Posts Tagged ‘real-world details’

Griping About Work While Enjoying Many Weapons

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

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.

Musings on the Eternal War

Monday, April 9th, 2012

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.

An Unfamiliar Face From a Familiar, Old Clan

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

I arrived at Castle Noriaibasha this morning to find a priestess waiting in the courtyard… with a variety of food. “Good morning!” she said brightly, and offered me some.

There were rice and eggs, takuana type of Japanese pickle, often eaten as a traditional breakfast fooda type of Japanese pickle, often eaten as a traditional breakfast food and umeboshia pickled plum, a traditional Japanese food often eaten as part of breakfast or luncha pickled plum, a traditional Japanese food often eaten as part of breakfast or lunch. There was tamagoyakiJapanese omeletJapanese omelet, and miso soup, and even nattoA traditional Japanese food made of partially-fermented soybeans. It’s hard to describe; Wikipedia may be helpful.A traditional Japanese food made of partially-fermented soybeans., for those who like such things. And there were both broiled salmon and mackerel! But who was this woman, and why should I eat her food?

It turns out her name is Kaori (not to be mistaken for Kaoru, the yamabushi who’s teaching a katana course!), and she is one of the Shomei-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., the clan of heralds who placed me with Clan Noriaibasha in the first place! She is here on something of a continuing goodwill mission, to meet with various priests and nobles and remind them that the Shomei-gumi is always ready to supply talented people to aid in any endeavor.

I introduced myself, and she said she has heard my name mentioned at their castle. I told her I had originally been placed here by Megumi, and then Kaisei became my contact, and they were both gone from the gumi now… but they had reported to Rina. Was she still there?

No, she is not. It seems the Shomei-gumi is as turbulent as ever.

But Kaori gave me information on how to contact her, in case I should ever need to speak with someone at the Shomei-gumi again. And I took some tamagoyaki, and of course some of the broiled salmon and mackerel, and went off to my weapons locker to prepare for the day. And now, I must depart and go kill people.

Real-world Note: If you’re confused by the selection of breakfast foods, you may want to learn more about traditional Japanese breakfasts:

on About.com
on Wikipedia

The cultural subtext to the listing of foods in the second paragraph is basically, “Wow, this was quite a diverse spread of tasty breakfast foods!”

The Changing Time

Monday, March 12th, 2012

The Emperor, in his great wisdom, has decreed that the sun shall rise (and set) one hour later every day. Since the Emperor is divine, and descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, his decree has actually come true, and the sun has been altered in its course.

This is very confusing to everyone in Kansai. It is difficult to get up in the morning, and difficult to get to sleep in the evening.

For a ninja such as myself, who often dwells in darkness and often has trouble waking early in the morning, this is doubly troubling. I barely managed to drag myself from my bed this morning, and of course, I arrived at Castle Noriaibasha even later than usual. I am very lucky there were no appointments or meetings that I needed to attend.

Akane is also greatly displeased by this. I have heard from many others of my friends, bemoaning the change. Surely, the Emperor must have a good reason for such a strange decree, but it is beyond my limited, mortal comprehension.

In the meantime, the animals go on, unaffected. I see why the sages seek to emulate their wisdom.

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.

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 daimyō 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.

Thoughts on Tokugawa’s Kabō Campaign

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Recently, Clan Tokugawa opened a new front in its war: A direct attack on 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.. This is not the first time they’ve tried to invade Hikone; there was their Būn attack last year, and their Nami initiative. But Būn was a disharmonious and ill-considered plan that aroused even the Emperorthe US government, specifically the Federal Trade Commission, who hit them with some heavy penaltiesthe US government, specifically the Federal Trade Commission, who hit them with some heavy penalties — see http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/03/google.shtm’s displeasure, and Nami more of a curiosity than anything else. I’m sure Lord Satōyama, who rules the Kao-no-Hon, was laughing at both of those failures.

I do not think he is laughing now. The new Kabō Campaign promises to cause major trouble for the Kao-no-Hon gumi. Practically everyone in Kansai is talking about it; at least everyone who cares about the eternal war.

I am wondering… should I join this fray? I already ensure that these messages of mine are sent to Yumehaba; perhaps there might be some way to also send dispatches to the front lines of this new battle in Hikone? But I fear there is no way I could include the explanatory text that is so useful to so many people. Without those explanations, I think most people would be too confused by the life of a ninja.

Everything Falls Apart

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

The Teitōken campaign is in a shambles.

For all of its history, the Teitōken campaign has been part of the greater, overarching Futa Jūichi-yon schedule. In order for us to meet that schedule, all enemies in Ichimen and the surrounding forests and wilderness had to be neutralized by June 20th.

On Thursday, as it became clear that this was never going to happen, the nobles made a decision: The entire campaign was shifted to the Mitsu Jūichi-rei schedule. This would give us another full month to get everything complete…

…but things are never that easy. In addition to all the foes we’ve been worrying about, there has been a resurgence of the Mōjin resistance movement. We can no longer ignore them.

To make matters worse, the Tendai priesthood is insisting that we capture the suburb of Koyōshi, on the outskirts of the Keishutsu district. Kento is quite upset at this news; he asks, “Where were they during all the strategy meetings? We showed them the maps, we asked them if there was any other territory we might need. They said nothing! Why do they think they can suddenly ask for new conquests now?!”

I agree with him completely, but there is no arguing with them.

