Commanding shoguns and samurai warriors, exotic geisha and exquisite artisans — all were part of the Japanese “renaissance” — a period between the 16th and 19th centuries when Japan went from chaos and violence to a land of ritual refinement and peace. But stability came at a price: for nearly 250 years, Japan was a land closed to the Western world, ruled by the Shogun under his absolute power and control.

Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire brings to life the unknown story of a mysterious empire, its relationship with the West, and the forging of a nation that would emerge as one of the most important countries in the world.

3-Hour Series. National Primetime PBS Broadcast, 2004.
Special Screening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  • Produced by: Lyn Goldfarb, Deborah Ann DeSnoo
  • Directed by: Lyn Goldfarb, Deborah Ann DeSnoo
  • Written by: Joan Owens Meyerson, Lyn Goldfarb, Deborah Ann DeSnoo
  • Director of Photography: Michael Chin
  • Editors: Gail Yasunaga, William Haugse A.C.E.
  • Composers: Dave Iwataki, Dana Kaproff
  • Narrator: Richard Chamberlain

Produced in association with Devillier Donegan Enterprises and PBS.



Nominee, International Documentary Awards – Limited Series


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Selected Reviews

“A gemlike melding of art and history graces the tube tonight…an elegant and satisfying history of Japan. Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire is rich with stories of bloodthirsty shoguns and samurai as well as exotic customs. But its style is just as impressive as the facts it contains. The combination of stunning artwork, historic reenactments, and judiciously edited talking-head bits…told a compelling story.”

– New Haven Advocate, 2004

“…Gorgeous location filming and kabuki-style reenactments…create a history whose visual harmony, in the tradition of Japanese culture, is simultaneously stimulating and soothing. Echoing the complex simplicity of a Japanese tea ceremony, the show actually becomes a comfort. It reassures frazzled viewers that TV will always have quiet pools of intelligence and grace, no matter how fiercely the storm of contrived mayhem howls amid the ever-growing flocks of phony reality shows.”

– Philadelphia Inquirer, 2004

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