Archive for May, 2011

The Late May Festival in Iga

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The last weekend in May is always a major festival weekend in Iga Province. Akane and I journeyed to Ueno and stayed there in an inn to enjoy the multi-day celebrations. The festivities were delightful, and we got to see some friends of ours.

The inn was not delightful; on the first night, we returned from a late night of drinking and dancing only to discover the tatamiThe thin, flat mats traditionally used as flooring in Japan. Stuffed with rice straw, they were also used for sleeping on in olden days. See Wikipedia for more information.The thin, flat mats traditionally used as flooring in Japan. Stuffed with rice straw, they were also used for sleeping on in olden days. mats were soiled. We had to roust the innkeeper out out in the middle of the night to fix the situation. Of course, I could not kill him during a festival ceremony; it would have brought uncleanliness. However, we made our displeasure very plain.

We have some plans to return to Ueno, but never again to that inn.

This week will be very busy as I resume my battles in the Teitōken campaign. I will write more of that when I have the time.

A Busy Week With Few Accomplishments

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

This week has been very busy. There are Ayamari all over Ichimen, just like there were last week. I eradicated at least a dozen last week, and left for Iga Province feeling good on Friday. Then, over the weekend, something happened. I don’t know if our scouts found a new squadron of Ayamari that they’d missed before, or if the foul rabble sneaked in under cover, and actually hadn’t been present before.

Either way, I am desperately trying to kill them all. It is slow going, because something has gone wrong in the armory. We must have gotten a shipment of substandard steel for our weaponry, because my blades constantly need re-sharpeningWe’ve been having some issues with keeping our development servers stable. Any little tweak, and they blow up and we have to spend half the day trying to get them working again.We’ve been having some issues with keeping our development servers stable. Any little tweak, and they blow up and we have to spend half the day trying to get them working again., and my chain’s links keep coming loose. I keep having to return to Castle Noriaibasha and wait while the smiths repair and resharpen them.

I have also had some of my time and energy taken up with attending the rites of initiation that induct me into the clan, and reading and signing various scrolls of welcome and suchlike. Between the ceremonies and the armory visits, I have spent very little time in Ichimen… It’s no wonder the Ayamari are flourishing there.

I will not be in Ichimen or Sakai tomorrow, for there is a grand festival weekend in Iga Province. I have already informed Kento that I will be away. And Monday is the day of rest decreed by the EmperorNote for non-US readers: The last Monday in May is Memorial Day, a government holiday.Note for non-US readers: The last Monday in May is Memorial Day, a government holiday..

I shall try very hard not to worry too much about the situation in Ichimen. Not until I return to Castle Noriaibasha on Tuesday. I can only hope our enemies will be easier to slay when I am better rested.

My Last Day With the Somei-gumi

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Today is my last day as a member of the Somei-gumi“group”Japanese for “group”; can refer to anything from a “five-person group” (a common work-unit in Japanese corporations) up to an entire branch of the Yakuza such as the Yamaguchi-gumi..

As I mentioned earlier, way back in March, Clan Noriaibasha offered to bring me into the clan as a full member. Such things are never quick or simple with such a large clan as this one, but all the preparations have finally been completed.

The Somei-gumi approves of my departure. Indeed, they are proud of me and wish me their sincere congratulations.

On Monday morning, I will go through the ceremonies and ritesfill out the paperwork and sign all the HR forms and suchlikefill out the paperwork and sign all the HR forms and suchlike that will formally induct me into the clan. Perhaps my long years of clan-hopping and searching for the proper post are finally over? I hardly dare to hope.

A Grueling Week

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

It has been a long, hard week of battling Ayamari in Ichimen. For the first part of the week, it seemed that every time I killed one, I would receive a message from one of the Sōtō Zen monks informing me of two more. But by Thursday, the number of newly-discovered foes leveled off. Throughout Friday, I slew the remaining Ayamari, until none were left in Ichimen.

There are still some of them out there in the forests, bedeviling poor Seijun and his team I wish there were something I could do to help him, but the forest problems are a job for katana-wielding samurai.

Instead, I have to worry about a few other enemies that are still within the city. Though ask the Ayamari are slain, there is a rōninA masterless samurai, effectively an independent sword-for-hire. A samurai could become a rōnin if his lord died, or if his lord became displeased with him and effectively fired him. During the Sengoku Jidai, things were very loose, and some samurai voluntarily left their lords and went in search of other opportunities, becoming rōnin temporarily until they could find new lords. Some peasants even declared themselves to be samurai, and then went in search of lords to take them in — for them, being a rōnin was a step in their personal advancement plans.

The word rōnin literally means “wave-man”: the image is of a man who wanders endlessly, without direction, like a wave on the ocean. At the end of Pulp Fiction, when Jules Winnfield says his plan is to “walk the earth… like Caine from Kung Fu”, he’s effectively saying he’s going to become a modern rōnin after leaving Marsellus Wallace’s service.A masterless samurai; a wandering warrior whose sword was for hire. who comes from Mikawa Province. There are also a few undercover agitators from Clan Shimasu, who even the Sōtō Zen monks have not yet noticed. If I can kill them quickly, it will help to ensure that our plans succeed more smoothly.

