in Kagoshima prefecture before she moves to Edo to marry the 13th shogun Takugawa Iesada.
The last half deals with the politics of the Tokugawa shogunate and Atsu-Himes life in the Edo castle where she remained after the shogun died childless and events leading into the Boshin War (1868), ending the shogunate period.