Every western audience should be able to recognize the theme in the beginning shots of Yojimbo, Akira Kurosawa's most popular film in Japan. A ronin and a 'man with no name' played by the legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, walks into what appears to be an abandoned village with dust and leaves blowing across a wide, empty street as frightened faces peer from behind shutters. He is advised to leave because an upcoming civil war is imminent but he prefers to stay because it interests him. Kurosawa has always been considered the most 'western' of all Japanese directors and I believe Yojimbo was his way to show people just how Western he could be. Yojimbo's look and themes were in part inspired by the western film genre, in particular the films of the great John Ford who was Akira Kurosawa's favorite director. The main samurai could be a cowboy or gunslinger, it's location of wind-swept village could be in any frontier town and the local characters could have been lifted straight from John Ford's gallery of supporting actors.
Like several of Kurosawa's films, Yojimbo was an inspiration for George Lucas's Star Wars; for example, in one scene in Yojimbo, Sanjuro chops off the arm of one of Ushitora's thugs. In Star Wars, Obi-wan Kenobi chops off the arm of an alien creäture in a bar in Tatooine, which was clearly an homage to Kurosawa's film. And yet Kurosawa deliberately combines not only the American western into the fabric of Yojimbo's story, but the American gangster film as well. The look of the protagonist Sanjuro goes against the handsome, peaceful Shane like cowboy heroes who always choose the right side to help protect the weak. Sanjuro is pretty much a mercenary, a gun for hire who will protect who ever is the highest bidder. His attitude towards the people is more similar to the characters of Humphrey Bogart then of John Wayne; in which he cares more about himself and how things can benefit him in the long run.