But first, on Monday morning, I must continue demonstrating my 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. for the other warriors’ approval. I am far less nervous this time around.

Grumpy Ninja is Grumpy

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Yes, there are Ayamari all over Ichimen. This makes me very grumpy. But, oh Sōtō Zen monks of Clan Noriaibasha: Just because there are Ayamari all over, that does not mean that everyone you see is an Ayamari!

Please stop telling me that people are Ayamari, then letting me discover that they are actually peace-loving peasants who just happen to look vaguely similar to Ayamari fighters that I killed last week. It wastes my time.

And I have very little time to waste, right now. Because there are Ayamari all over the city. That much is true.

(I am starting to wonder if some enemy wizard or demon has cast a spell that is misleading our monks in their meditations. Or perhaps Sachiko and her team back at Clan Iwinaga have spoiled me?)

Misfortune Takes Me By Surprise

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I was right to be worried about misfortune yesterday… I was simply wrong about just what shape the misfortune would take.

My demonstration was not a failure. Not a great success, either, for there were so many things to show that we ran out of time, and I will have to schedule a second session. But certainly, it was more of a success than a failure.

Unfortunately, many other things yesterday were failures. In particular, I discovered that there has been a massive incursion of Ayamari into Ichimen. The messages from the Sōtō Zen monks had not been reaching me. Someone within Clan Noriaibasha has made a grave mistake, but tracking down the culprit will have to wait. First, we must retake the city.

And, while I was busily trying to curb the Ayamaris’ numbers, I received a message from Hoshiakari: More trouble in the shrine of Amaterasu. Once again, I had to cancel a dinner with Akane and go deal with the hateful 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 mischief.

This time, however, Akane offered to come with me. Even if we didn’t have the dinner we’d been hoping for, we did get to spend some time together. With her help, driving away the demon was even easier than usual.

But still, this situation cannot continue. We must find a way to kill the thing.

Distressing Dreams Remind Me of the Past

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I dreamed of work last night.

Back when I was a member of Clan Tenya, such dreams were a common occurrence. Nothing ever seemed good enough for them, and there was never enough time. My overly-busy days began to haunt my nights. I dreamed of rooftop battles in Kotobasatsuki, and of tangling with the city guard of Nagoya.

It was not pleasant.

My dreams last night had a different cause. Today, I must show Kento and Seijun and Rajan the 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. I have developed for use in patrolling Ichimen. They will be inspecting my movesThis will be a code review. I’ve written an awful lot of code for this very AJAX-heavy project, and folks will be reviewing it to make sure that there are no horrible catastrophes or security holes witing when we deploy it.This will be a code review. I’ve written an awful lot of code for this very AJAX-heavy project, and folks will be reviewing it to make sure that there are no horrible catastrophes or security holes waiting when we deploy it. and my form carefully, to ensure that all will be well for our final push.

And I am worried, because I have never done such a demonstration with Clan Noriaibasha before. I want to give a good showing of myself.

My mind says I need not worry — that my skills and my kata are sufficient, that I will not bring dishonor upon myself. But my heart is still anxious.

Once I finish the demonstration, all will be better. Chifumi, the junior Tendai priestess, is leaving the clan, so there will be an enkaiA ceremonial drinking party, generally organized by a company or other organization. Though an enkai is done by and for the members of a given company, it’s not held in the company offices; envision a company-sponsored pub-crawl.

See more detailed descriptions of enkai.A ceremonial drinking party, generally organized by a company or other organization. Though an enkai is done by and for the members of a given company, it’s not held in the company offices; envision a company-sponsored pub-crawl. to celebrate her departure. She has long desired to join one of the clans of Settsu Province and leave Izumi behind. In the winter, she thought she had found one to accept her, but then they suffered a crushing defeat when Oda Nobunaga sundered his alliance with them. But Chifumi has persevered in her search, and will now be joining a small clan of Naniwa.

All of us wish her well in her future, and we will toast her at the enkai at day’s end… but I cannot stay for long! I must leave to go meet with Akane at a fine restaurant overlooking the bay. We shall eat fine food and drink fine sake and shōchūA strong, clear, distilled liquor that’s often described as “Japanese vodka”. May be made from rice, wheat, barley, sweet potatoes, or any combination of them. Also known in Korea as “soju”.A strong, clear, distilled liquor that Westerners often describe as “Japanese vodka”. Also known in Korea as “soju”., and enjoy each other’s companyyup, got a hot date with my sweetheart tonight!yup, got a hot date with my sweetheart tonight!.

All I need to do is make a good impression at the demonstration. Then everything gets better.

A Change in These Tales’ Style

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

On Friday, I wrote about the “great and deadly battle” that awaited me… or so I thought. And shortly afterward, I wrote one of my short messages, in which I mentioned that winning that battle had been almost disappointingly easy.

