Archive for October, 2011

Three Villages, No Rooftop Fighting

Friday, October 21st, 2011

I should tell of the progress of the Shiemesu Raisei campaign. Kento has ordered my clan-mate Sakito and me to assist Makishi and his team in taking over a small territory using the Chiri-dō ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts.. This place is called Sanigata. It is of little importance to anyone now, but as the Saitekika campaign advances into its prime, this place will eventually become important. At that point, we will already hold it in our grasp. (Indeed, the Saitekika and Shiemesu Raisei campaigns are tightly intertwined, and it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two.)

Naturally, the samurai will be handling the forests of Sanigata. There are also three towns there: Seihin, Bumon, and Kaiketsusaku. Over the past week, Sakito and I have scouted out Bumon quite well, and dispatched a few people there who would be liable to oppose our incursions. Now we are focusing on Kaiketsusaku.

Sakito is another of Clan Noriaibasha’s city fighters. He’s not really a ninja, but he is quite skilled with the 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..

These towns are all too small to make rooftop work much of an option. They do have some alleyways and hidden areas, at least, but there is very little to do with a manrikigusariA chain weapon with weights at both ends, which can be used for striking or entangling.A ninja weapon consisting of a length of chain with stuff at one or both ends. Generally has weights at both ends, but occasionally one weight will be replaced by a hook. The weapon can be used for entangling (by wrapping a weight around an enemy’s limb) or for a direct strike with one of the weights. It can also be used to entangle an enemy’s weapon with one end, then strike the enemy’s body with the weight on the other end. They hate that.

When the chain has one end attached to a kama, it’s known as a kusari-gama. (Kusari means “chain”; when it’s the second item in a compound word, it becomes -gusari. Similarly, kama becomes -gama in compounds.)
, so Sakito’s kama skills are proving useful. And my own kama is getting more work than it usually does.

However, coordinating with Sakito has taken much time and energy. This is why I have been so remiss in maintaining theses tales. I am sorry for this delay. Mōshiwake arimasenA formal Japanese phrase for “I’m sorry”. (“Gomen nasai” is also frequently used, but is less formal.)A formal Japanese phrase for "I’m sorry". ("Gomen nasai" is also frequently used, but is less formal.). *bows deeply*

A Fighting Style For Armies

Friday, October 14th, 2011

The Chiri-dō ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts. is not a set of 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. that one uses in a duel or small fight. Instead, it is the kind of grand, overarching strategy that arranges the sweeping movements of a full-scale fighting force across large territories and varying terrain.

It is quite unlike anything I have ever had to learn before, for we ninjas generally operate in very small bands, if not alone. It is like the teachings of the mainland general-sage, Sun Tzu.

In the meeting with Clan Eshidieru this morning, we spent much time examining all the particulars of how we can use the Chiri-dō style in our Shiemesu Raisei campaign… and it seems the Shiemesu Raisei campaign and the Saitekika campaign will have interlocking objectives, and each one will affect the other!

And I, along with Kento, Makishi, and Amon, am involved with both of them.

It is all very confusing, and it means I must be involved with meetings with Clan Eshidieru (who are teaching us the Chiri-dō and advising our strategies on the Shiemesu Raisei campaign) and other meetings with Clan Hekoayu (who are advising our Saitekika strategy… albeit somewhat unprofessionally on occasion).

I must find some way to keep my combat skills sharp. Or at least find the time for some kata in the yard.

A Good Day In Nagoya? How Is This Possible?

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

I arrived in Nagoya earlier today, went through the city gates disguised as a simple farmer, and then headed for the areas Furashi is known to frequent. Slipping my manrikigusariA chain weapon with weights at both ends, which can be used for striking or entangling.A ninja weapon consisting of a length of chain with stuff at one or both ends. Generally has weights at both ends, but occasionally one weight will be replaced by a hook. The weapon can be used for entangling (by wrapping a weight around an enemy’s limb) or for a direct strike with one of the weights. It can also be used to entangle an enemy’s weapon with one end, then strike the enemy’s body with the weight on the other end. They hate that.

When the chain has one end attached to a kama, it’s known as a kusari-gama. (Kusari means “chain”; when it’s the second item in a compound word, it becomes -gusari. Similarly, kama becomes -gama in compounds.)
from its hiding place under my tunic, I quickly hoisted myself up to the rooftops and started scanning the streets for him.

After about a half-hour of surveillance, I spotted him leaving a tavern. I moved to intercept him, and was able to rendezvous with him easily. He appreciated receiving the message from Raitsu, and had only a brief verbal report for me to carry back, with no hurry needed.

Then, on my way out of the city, I heard the sound of a fray. And a familiar kiaiA shout or yell in martial arts, delivered at the same time as a strike. It helps the martial artist focus their power.A shout or yell in martial arts, delivered at the same time as a strike. It helps the martial artist focus their power.… I darted through an alley, leaped over a wall, and found Ginsaku in fierce combat with another warrior. On his sleeve, I saw the emblem of the historic city of Fujiwara-kyō — not a place known for producing dangerous fighters, but this one was giving Ginsaku serious trouble.

