Archive for September, 2010

The Streets of Old Sakai

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Clan Noriaibasha has many castles, but the one where I am based is in Sakai. The old city, the gateway of commerce, on the shore of Naniwa Bay. There are little alleyways everywhere, much more so than in the newer cities of Ōmi Province. Some have been taken over by the restaurants to either side of them, with little tables and chairs set up in the alleyway for busy workers to eat in the sun (if the weather should be so nice).

There are many restaurants, selling foods from far-off lands. Some of their customers are the sailors whose ships are constantly coming and going, fueling the city’s trade. But many more are the merchants, carpenters, weavers, entertainers, and other people who work here. Cooks hawk their wares, and priests chant the sutrasBuddhist litanies and sacred verses. Many have picturesque names, such as the Lotus Sutra, the Golden Light Sutra, or the Compassion Sutra.Buddhist litanies and sacred verses.. Only a few blocks away from the docks, the castles of the merchant princes rise above the city.

Across the street from our castle, there is a towering, dark castle that looms above nearly everything else here. It was originally constructed by Clan Ameginkō, during the days of their greatest power, and was designed to show off their might. Though Clan Ameginkō no longer owns the dark tower, it is still associated with them… and there are still a great many merchants, priests and nobles who toil there by day, and dine in the tiny alleyway restaurants at lunchtime.

It’s very unlike Ōmi, where the streets are broader and the buildings are lower. Here, just walking down the street can often feel like being in a deep, shadowed valley in the mountains. The brightness and festivity of the restaurants is a welcome contrast.

Trouble in the Shrine, and Busy Days at the Castle

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I awoke this morning to find the shimenawa

As usual, Wikipedia has more information.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. at Amaterasu’s shrine broken, and the innards of the shrine scattered and disrupted. I shall have to stay awake some night soon, and do battle with the oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness.. This will not be an enjoyable experience, even for one who thrives on combat, as I do.

In the meantime, I am learning the ways of Clan Noriaibasha. There are a great many meetings, for the clan’s people need to coordinate their activities. Such a large clan can prosecute multiple campaigns simultaneously, and individual warriors split their time between the various campaigns. So unlike Clan Tenya, where I spent all my time clearing trails and supply lines to places like Kotobasatsuki, here I am constantly switching from one task to another.

And going to meetings to discuss each campaign I’m involved in.

Right now, the Rōba campaign has been taking much of my time, as I gut our enemies with my kamaTechnically, a kama is simply a farming tool. It’s like a sickle, or a small, one-handed scythe. Since farmers make up a huge segment of feudal Japan’s population, there’s nothing suspicious about carrying one around. And ninjas like to avoid suspicion.

If you take a chain with a weight or hook on its end and attach that to a kama, you’ve got a kusarigama… much more useful as a weapon, but also obviously a ninja weapon, instead of a farming tool.A farming tool, like a sickle or a small, one-handed scythe. Commonly used by ninjas because they arouse no suspicion – farmers are everywhere, after all. alone. But I have also recently been attached to the San-Nichikan campaign… and, in a meeting with Jōji, who is in charge of the Kirin project, I have learned more about the clan’s plans for the Kirin-dō kata that I have inherited from the departed mercenary.

There will be much for me to do. In the days to come, I certainly must describe these campaigns and the people of the clan.

But first, I must survive my encounter with the oni.

Waiting at the Shrine by Nightfall

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The shrine of Amaterasu needs reconsecration. The oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness.’s depredations have not been good for the shrine’s harmony and purity. I have hung a new shimenawaA consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. Usually hung with holy paper streamers.

As usual, Wikipedia has more information.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. around the shrine, and there have been no new footprints over the past few nights… but there are the marks of an iron club on one of the nearby trees.

The local shrine-maiden is sweeping the floor and burning incense. I will hope that this is enough. If not… I shall have to do battle in the dark of night, against a mighty foe.

Accident in the Storehouse

Friday, September 17th, 2010

There has been an accident in the main storehouse today at Castle Noriaibasha, which means that most clan-members are left at loose ends with very little to do. The storehouse includes the armory, the records-house, and the priestly supplies. Poor Chifumi, the priestess who serves with the quartermaster, can do absolutely nothing; she has no candles or incense for her devotions, and the books with the records she must update are also inaccessible.

I have one project that does not require access to the armory and its weapon store: A kataA sequence of moves in martial arts, performed as a practice exercise to train the fighter’s muscle memory and reflexes in preparation for real combat. May be anywhere from a brief, 15-second movement to a full sequence that takes five minutes or more to complete. Usually solitary, but there are some two-person kata.

You may wish to see some videos of standard karate katas.A sequence of fighting moves used as a practice technique in martial arts. in the Jōgesen style, to be called the Kirin Way. The first parts of this kata were laid down by a mercenary who was in the clan’s employ for a while, and who passed his scrolls on to me before leaving. (I was chosen to receive this knowledge, because of my prior experience with the Jōgesen ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts..)

Others are doing what drills they can, or exercising, or sparring with empty hands and feet. From time to time, they send someone to check on the quartermaster’s progress in re-opening the storehouse. In the meantime, I am using my own sansetsukonA three-sectional staff. Looks vaguely like a nunchaku with an extra section. Famously used as an intimidation technique by one of the bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who smiled evilly and then folded it up into a coat-hanger.