Finally, because I am now a full member of Clan Noriaibasha, I must have entirely newI can’t use my previous login any more. I have to switch to a new employee ID and a new user login on my work computer.I can’t use my previous login any more. I have to switch to a new employee ID and a new user login on my work computer. weapons with the clan crest on the pommels and scabbards and so forth. I am sure it doesn’t matter to my enemies if 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.)
I strangle them with has a tassel in the Noriaibasha clan colors just behind the grappling hook or not, but it does change the weapon’s balance and slows me downThis means I have to set up and reconfigure a huge number of things to customize the new login the way I had the old one working.This means I have to set up and reconfigure a huge number of things to customize the new login the way I had the old one working..

That’s not even counting the fact that I spent almost all of Friday waiting aroundAlso, my new login doesn’t have administrative privs, and I’ve been given a new email account that none of my co-workers know about yet… and loads of stuff is still sitting in the old inbox. It’s kind of a nightmare, and I’ll be talking to IT support on Monday.Also, my new login doesn’t have administrative privs, and I’ve been given a new email account that none of my co-workers know about yet… and loads of stuff is still sitting in the OLD inbox. It’s kind of a nightmare, and I’ll be talking to IT support on Monday. for the quartermaster to issue me weapons, and the weaponsmith to sharpen and polish them for use.

Finally, Seijun still has the idea that we will somehow vanquish the previously-identified AyamariDespite our having pushed the entire release deadline back by a month, he seems to think we’re still going to fix all the bugs that had been identified before the date was changed, as if we could have met that deadline. We were going to have a hard time meeting that deadline in the first place, but moving the code to a new branch (which was required as part of the deadline-shift) cost us at least a day.Despite our having pushed the entire release deadline back by a month, he seems to think we’re still going to fix all the bugs that had been identified before the date was changed, as if we could have met that deadline. We were going to have a hard time meeting that deadline in the first place, but moving the code to a new branch (which was required as part of the deadline-shift) cost us at least a day. by the old June 20 deadline. Seijun is deluded. I will have to explain this to him on Monday.

A Busy Week With Few Accomplishments

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

This week has been very busy. There are Ayamari all over Ichimen, just like there were last week. I eradicated at least a dozen last week, and left for Iga Province feeling good on Friday. Then, over the weekend, something happened. I don’t know if our scouts found a new squadron of Ayamari that they’d missed before, or if the foul rabble sneaked in under cover, and actually hadn’t been present before.

Either way, I am desperately trying to kill them all. It is slow going, because something has gone wrong in the armory. We must have gotten a shipment of substandard steel for our weaponry, because my blades constantly need re-sharpeningWe’ve been having some issues with keeping our development servers stable. Any little tweak, and they blow up and we have to spend half the day trying to get them working again.We’ve been having some issues with keeping our development servers stable. Any little tweak, and they blow up and we have to spend half the day trying to get them working again., and my chain’s links keep coming loose. I keep having to return to Castle Noriaibasha and wait while the smiths repair and resharpen them.

I have also had some of my time and energy taken up with attending the rites of initiation that induct me into the clan, and reading and signing various scrolls of welcome and suchlike. Between the ceremonies and the armory visits, I have spent very little time in Ichimen… It’s no wonder the Ayamari are flourishing there.

I will not be in Ichimen or Sakai tomorrow, for there is a grand festival weekend in Iga Province. I have already informed Kento that I will be away. And Monday is the day of rest decreed by the EmperorNote for non-US readers: The last Monday in May is Memorial Day, a government holiday.Note for non-US readers: The last Monday in May is Memorial Day, a government holiday..

I shall try very hard not to worry too much about the situation in Ichimen. Not until I return to Castle Noriaibasha on Tuesday. I can only hope our enemies will be easier to slay when I am better rested.

Learning Living Stone Style With the Manrikigusari

Friday, March 4th, 2011

I have lately been studying Living Stone 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. using 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.)
. Very few chain-fighters even realize that you can use it in a Living Stone style. The more advanced warriors among us know that it’s possible, but I myself haven’t bothered to do so. Well, except back when I was at Clan Nettobuku, where Jimon and Bunmei insisted on doing everything in the Living Stone ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts.… but that was when we were using the Mūtou grappling hook, which made it much easier.

So I have been studying, and yesterday I spoke to Ginsaku about it. A good thing I did, because he said he has been studying a scroll by a sage from Clan Yamazaru. Yamazaru was once the mightiest of the clans to come from the city of Ōtsu, in Ōmi Province, until they were eclipsed by Clan Tokugawa and its superior strategies. But Yamazaru is still a force to be reckoned with, and more importantly, they still have the esteemed Kurokkufōdo-senseiIn schools and universities, “teacher” or “professor”. In martial arts, it still means “teacher”, but has more overtones of “master”. A term of respect.In schools and universities, "teacher" or "professor". In martial arts, it still means "teacher", but has more overtones of "master". A term of respect. among their ranks. Kurokkufōdo-sensei was among the first to recognize that the lowly chain, despised by most fighters, could be a truly effective weapon; the mere fact that Ginsaku’s scroll is by one of Kurokkufōdo-sensei’s colleagues makes it worth taking seriously.

And so I am studying it, and learning. But soon I must rejoin Seijun and his samurai team in Ichimen; while they work in the streets, I must clear off the rooftops. With my chain. It’s just the sort of work I love.

In the meantime, I have a message from my contact among the Shomei-gumi this morning. He wants to know what is wrong with the warriors they have sent, and how they can be improved. I have told him, quite honestly, that knowledge of 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. is not enough. We need fighters who know how to use the manrikigusari, even if it has no grappling hook. We need warriors who understand the very basics of footwork, of attack and defense — the fundamentals of fighting. Far too many “fighters” know only one or two attacks by rote, and perhaps one block, and no dodges. And when they have exhausted those few moves, they have nothing left, no adaptability.