So I stepped in, coordinated with Ginsaku, and we both finished him off.

Astoundingly, I went to Nagoya today, and nothing bad happened! I even got a chance to engage in some combat, when I had thought I’d be simply a courier! Truly, this is a historic day.

I have since returned to the castle, and had a meeting with Riki, one of the Nichiren priests overseeing the Saitekika campaign. But perhaps I can tell about that tomorrow.

The Forgotten Message

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Yesterday, on my way to my meeting with Sakito, I noticed something important in my weapons-locker: A message from Raitsu to Furashi. Oh, no! How could I have forgotten?

Of course: I have been dealing with the many meetings with Clan Hekoayu, and now more meetings to plan our strategies for the Saitekika campaign, and Kento never made this message sound like a particularly high priority, and… well, I was very forgetful, and this must be corrected.

Of course, I could not do anything about it at the time. But now, I have a few hours to spare. Off to Nagoya I go!

The Uprising In Sakai

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

There was a large peasant uprising in Sakai today — just one part of the ongoing unrest that has gripped all of Izumi Province recently. And as one of the larger and more powerful clans of the province, Clan Noriaibasha was one of the targets of the peasants’ ire.

I arrived to find them gathered in front of the castle, shouting demands and chanting slogans. To be seen entering or leaving the castle would be unwise. Of course, since I am a ninja, I was able to slip past them undetected.

But my heart is heavy at having to do so. I have never been a rich man. I was born and raised in Iga Province, where nearly everyone is a peasant of one sort or another. We are simple folk there, and my heart has always been with the peasants, even as my own fortunes in the world have risen.

In another time, earlier in my life, I would have stood with those peasants, shouting that the rich and powerful must support the poor and weak, not trample them underfoot and use their might to steal what little the people still have left. I still believe those things… but this morning was simply not a time that I could spend making political and philosophical statements. I had to meet with Sakito not long after arriving at the castle. I have duties to my clan-mates, and to Akane.

By the time I went out for lunch, the people had dispersed. I wish I had done something to support them.

Problems With Clan Hekoayu

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Yesterday was full of meetings. First, a variety of clan members met with two representatives from Clan Hekoayu, who are trying to provide guidance on the Saitekika campaign. Then, after lunch, we had a very long session with a man from Clan Eshidieru, the architects of the Chiri-dō ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts.. We asked him how we might use it to achieve the strategies laid out by Hekoayu, and he was able to give us useful guidance.

Then we went to 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. for a clan-member who will soon be having a baby. Much sake was drunk and people were happy. Eventually, most others had left, and Makishi, Amon, and I were able to discuss some of our feelings about the way one of the Hekoayu representatives comports herself.

This woman, named Kimiko, seems very easily flustered by even the simplest questions about the Hekoayu plans. It is as if she expects us to simply accept all their plans with smiles and awed gratitude. But the fate of the entire Saitekika campaign hangs on the soundness, both the harmony and the righteousness, of these plans. If we see flaws, we must point them out.

So far, we have not done so. We have simply asked for clarification, and even that has resulted in her making sour faces and acting disturbed. Yet there are serious flaws we can see, and we are pondering how to diplomatically point them out. Makishi, Amon, and I are warriors; we do not have the silver tongues of Tendai priests.

Perhaps I will discuss my concerns with one of our priests, and see if they can relay the problems to the Hekoayu.

The Passing of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Once, I went to interview with Clan Toyotomi. They are one of the largest clans of Kansai — perhaps even of all Nippon. As I wrote at the time, the Toyotomi forces are a mighty army. They are renowned for the skill of their warriors and the subtlety of their tea masters.

But they have not always been so. Within my lifetime, the clan has grown to its present stature from a tiny cadre of just a few people. Much of the clan’s success has been due to the wisdom of its leader, the daimyōA feudal warlord; the leader of a clan and/or army with a significant area of land under its control. Usually also has aims to expand his holdings; many daimyō are trying to become rulers of whole regions, or even of all of Japan. Pronounced “dime-yo”.A feudal warlord; the leader of a clan and/or army with a significant area of land under its control. Usually also has aims to expand his holdings; many daimyƍ are trying to become rulers of whole regions, or even of all of Japan. Hideyoshi.

Please, make no mistake. I am no great lover of Hideyoshi’s philosophies or style. When he captures a territory, he gives the peasants very few options in how they will conduct their affairs; they will do things the Toyotomi way or not at all. His ikebanaThe Zen art of flower arrangement.The Zen art of flower arrangement. masters and gardeners are trained to ruthlessly prune every branch and bud in their care, so all his holdings appear sparse and wintry. And yet somehow, the people in his lands all claim this is wonderful and so much better than any other way of life could ever be.

