Posts Tagged ‘loss of face’

Beware the Tricks of Tanuki

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

I have a shameful confession to make. It is an explanation for why I have been so quiet.

Last week, as I was preparing to leave Hoshiakari and go to Castle Noriaibasha, there was a knock at the door. “Who can that be?” I wondered, and opened it… to find a short, plump traveler in a straw hat.

“Pardon me, good sir,” he said, “would you happen to have any sake you can spare?”

“Is it not early in the morning for drinking?” I asked.

“Perhaps you may be right. Then might I trouble you for some tea?” he continued, insistently.

I felt wary, but… I would not wish to begrudge a traveler such simple comforts. “Wait here, and I will bring you a cup,” I said. I turned away to the kitchen. When I looked back, the traveler was in my living room! Bouncing a small golden ball!

“You should not be inside my house!” I told him. “I asked you to wait outside. It is a pleasant morning.”

“But I am inside,” he cried. “You let me in!” He laughed, and his face melted into the wide-eyed, short-snouted, furry face of a tanukiAn animal native to Japan, usually translated “raccoon-dog”. In folklore, tanuki are tricksters, known for their shapeshifting abilities and powers of illusion. They are mischievous, but usually not physically dangerous. They also have very large testicles and scrotums, and are able to expand and distort them to the point that they can use them as backpacks, drums, boats, and even houses.An animal native to Japan, usually translated “raccoon-dog”. In folklore, tanuki are tricksters, known for their shapeshifting abilities and powers of illusion. They are mischievous, but usually not physically dangerous. They also have very large testicles and scrotums, and are able to expand and distort them to the point that they can use them as backpacks, drums, boats, and even houses. — then he bolted past me, out the door, and ran away, quick as a whirlwind.

A tanuki! I knew I was in trouble now. Carefully, I checked around the house to see if anything was missing.

I quickly found the problem: 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”. was covered with rust. In fact, it was completely turned into rust, as if it had forged from pure rust in the first place! And 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.… its blade was bent into a knot! And every one of 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.)
’s links had been turned into a loop of udonVery thick Japanese noodles, made from buckwheat flour. Imagine spaghetti, only each strand is about a half-inch thick. (This makes them thick enough to match the metal in a sturdy chain, doesn’t it?)Very thick Japanese noodles, made from buckwheat flour. Imagine spaghetti, only each strand is about a half-inch thick. noodle. The Jeikyū grappling hook had been turned into an artful bouquet of flowers.

As for my 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.… in that case, the tanuki left the metal fittings alone, but the wood was transformed into nattōA Japanese foodstuff, made of partially fermented soybeans. It is very much an acquired taste… and Ichirō has not acquired it.

If you wish to know more, Wikipedia can help.A Japanese foodstuff, made of partially fermented soybeans. It is very much an acquired taste… and Ichirō has not acquired it.. As was my bō staffA fighting staff, generally about six feet long. Similar to the European quarterstaff. Often carried by mountain men and travellers as well as dedicated warriors.A fighting staff, generally about six feet long. Similar to the European quarterstaff. Often carried by mountain men and travellers as well as dedicated warriors., which was thankfully outside in the yard at the time.

I had no time to weep over my now-weaponless state. I had to go to Castle Noriaibasha and perform my daily duties there. Since the clan supplies the weapons I must use on their behalf, I was able to do my work. But for the past few days, I have come home every evening and been very occupied with trying to restore my own weapons.

I have had to cut and whittle new kama handles. I have had to visit the blacksmith’s shop to have him forge me new blades, and new chains, and a new grappling hook. My new bō is now ready, and the blacksmith will have my sansetsukon done tomorrow.

I will be much more wary of tanuki in the future.

The Teitōken Campaign Spirals Downward

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

The bandit from Yoshino is still bedeviling us. He seems to mostly be hiding in the forests lately, outside my realm. Seijun and his team have been far too busy with other matters to even pursue him.

The greatest of those “other matters” is the dire situation in Kurabero-no-Hako. We knew at the outset that we would have to handle a gang there called the Obigurafu. Seijun said his team could take care of them, using a style especially designed for such problems called the Kabachaato-ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts.. Unfortunately, it turns out the Obigurafu gang is quite persistent… and the Kabachaato style is simply not flexible enough to handle their tactics.

