Guide for New Readers

This blog is a tale of a feudal-era Japanese ninja, making his way among the warring factions of the anarchic Sengoku Jidai period, lurking on rooftops and performing assassinations… except that every event in the story is based on a real event in the life of a modern-day web developer.

This blog tells the daily life of a web developer working among the tech startups of the San Francisco Bay Area… but everything in it has been translated into a feudal Japanese setting.

You can read it as a simple ninja story, like Ninja Scroll or the storyline of a Tenchu game, without caring about the modern aspects. But it might lend the story a little more weight, just knowing that there’s a real-world basis to it all. And if you feel like trying to decode that extra level of meaning, there’s a “decoder” guide that will give you some pointers.

Special Dotted Underlines

You’ll occasionally see words with dotted underlines. These can give you two different kinds of tooltips. The grey underlines supply definitions for Japanese words and concepts, like yamabushiA group of mystical mountain-men, who practice a nature-based philosophical path called Shugendō. Their skills on mountain pathways make them invaluable to warrior clans., 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.
, or onryōA restless, unquiet, and/or vengeful ghost. Generally female. Prone to causing much pain and destruction in their quest for vengeance or retribution.A restless, unquiet, or vengeful ghost. Often female. Generally the spirit of someone who was wronged in life, or who led an unhappy life. They appear to seek vengeance, but may also cause large amounts of collateral damage and harm to uninvolved innocents.

The image shows a famous onryō from a story that dates to 1825. Western audiences would probably be most familiar with the example of Samara Morgan in The Ring — the character she was based on, Ringu‘s Sadako Yamamura, is easily recognizable as an onryō to Japanese viewers.
. If you already know about martial arts weapons, Japanese culture, and so on, you don’t need to have things explained to you all the time. But if you’re not an expert in all those things, you can just point your mouse at a grey-underlined word to get a quick definition, and maybe even an image or link to more information.

The red underlines, on the other hand, provide commentary or other expansions of the main text. Often these are explanations of modern things, providing details that just wouldn’t fit into the feudal Japanese setting. For example, “I must apologize for the lack of updates in the past week or two. There has been a rash of bandit activity around Hoshiakarian annoying plague of hardware failures, including one nasty mail-server crashan annoying plague of hardware failures, including one nasty mail-server crash, and I have been quite busy dealing with it.” Note that many times, the tooltip text can be substituted directly into the sentence where the underlined text was.

Bottom line: If you see a grey underline and you think you know what the word means, you’re probably right. If you see a red underline, you probably don’t know what it’s there for… but if you’re in a hurry, you can leave it out with no worries.

Note that if you read the Tales of the Ninja Coder on Dreamwidth instead of here, all the dotted underlines will be the same color, and they’ll just give you a little text-only tooltip, not the full version that you can see on this site.

Quickstart Guide

If you just want to start reading the blog from its current entry and not worry about back-story, here’s all you really need to know:

  • Your narrator is Ichirō of Iga, a ninja in feudal Japan. He lives in the village of Hoshiakari with his lover, Akane. Hoshiakari is high in the mountainous province of Iga (famed for its ninjas).
  • Ichirō is a member of Clan Noriaibasha, a large and venerable clan based in Izumi Province, with their chief castle in the commercial seaport of Sakai. Ichirō has now been there for nearly two years, and is well thought-of by his superiors.
  • Ichirō’s boss at Noriabasha is Kento, a higher-ranking ninja. Kento’s team includes Ginsaku, another ninja who joined the clan just after Ichirō. Kento and his small squad are part of the Keitai Team, under the command of the Nichiren Buddhist priestess Tsukimi.
  • Ichirō’s current assignment at Clan Noriaibasha is to fight in the Saitekika Campaign. This is a long-running campaign in which the clan will slowly try to take large swathes of territory in a region called Sanigata. There are various towns there, including one called Ogaribamen.
  • Clan Noriaibasha is involved with two other clans in this campaign: There is Clan Eshidieru, who have developed a fighting style called the Chiri-dō ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts., which Noriaibasha is using in its warfare.
  • And there is also Clan Hekoayu, who have been acting as advisers to guide Noriaibasha’s overall strategy. Ichirō is not very impressed with their professionalism, and finds that their strategies are often impractical.
  • The city of Nagoya, in Owari Province, is a hostile environment for ninjas. The city guard is very alert, the rooftops are steep and slippery, and Ichirō generally hates going there.
  • There is a group known as the Ayamarigumi“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., who are a bunch of nasty rabble. They basically just exist to cause trouble, and warriors like Ichirō all hate the Ayamariit’s the Japanese word for “bug” or “error”it’s the Japanese word for “bug” or “error” and work to eradicate them.
  • Aside from the Ayamari, Clan Noriaibasha has a perpetual foe in Clan Shimasu. Agents and fighters from Clan Shimasu are constantly trying to disrupt Noriaibasha’s plans and activities; it’s up to Ichirō and his clanmates to dispose of them.
  • Ichirō is something of a feudal Japanese “foodie”. He enjoys sushi, and particularly loves sashimithe kind of sushi that’s just raw fish, with no rice or anything elsethe kind of sushi that’s just raw fish, with no rice or anything else (he’s quite partial to hamachiyellowtail tunayellowtail tuna). He’s a fan of yakisobastir-fried noodles with meat and veggies addedstir-fried noodles with meat and veggies added (particularly the way Akane cooks it), and occasionally okonomiyakiSomething like a cross between a pancake, an omelet, and a pizza. Flat, fried batter with meat and vegetables mixed in, and sauces on top.Something like a cross between a pancake, an omelet, and a pizza. Flat, fried batter with meat and vegetables mixed in, and sauces on top.. He’s also partial to good tea, especially genmaichaGreen tea with roasted grains of brown rice added. This gives the tea a nice flavor and aroma.Green tea with roasted grains of brown rice added. This gives the tea a nice flavor and aroma., and it’s not unusual for him to blog or live-tweet about the food and restaurants in his travels. He also likes to go out dancing as a form of exercise. He tried his hand at music in his youth, and though it was not the right career for him, he still loves music greatly.
  • Before joining up with Clan Noriaibasha, Ichirō used to work with some of the small, young, upstart clans of Ōmi Province. He found the experience unpleasant, especially during his tenure with Clans Nettobuku and Tenya. Though he is now happy working for Noriaibasha, Ichirō sometimes wonders if he is a coward or failure for walking away from the upstart clans.
  • If you care about the year, it’s… somewhere around 1570-ish. Very “-ish”. Honestly, I deliberately leave that kind of vague, just to keep it from looking too much like the ninja coder’s world is ours. (The presence of supernatural creatures might help, too.)
  • Nihon and Nippon are the ways to say “Japan” in Japanese. Nippon is the more formal of the two; most people use Nihon in everyday speech. (The English word comes by way of Mandarin, Italian, and possibly Portuguese, and so has been distorted in its travels.)

Enter the World of the Ninja Coder

If you want a more comprehensive introduction to things, you could try reading some of the following. If you don’t read any of these, you may be missing some of the depth and flavor of the ninja coder’s world, but you’ll be able to understand what’s going on.

  • The Sengoku Jidai is an overview of the “warring states” period of Japan’s history, when chaos and war engulfed the entire nation.
  • The Lay of the Land is a guide to the geography of the Kansai Region of central Japan during the Sengoku Jidai.
  • The Cast of Characters is a full listing of the main recurring characters in the Tales of the Ninja Coder.
  • My Life and Times tells, briefly, of how Ichirō became a ninja and details some of the clans he’s worked with in the past. It’s sort of like “what happened on the previous seasons of the show”.
  • Finally, the Secret Ninja Decoder Ring is a guide to decoding the Japanese feudal metaphor, and is useful for people who want to try to understand what’s really going on.

Of course, there’s also a Frequently Asked Questions list. If you’ve got questions, that’s the place to ask them!