A Chance Meeting With a Face From the Past

An interesting thing happened to me a few days ago. As I was returning home from Castle Noriaibasha, I was passing by an inn. A wagon had stopped in front of it, and some happy young people were disembarking from it and collecting their luggage from the back. Other people had just come out of the inn. I don’t know if the travelers were their relatives, or close friends, but they were all obviously very happy to see each other.

They were hugging each other hello, smiling and laughing. Their good cheer was infectious; I felt my own mouth turn up into a huge smile, and I was glad of it.

Then Yutaka, the head of Clan Tenya, came strolling by.

I nodded in silent greeting to him, and he to me. I was happy enough that my smile did not falter. And shortly afterward, I realized that I was very glad that Yutaka had seen me in such a happy state. I want to be sure he does not have the option of wondering if I am forlorn or miserable since leaving Clan Tenya. I want to be sure he knows I have no regrets whatsoever about my departure, and that everything about my life is better now.

This desire is petty, I know. Caring even one bit about what Yutaka thinks is an attachment, of the kind that monks sensibly counsel us all to avoid. Nonetheless, I am human, not a Bodhisattva or saint. I know what I felt, and I will not deny it.

Why I Am So Busy Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

I arrived at the castle yesterday morning, collected my weapons, and went out to Zaiseikyōiku to see how things were progressing. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that Sakito had killed the wrong targets. I gave him very precise instructions, but he apparently did not understand them.

Luckily, the people he killed will not be missed… or at least, their deaths will not be traceable back to Clan Noriaibasha. He has at least that much competence at his ninja skills.

But the people we do need killed are still very much alive. Snarling curses upon Sakito and his ancestors, I set about finding and slaying them…

…only to be visited by Makishi, who asked me to return to the castle for a meeting with Sakito, Kento and him, to discuss our progress in Ogaribamen and Zaiseikyōiku.

I was very good. I did not state, “Sakito is incapable of following simple instructions.” Instead, I simply reported that we still have people to kill, and I am taking care of that today, and I had been doing so before I was pulled back to the castle. After the meeting was done, I spent the rest of the day in Zaiseikyōiku, frantically hunting down and killing enemies.

I have more to kill today. Then tomorrow there is another of those strategy-planning meetings which will occupy the entire afternoon. Before it starts, I have sworn I will have all our opposition in Zaiseikyōiku cleared away.

That is why I am very busy.

A Beautiful Day, About to be Wasted

Today is a beautiful spring day in Kansai. The sky is blue, the weather is warm, birds are singing, and there are still a few cherry blossom petals on the grass. I suspect the rooftops are dry from last week’s rains by now — they certainly look inviting.

Accordingly, I must spend all day inside Castle Noriaibasha, stuck in two many-hour-long meetings to plan our strategies (and review our progress) on the Saitekika campaign.

I can only assume that Amon and Makishi will not ask me tomorrow why I have not finished killing our enemies in Ogaribamen today. After all, they will be in the same meetings.

Griping About Work While Enjoying Many Weapons

After a week or so of my work consisting of nothing but 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. fighting, and the occasional 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.
action, it’s kind of nice to get back to other things. I am now practicing my Kongōshu style in the yard outside my house in Hoshiakari. This is my own offshoot of the Steel Road ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts., so of course, it requires 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..

I have not used the sansetsukon in a few months, so of course I am rusty. Still, it is quite refreshing to use my muscles in ways that are different from what I have done for the past few weeks.

Speaking of which: I have done almost nothing with the 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”. in the past few weeks, despite all the distractions of the Tsuiseki project. Even though I am part of the project, and keep having to be on hand for the purifications of the Bishamonten shrine, I don’t get to do any of the actual fighting — we have Shinju the mercenary do that.

And various warriors and sages in Kansai have recently been giving their opinions about the ninja-tō lately. One warrior claims it is an absolutely horrible weapon, made from inferior steel, lacking the graceful curve of a katana, too short, and without even the stylistic elegance of his beloved nunchaku.

Then there is a ninja who has responded that the way of the ninja is that of getting things done even with inferior tools. It is somewhat amusing to note that he does not attempt to refute the other man’s argument… he simply says it’s irrelevant to ninjas.

Even if the ninja-tō is an inferior weapon, I find it better to know how to use two or three different weapons, and not be restricted to just one all the time. And it’s nice to be able to fight in the forests as well as in cities.

Two Days Without Meetings Is All I Get

The past two days have been full of glorious combat and other field-work. I took down 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.-wielding Naihō fighters in Zaiseikyōiku, slew the big, burly 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. in Masugata, and I have made much progress in stalking and reconnoitering the other Naihō in Ogaribamen and Bumon.

Alas, today will be mostly occupied by a four-hour meeting. Also, I have to spend a bit of time assisting Shinju, the mercenary, with the consecration of the Bishamonten shrine for the Tsuiseki project. Perhaps I may find a spare hour to go back to Bumon and see if I can whittle down the Naihō Cadre’s forces a bit… but I am not very hopeful.

Musings on the Eternal War

There is urgent news today throughout Kansai: the Kao-no-Hon 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. has absorbed the small-but-popular Clan Soku-e. Soku-e is beloved by many artists, who are now wondering what will become of the clan. Those of us who watch larger issues, however, are concerned for other reasons: Apparently a great deal of gold was involved. This only serves to underscore how mighty the Kao-no-Hon gumi has grown.