But I cannot deny his military genius, or his almost instinctive grasp of righteousness. Time and again, Toyotomi Hideyoshi would enter a battle with a strategy that all onlookers declared to be the height of madness… then, he would not only achieve victory but make it look effortless. And afterward, everyone would proclaim that of course Hideyoshi’s victory had always been certain.

Hideyoshi built Clan Toyotomi into a mighty power, one that set the pace for nearly all other forces in Kansai. The armies of Oda Nobunaga are larger in size, but they have been fading in relevance for years now. Even the mighty Tokugawa clan must consider Toyotomi’s actions very carefully when planning their strategies.

And now, Hideyoshi has passed from this world. No longer will his leadership and righteousness direct Clan Toyotomi. Just a few months ago, he handed over the rulership to his successor. Now, the illness that has afflicted him for so long has claimed his life. Even the Emperor himself has publicly noted — and mourned — Hideyoshi’s death.

A giant has departed. Kansai will never be the same, even though Clan Toyotomi goes on. Hideyoshi’s like will not be seen again for quite some time.

Too Many Meetings to Go to Nagoya

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I was supposed to go back to Nagoya today. It’s not happening. (Not that I’m complaining.)

Early this morning, there was a meeting to discuss some of our strategies for dealing with peasants and understanding their needs and desires. I could have skipped it and gone to Nagoya… but it is good for me to stay aware of the clan’s larger operations, not simply the things I’m dealing with on any given day. (Besides, it kept me out of Nagoya for another hour.)

After that meeting, I found that there is a minor problem in Ichimen, the city we took during the Teitōken campaign. This problem will not be difficult to resolve, but it must be done very soon. So I prepared to go to Ichimen…

But then there was another meeting I had to attend, where a pair of our warriors demonstrated some new city-fighting techniques that will enable all our various teams to fight together more efficiently. Truly, these techniques are quite elegant, and it will be intriguing to use them in combat. But it will be some time before we receive actual training; for now, we have simply seen a demonstration.

Now that this meeting is done, I have an hour before I must attend yet another one. We must discuss Clan Hekoayu’s plans for our upcoming battle strategies.

I think I will not be going to Nagoya today. I will be lucky even to make it to Ichimen.

An Assignment That May Take a While

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

This morning, I talked to Kento and told him that I have been idle. He found an assignment for me: “You already know our operative in Hikone, Raitsu. He commands one of our advance scouts, a man named Furashi. Go to Hikone and find Raitsu, and take whatever scrolls or orders he has for Furashi to wherever Furashi is.”

These sorts of open-ended tasks can sometimes take quite a while, so I packed up my traveling gear and sped off to Hikone. It’s been a little while since I’ve had to contact Raitsu, so I spent some time on the rooftops, scouting around for him. Not in the Merchants’ Quarter. Not in the town square. Not by the river bank. Finally, I had to use my fallback contact method: At the Inn of the Green Cricket, I ordered three cups of genmaichaGreen tea with toasted rice grains added. In truth, this is one of my favorite types of tea — but in this case, I am simply lucky that it is part of the signal.Green tea with toasted rice grains added. In truth, this *is* one of my favorite types of tea – but in this case, I am simply lucky that it is part of the signal.. When they arrived, I drank one, and mentioned to the innkeeper: “You know, I was born in the Year of the RatThe first year of the Chinese zodiac, also used in Japan. Also, this is not true; I was born in the Year of the Monkey.The first year of the Chinese zodiac, also used in Japan. Also, this is not true; I was born in the Year of the Monkey..” He nodded, but said nothing, as I finished the first cup and walked away, leaving the other two untouched.

Two minutes later, he met me by the woodpile behind the inn, where I whispered to him the address where I’d be waiting for Raitsu. He whispered back, “Three-thirty”, the earliest time Raitsu would possibly be there. I do not know how the message then traveled from the innkeeper to Raitsu — Raitsu has his own network in Hikone, and all I know of it is that the innkeeper is a member of it.

But at three-thirty, I was atop the roof I had specified. Nearly an hour later, Raitsu arrived. “Sorry I took so long,” he said. “There is much I had to say to Furashi, and it took some time to write it all out.”

“These things happen,” I admitted.

“Furashi is currently under deep cover in Nagoya,” Raitsu told me. I let no sign of my inward groan show on my face, for a ninja must cultivate calm — and an indomitable spirit that shrinks from nothing. “Here are the orders for him,” he handed me a sealed envelope. “And here are some instructions for you on how you might find him,” he added, giving me a simple sheet of hastily-scribbled notes.

I nodded and thanked him, and am now on the outskirts of Nagoya. I will find Furashi and deliver his orders. My own orders are to also see if he needs any further messages delivered back to Raitsu or Kento.

Later Addition: Now that I am within the city walls, I see from Raitsu’s instructions on how to find Furashi that it will take at least an hour or two of searching, both in alleyways and on rooftops. This will have to wait for tomorrow. I shall slip back out and go home to Iga now…

…but tomorrow, I shall surely find Furashi and deliver his message.