If we cannot eradicate the Obigurafu, the entire campaign will be a failure.

Of course, even if we can, there are still many other problems. The Mōjin have made a resurgence, and if we do not deal with them, we will be forced to retreat and give up the entire territory — we would otherwise be in violation of the Emperor’s decreethe Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that information such as we’re presenting must be available to all, with no outstanding accessibility issuesthe Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that information such as we’re presenting must be available to all, with no outstanding accessibility issues. Just as the Obigurafu gang is Seijun’s problem, so the Mōjin are mine.

And still the Ayamari proliferate, and we are falling further and further behind schedule.

I have just received a message from Kento: One of the high nobles will be coming to investigate our progress, and try to determine what can be done.

My suspicion is that the entire campaign will have to be called off… or at least, subjected to a complete restructuring.

A Foul Ending to My Week

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

On Thursday afternoon, I was busy in Ichimen when I received an urgent message from one of the Nichiren priests. He and Haruna and some of the others had come across a problem in the ongoing Kanezukai campaign. I had fought in the early stages of that campaign, back in the fall. They needed my help with an enemy lurking in ancient, cramped Fujiwara-kyō. The time I had to spend on that was time I couldn’t spend in Ichimen on the Teitōken campaign.

That may be part of why I got to the castle on Friday morning to find a message from Seijun, asking: “There are still a great many Ayamari in the city walls of Ichimen. Are you having trouble? Do you require aid?”

This is not the first time he or Kento has asked me if I needed assistance with this phase of the campaign. But this time, I found that even more of them had flooded into the city since I left on Thursday night. I finally gave in and said yes, please send another ninja to help.

After a while, Kento showed up with Satonori, and instructed me to give Satonori a quick orientation in the streets and alleys of Ichimen. The rooftops are somewhat more complex terrain, so he will be handling 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. work on the ground while I deal with the remaining chain-wielding enemies. If the situation is still dire on Monday, Kento will see if Haruna can assist us, too.

Did that resolve matters? It turns out — no, it did not.

As I was battling on the rooftops of Ichimen, a message came from Hoshiakari: The shrine of Amaterasu was under attack, yet again, by the usual 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.. Yes, in broad daylight. The creature is becoming bolder!

There was nothing I could do while busy fighting on Clan Noriaibasha’s behalf. The news simply weighed on my mind until sundown, when I left to go home. Akane and I went to the shrine in the dead of the night, surprising the monster with the suddenness and fury of our attack in the rainstorm that was going on.

As usual, the oni escaped at the last moment. I must find a way to purify the shrine once and for all!

In the meantime, this week has been long and difficult, and I am a very tired ninja.

A Busy Week of Dealing With Upstarts

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

This week has been quite busy with interviews and combat tests. On Monday, I traveled far off to the Mikawa Peninsula (requiring a journey by boat) to talk to Clan Kokkyū. They are a quite large clan, but it turns out that the group that is interested in me are a very small detachment who operate like one of the new, upstartstartups, that isstartups, that is groups.

Yesterday I went to a grueling interview with all the warriors of Clan Shōshindō except for Kirika. I was questioned about my history, about tactics, and about the uses of various weapons, and I also did some sparring. Their warriors are quite skilled, but they are yet another upstart clan, and I would not be well suited for a life with them.

After that, I stopped by Yagyū for a 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. test for the mysterious 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. from Kawachi Province. They wished to see me perform some kata using 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. and 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.)
. Unfortunately, I made an elementary blunder with the manrikigusari, trying to use the Jeikyū grappling hook (which I’ve been using more and more lately) in a way that only works with the Pirōto hook (which is what I started off with, years ago). By the time I realized my error, it was too late; I had already failed.

I returned home to Hoshiakari and Akane in low spirits. A visit from our friend Arujin was a helpful restorative, as he is most convivial and witty.

Today, I have spent the morning exchanging messages with a herald who represents Clan Ōkiten, who are based in the pleasure district of Kamishichiken, near where Clan Iwinaga once had its castle. Apparently they are a larger, more mature clan, and I am to speak with one of the lower nobles in their leadership. I must prepare myself.