I cannot worry about this right now. I have Naihō to deal with. But still, I cannot help but wonder about the future. Can anything stop the Kao-no-Hon? Possibly Clan Tokugawa, of course — but I sometimes wonder if that would be any better. The Kao-no-Hon gumi, I believe, has never followed the Way of Harmony. Clan Tokugawa once did, but they have obviously left that path. Which is worse? The ones who never followed the Way, or those who deliberately forsook it?

Regardless, the clash between them threatens all of Nippon. The war goes ever on.

Going After the Naihō Cadre

Sakito is sick today. This means I don’t have to coordinate every move in Sanigata with him. Instead, I can just go after the Naihō Cadre and try to eradicate them. Or at least whittle down their numbers.

They are quite professional and skilled. There is no way I can take on all of them at once. I will have to use the stealth and guile of a ninja, and attack many of them from hiding, when their comrades are not around.

Wish me luck!

Later: I have discovered a terrible thing about the Naihō. They are not only active in Zaiseikyōiku… they may be found throughout Sanigata. I have found a squadron of them in Ogaribamen, and I overheard them mentioning their comrades in Bumon.

Luckily, I think the same tactics may work on nearly all of them… only the ones in Zaiseikyōiku seem to have chain fighters; these others appear to be 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.-only types. Or so I hope.

I’ll have to try it, after the mandatory Keitai Team meeting. For now, I must return to Castle Noriaibasha.

Later Still: I have been tracking this pair of Naihō warriors for nearly an hour now, since finishing my lunch. I think I understand their tactics. It is almost time to strike! All I need to do is make sure there are none of their comrades within calling distance…

Even Later: The battle was long, hard, and grueling. I am glad I spent so long observing these warriors before attacking them; they were quite skilled. But in the end, my kama abilities were greater than theirs. Yatta!A Japanese word that translates loosely as "I did it!" or "Yay, success!"A Japanese word that translates loosely as "I did it!" or "Yay, success!"

I think I understand their style, and I can now be confident of being able to take on any of the kama-only Naihō fighters and defeat them. It’s the guys 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.)
s that I’ll need to watch out for… but they can wait until tomorrow. Or even Wednesday, because Kento tells me there is still trouble in Masugata.

Even in victory, a ninja’s work is never done.

Why I Am So Busy Lately

Last week, I was assigned to recon — and eventually kill — a mercenary unit called the Naihō Cadre. They are operating in various places within Zaiseikyōiku. It turns out they are also well-organized, well-equipped, and professional.

It will take some slick 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. work, and all of my skill 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.)
, in order to defeat these fighters. Also, I must be cunning and use careful tactics. It will be quite an adventure!

In the meantime, there are other things going on outside the Saitekika campaign and the region of Sanigata. There is the ongoing Pagoda Bearer project, which requires a shrine to Bishamonten. We have a scroll that describes a ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts. called the Tsuiseki-Dō, which we wish to experiment with. Sadly, it turns out that the Tsuiseki-Dō requires that the shrine be equipped with sandalwoodthis codebase assumes it’ll be installed in the DOCUMENT_ROOT directory of the web server it’s on, not a subdirectorythis codebase assumes it’ll be installed in the DOCUMENT_ROOT directory of the web server it’s on, not a subdirectory incense.

Ours has camphor and camellia incense. And the priests of the Jōdō Shū branch, who oversee such things, tell us we may not use sandalwood incense here.

So we will have to modify every step of the entire ryū to work the way we need it to. This will be quite an arduous task.

We have a mercenary helping us, a man named Shinju. He has been assigned to read through every move, looking for the cuts, parries, and attacks that will need to be modified. I am acting mostly in a supervisory capacity, alongside the priest, Riki who is in charge of this project.

As much as I enjoy the Pagoda Bearer ryū, this Tsuiseki project becomes less enjoyable every day, as I keep having to come back to Castle Noriaibasha instead of scouting the Naihō Cadre or other enemies in the field.

If Only There Were Three Of Me

Tomorrow morning, there will be a regular meeting of the Kokakumanzoku division. Daichi and Satonori and I must give a presentation on the things we learned about fighting Mōjin at the warriors’ gathering at the beginning of the month. And this presentation must be understandable by priests and nobles, not just fighters.

We are all woefully unprepared for this.

In the meantime, I still must deal with the huge, tireless bruiser in Masugata. And Makishi is clamoring at me about some problems in Ogaribamen… I thought I’d finished everything there? No?

I foresee a long, hard day ahead of me.

Ginsaku Is Leaving Soon

A week after I arrived at Clan Noriaibasha’s headquarters, my fellow ninja Ginsaku arrived. Since then, we have been comrades in battle, fighting for the clan’s interests. But unlike me, Ginsaku was never formally inducted into Clan Noriaibasha.

As a result, there is only so long he can stay here. His time with the clan is now growing short. Soon, if there is time, I hope he and I can go out to an inn and chathave some after-work drinks togetherhave some after-work drinks together for a while before he leaves us.

I understand he has secured a temporary position with the armies of Clan Toyotomi, which is quite prestigious. I am glad for his success and continued good fortune, but I will miss him.

Sakito and Satonori will remain, as will Kento of course. But we will need to find more ninjas to take care of all the urban fighting that needs to be done. (Yes, this means you may look forward to some tales of how we test our applicants, and whether any of them can complete a Three-and-Five Strike.)