Archive for January, 2012

The Black Star Gang Is No More

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I have slain all the Black Star fighters in the village of Iraisho, as Kento told me to do. This morning, there was a meeting of the priests in charge of the operation, and I told them of my achievement. I was afraid they’d tell me, “No, you fool! The Red Star gang!”

I need have no such worries. Kaimei, the leading priest, says this is fine.

Unfortunately, it seems the message has not gotten to the samurai, who reports that there are still Red Star personnel in the area, and can something be done about them, please? There are several other details which have changed since she received her most recent instructions; since she has been out in the field, it is sometimes hard to keep her posted.

But I have confidence that the Iraisho operation will come to a successful close soon.

In the meantime, there is much to be done regarding the shrine to Bishamonten. I am likely to spend the rest of today bowing, praying, making the requisite, ceremonial motions with my ninja-tōThe short sword most associated with ninjas. Note that unlike the katana and wakizashi carried by samurai, the ninja-tō was straight rather than curved. It was roughly the length of a wakizashi.

The ninja-tō was also generally of inferior workmanship compared to the more expensive blades available to samurai. Even if a ninja could acquire a katana, it would be too long and unwieldy to carry on most missions; ninja generally relied on smaller weapons like the shuriken and manrikigusari, and on more deniable weapons like the kama.

“Ninja-ken” is another perfectly acceptable name for this weapon; it’s like the difference between saying “ninja blade” and “ninja sword” in English.
The short sword most associated with ninjas. Note that unlike the katana and wakizashi carried by samurai, the ninja-tō was straight rather than curved. Also known as a “ninja-ken”.
, and examining the omens and oracles that the priest casts.

Remembering the Steel Road Ryū

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Since the Emperor declared a day of rest on today, in memory of a great man, we had a long weekend. And I spent some of it relaxing in Hoshiakari, doing 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 my own Kongōshu style. This is a style I have been inventing especially for people who go carousing in taverns a lot, and it is based on the Steel Road ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts..

This means I must refresh my memory of the Steel Road, for I have not used it in some time. So I spent part of the weekend out in the yard outside my house, whirling the 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.
around, practicing strikes and blocks.

My style is not yet ready to use… but I have definitely made some progress on it this weekend! Some day, perhaps it will be useful to others.

Red Star, Black Star — Who Must I Slay?

Friday, January 13th, 2012

I awoke before dawn today, to have a meeting with the samurai who will be fighting in the forests as part of a small project that I am assigned to. It is called Operation Iraisho. While she fights in the forests, I must handle some scouting in the small village of the same name, and ensure that there will be no opposition — especially not from a group called the Red Star gang (who often wear such an emblem on their kimonos). A nice, simple operation.

So I have been creeping through Iraisho, keeping alert and ready for any trouble. Along the way, Kento came to visit me. He had a few questions about another operation. When I answered them, I also said, “And things are quiet here. No members of Red Star in evidence.”

Red Star?” he asked. “But what about the Black Star gang?”

As you can imagine, I was quite confused. “I… was told to watch for a gang with red stars. Should I be looking for black ones, instead?”

In the end, I left the village, along with Kento, and we are going to talk to Kaimei, the Nichiren priest in charge of this operation. If I kill the wrong people, it will reflect badly on the clan!

Fighting a Rōnin

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Yesterday, I got a rush assignment from Seijun. It seems 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.
loose within Sakai, causing much consternation. He is skilled with the 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.)
, and good at hiding amid the city’s alleyways and back-streets.

I tracked him to the Merchants’ Quarter, near our own castle. I tried to ambush him, but he was fast and wily. We spent an hour dueling each other, chains whirling in the late-afternoon sunlight, darting to and fro amid the frightened onlookers…

I finally disengaged from combat with him and snarled, “We’ll meet again!” before going home. It was not the sort of victorious experience I usually have.

Today, I am seeking him again. My skills must prevail!

The Sure-Footed Style Comes to Our Army

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Every Friday, the Kokakumanzoku division has a meeting. This morning, Jōji spoke about a project that he and Anna, one of the fighters on Kento’s team, had recently completed.

Anna is a sweet-faced little woman from the southeastern islands. To look at her, you would never guess that she is an expert with grappling hook, 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.
, and I think maybe even 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.
, nor that she knows the streets and roofs of Kusatsu like the back of her hand.

So their project — not an entire campaign, but a small-scale project called “Many Houses” — involved testing out the Sure-Footed school of combat, including the Hearty Brawl tactic. Although many smaller clans and upstart types have been using the Sure-Footed school for some time, Clan Noriaibasha has not tried it yet.

Jōji and Anna were pleased to report that the new techniques allowed them to engage some fearsome foes with minimal casualties, and to take territories much more quickly than we might otherwise expect. Many of the priests and nobles expressed interest.

I congratulate my clan-mates on their successful sorties!