March 25, 2013
Abacus and Sword
Kate's discussion of the Elliots' spendthrift ways in Persuasion reminds me of Sir Walter's diametrical opposite (geographically and economically).
Abacus and Sword (which unfortunately doesn't seem to be available with subtitles) is a biopic about a Kaga province government accountant (Naoyuki Inoyama, played by Masato Sakai) in the mid-19th century.
Upon becoming the head of the household and taking over the family's finances, Naoyuki discovers that for decades his parents have been spending far beyond their means and institutes a strict austerity program.
Their neighbors got themselves into a similar fix and ended up having to abandon their estate and move into the tenements. With this harsh reality as a backdrop, Naoyuki convinces his family to retrench with a vengeance.
They sell off every luxury, kimonos and books, and even adopt a sparse diet. Naoyuki negotiates a no-interest loan with the lenders to cover the rest, pointing out that they'll be left worse off if he declares bankruptcy.
In one of the most endearing scenes (it's in the trailer), samurai families were expected to serve expensive fried snapper at the eldest son's coming-of-age ceremony. But they display pictures of the fish instead.
Not only Japan and the United States, but pretty much the entire planet could use more public servants as good at pinching pennies as Naoyuki Inoyama.