On Saturday, a friend of mine came to visit. She asked how my battle had gone — which made it clear that she had not read my short message.

For some time now, I realize, I have been using this — my main scrolli.e., “this blog”i.e., "this blog" — as a place to start stories, but not to finish them. This is an unwise practice. In particular, it means that those who don’t read the short messages are given only the beginnings of my tales, but never their conclusions.

For this, I most humbly apologize. I am sure it must have been quite frustrating.

In the future, I shall ensure that this chronicle is complete in itself, self-sufficient. The short messages will serve only as a supplement to this journal, never a replacement for it. This also means I will be writing more often here — sometimes more than once a day. (For example, on Friday I would have posted the conclusion to my battle with the rōninA masterless samurai, effectively an independent sword-for-hire. A samurai could become a rōnin if his lord died, or if his lord became displeased with him and effectively fired him. During the Sengoku Jidai, things were very loose, and some samurai voluntarily left their lords and went in search of other opportunities, becoming rōnin temporarily until they could find new lords. Some peasants even declared themselves to be samurai, and then went in search of lords to take them in — for them, being a rōnin was a step in their personal advancement plans.

The word rōnin literally means “wave-man”: the image is of a man who wanders endlessly, without direction, like a wave on the ocean. At the end of Pulp Fiction, when Jules Winnfield says his plan is to “walk the earth… like Caine from Kung Fu”, he’s effectively saying he’s going to become a modern rōnin after leaving Marsellus Wallace’s service.A masterless samurai; a wandering warrior whose sword was for hire. from Hikone, making a second post in a single day.)

All That We Have to Fear…

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Sometimes, the enemies you’re most scared of turn out to be those in your own mind. In my mind, I had imagined that the rōninA masterless samurai, effectively an independent sword-for-hire. A samurai could become a rōnin if his lord died, or if his lord became displeased with him and effectively fired him. During the Sengoku Jidai, things were very loose, and some samurai voluntarily left their lords and went in search of other opportunities, becoming rōnin temporarily until they could find new lords. Some peasants even declared themselves to be samurai, and then went in search of lords to take them in — for them, being a rōnin was a step in their personal advancement plans.

The word rōnin literally means “wave-man”: the image is of a man who wanders endlessly, without direction, like a wave on the ocean. At the end of Pulp Fiction, when Jules Winnfield says his plan is to “walk the earth… like Caine from Kung Fu”, he’s effectively saying he’s going to become a modern rōnin after leaving Marsellus Wallace’s service.A masterless samurai; a wandering warrior whose sword was for hire. from Hikone would be a terrifyingly dangerous foe, skilled on rooftops and deadly with the kusarigamaA common ninja weapon: a one-handed scythe/sickle with a length of chain attached to the handle. The chain has either a hook or weight on the end of it.A common ninja weapon: a one-handed scythe/sickle with a length of chain attached to the handle. The chain has either a grappling hook or a weight attached to the end.

The scythe/sickle part alone is a kama, and is a common farming tool. With the chain attached, it’s pretty obviously a weapon, and would be treated as such by any authorities one might encounter.
. But I would not let fear keep me from my duty.

I went to Ichimen, hoisted myself up to the rooftops, and started searching for him. Atop the Nanashi-ji Temple, there is a high vantage point. From there, I could see many parts of the city. A little west of the temple — right near the intersection of Shiryō-no-Hako, Kuraberu-no-Hako, and Migaku — there’s a marketplace full of food stands, with an inn on one side. And there he was, buying some yakitori for a snack.

Stealthily, I crept to the roof of the inn. It would be in bad form to attack him in the marketplace, frightening all those civilians. Instead, I threw a kunaiA blade-like implement with a ring at the pommel. In ninja tales and movies, the kunai is often used as a throwing weapon, although the original was a digging tool more akin to a trowel or chisel.
A blade-like implement with a ring on the pommel. In modern ninja tales and movies, the kunai is generally used as a throwing blade.
into the wood of the table he was sitting at, making it easy for him to track the angle back to my position atop the roof. As he looked toward me, I stood up with my kusarigama at the ready, then pointed it at him. A challenge.

He threw his meal aside and came to meet me.

I gave him space to clamber up the side of the inn, waiting 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. in a salute position. If I was to die this day, I had no wish to have my last moments be anything less than honorable.

Shinobianother word for a ninjaanother word for a ninja!” he cried, “You have met your doom!” And he flourished his kusarigama in a threatening manner, then dropped into stance… And I saw that his center was not focused. I sprang to attack, and he deflected me, but not well.

He counter-attacked, and I blocked it easily. And I realized that I was better than him, and he was starting to see it, too.

After that, it was simply a matter of time. He gave a brave account of himself, but in the end, he could not stop me from sinking my kama blade into his chest. As he slumped onto the roof of the inn, I whispered in his ear, “I am sorry, my brother. You fought well.”

In the future, I must remember never to let fear become my master. That way lies destruction.