THE HIDDEN BLADEJapan in the mid-nineteenth century. The decline of the warring Shogun and Samurai caste has even affected Unasaka, a small fiefdom on the countrys north-west coast. Samurai Yaichiro Hazama heads for far-off Edo in order to take up an important position within the clans organisation, while his two Samurai friends, Munezo and Samon, return to the place where Munezo was born and raised. In spite of their modest pay they are able to lead a comfortable existence in Munezos mothers household, together with Munezos younger sister and a pretty young neighbouring farmers daughter named Kie who has been taken on as a maid and who has hopes of making a good match.
Three years pass, during which time Munezos mother dies and Samon marries Munezos sister. Kie marries the son of the wealthy Iseya family of merchants and Munezo firmly believes that she has found happiness. But then Munezo meets her one cold winters day and is shocked to observe how thin and dejected she looks. The sadness of her expression cuts him to the quick.
A few months later, Munezo takes part in some artillery training. When he hears that Kie has fallen seriously ill he rushes to her bedside at once. Furious to discover that the sick Kie has been relegated to a bed in a lowly storage cupboard, he indignantly orders her husband to begin divorce proceedings and takes the ailing Kie home to his own house. This is the beginning of a period of great contentment in Munezos life until a plan to overthrow the clan leader in Edo comes to light. Yaichiro, who appears to have been one of the clan members involved in the conspiracy, is being held captive in a tiny hut in the mountains. He manages to break free and, taking a hostage with him, barricades himself into a farmhouse. Of all people, Munezo is given the assignment to kill Yaichiro