Three-sectional staff; weapon that looks like a nunchaku with three sticks instead of two. in a corner of the castle’s courtyard, trying to find the best ways to turn this fragmentary sequence of moves into a working kata.

Ominous Clues Around the Shrine

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

I visited the shrine of Amaterasu last night. For many hours, I kept watch, lurking and waiting to see if anything would appear. But even a ninja cannot remain awake forever.

Before leaving, I scattered a bit of rice flour around the entrances to the shrine, and some of the most likely avenues of approach. Then I went home, to sleep by Akane’s side.

I have now returned, and I see some very large footprints in the flour. Not merely the footprints of a very large man, either; not merely the prints of anything human. These prints are larger than even the mightiest sumo wrestler’s feet… and they have claw marks at the tips of the toes.

Kwannon defend me, I think I am dealing with an oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness..

A Mystery Foe in the Night

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

There is something lurking around the shrine of Amaterasu on the outskirts of Hoshiakari.

I do not know what, but the village woman who tends the shrine says that every morning, the offerings are scattered about. Whatever is edible has been eaten, and candles are often knocked over.

I will have to investigate. I am very busy learning the ways of Clan Noriaibasha, but any threat to Hoshiakari is something I cannot ignore.

Whatever lurks in the night, I must vanquish it.

Differences Between Noriaibasha and Smaller Clans

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

At Clan Iwinaga, a campaign would generally last 8 to 10 weeks. Maybe 12. Clan Nettobuku planned everything in two-week campaigns — though, admittedly, they took far less territory in any single campaign. However, Clan Noriaibasha never lets any campaign be less than six months long. Even if it results in taking no more than a single village.

Perhaps this is because of the large numbers of priests and nobles associated with any campaign. In Clan Tenya, we didn’t even have any priests until shortly before I left. This made it very easy for us to lose sight of the ways of Harmony and Righteousness. At Noriaibasha… I am currently involved in two campaigns. Each one seems to have more priests, of both the Nichiren and Tendai orders, than warriors.

But these things are not necessarily bad, as long as we have enough warriors to take the desired territories. Which we do.

One thing that I do find a bit worse: At Clan Tenya, I was in frequent contact with peasants and townspeople — the people most affected by our operations. Here at Noriaibasha, I’m not sure that I will ever have such casual conversation with the populace.

It is a price I can pay.

Also, at Noriaibasha, it is clear that I will have no input into the overall strategies of the operations I’m associated with. This is of little importance, however, because I found that even at the smaller clans, my input was frequently disregarded by the nobles anyway. At least here, they are honest about the fact that I will have few or no leadership opportunities.

My First Days at Noriaibasha

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I have now done three days with the armies of Clan Noriaibasha. The pace of life in such a huge clan is very different from that with a small, fresh clan like Tenya or Nettobuku. Even their castle is so large that I know I will never learn the names and faces of all the people in it… and this is but one of the many castles that Clan Noriaibasha has built.

They tell me it will be some time before the armorers can issue me a wakizashiThe shorter of the two gracefully curved swords that a samurai carries. Much like the longer katana in shape and style, except short enough to be a one-handed, secondary blade. The wakizashi is effectively the katana’s “baby brother”.

Note that the ninja-tō, the sword most often carried by ninjas, is not a wakizashi. It’s about the same length, but straight rather than curved — and generally of inferior workmanship, as ninjas couldn’t afford the materials or smiths that samurai had access to.The shorter sword of the two that a samurai carries; the “baby brother” of the longer katana.. In the meantime, I perform what missions I can with my kamaTechnically, a kama is simply a farming tool. It’s like a sickle, or a small, one-handed scythe. Since farmers make up a huge segment of feudal Japan’s population, there’s nothing suspicious about carrying one around. And ninjas like to avoid suspicion.

If you take a chain with a weight or hook on its end and attach that to a kama, you’ve got a kusarigama… much more useful as a weapon, but also obviously a ninja weapon, instead of a farming tool.A farming tool, like a sickle or a small, one-handed scythe. Commonly used by ninjas because they arouse no suspicion – farmers are everywhere, after all. — though this clan does not think in terms of missions that take a few hours or a day, so much as in terms of entire campaigns that take many months. One such campaign is still taking shape, and will involve action in Settsu Province as well as some coordination with Clan Zenbutsura. There is a meeting tomorrow to discuss strategy for this campaign, which I am ordered to attend.

Indeed, there are a great many meetings at Clan Noriaibasha. This is no surprise, but it does bear some mention, as it is a great difference from the small upstarts I’m used to. This afternoon, for example, I spent more time in one single meeting than I would have in an entire week at Clan Tenya or Clan Nettobuku.

That meeting was to plan the strategy against a group called the Narisumashi. I have already been dispatched to take down some of their minor members, using my kama. I did so this afternoon, then reported back to my captain, a man named Kento. He is generally satisfied with my performance, but says I should talk to another fighter named Akinori about the Narisumashi’s tactics, and I should check with the priestess Sachi to ensure that I am proceeding in righteousness and harmony.

We never checked in with such priestesses at Clan Tenya. We didn’t even have any such, until a few days before I left the clan. (Even then, her view of the Way seemed… cloudy and subject to change. But I have no wish to speak ill of others’ skills.)

Tomorrow, I will speak with Akinori and with Sachi. And soon, I will gain access to the armory and be issued a wakizashi, and become a more useful member of Clan Noriaibasha.