Posts Tagged ‘Shugendo’

Killing Bandits in Iga

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Clan Noriaibasha has had very little for me to do of late. This is no hardship, but it is rather boring. There is only so much time one can spend practicing 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 the castle courtyard.

But tonight, I have found a task that needs doing in Iga Province, near to Hoshiakari village.

In a nearby town, a priest of Amaterasu is bedeviled by bandits in the woods near his shrine. Such unrighteous miscreants cannot go unpunished. I creep through the mountain terrain, hidden amongst the trees and bushes, ready to destroy them as soon as I find them.

It is good to help out my own province.

This is the kind of job where the gleam of light off a blade might give me away, so I am using a 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. and a jō stickA shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior.A shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior., one in each hand. I can stow the jō in my belt when needed, and simply use the bō for reach.

Ahead, I see some light. As I creep closer, I see that they have lit a campfire for the night. This will be too easy. I smile beneath my ninja mask, and prepare to throw a smoke bomb into their fire, the better to disorient them and claim the benefits of surprise…

The Reconsecration of the Shrine, and the Last Days of the Teitōken Campaign

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Akane and I have successfully reconsecrated the shrine of Inari. We have even strung a new shimenawaA consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. Usually hung with holy paper streamers.

As usual, Wikipedia has more information, including some pictures.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. around the premises.

Happily, we were done in time to visit the wonderful local restaurant, which makes some of the best 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. in all of Kansai. It was quite delicious!

The following day — yesterday — I went back to Castle Noriaibasha. Nobody seems to have noticed my absence the previous afternoon, or if they did, they didn’t mind. Over the past two days, the Teitōken campaign has been slowly and painfully winding down. Every time I think things are done, they find one more pocket of resistance. These are rarely in the city; Seijun’s team has been quite busy rousting out foes in the forest. But occasionally, a message of great and terrible urgency tells me to proceed to Ichimen and find such-and-so target.

Tonight should be the end of this. We are already a day past deadline. I have spent part of the day reading the scrolls and maps pertaining to the upcoming Shiemesu Raisei campaign; that should occupy much more of my time tomorrow.

For now, I have an appointment to meet an old friend in the capital for a sushi dinner.

Almost Ready to Reconsecrate the Shrine

Monday, July 25th, 2011

I have begun making preparations to re-consecrate the shrine of Inari in Hoshiakari. It will be a difficult task, for I am not truly a priest. But as one who was once a yamabushiThe yamabushi were (and still are) a group of mystical ascetics who live high in the mountains, practicing a nature-based spiritual path called Shugendō. In the world of the ninja coder, they’re invaluable to any clan that aims to conquer more than a tiny territory, because their knowledge of the trails and mountain passes is critical for moving troops and supplies from place to place. The word “yamabushi” is both singular and plural; it can mean the group or a single mountain man.Mystical mountain warriors who know the trails and passes in the mountains, and can help clans move troops and supplies around. The word “yamabushi” is both singular and plural; it can mean the group or a single mountain man., I have some understanding of mystical matters… and then there are the skills of a ninja, which involve some techniques that touch upon the spirit world.

Most important, Akane will be assisting me. Her help is always invaluable.

I will leave Ichimen earlier than usual tomorrow, so that the reconsecration can be done at sundown. The entire shrine will have to be cleansed, purified, fumigated with holy incense, and consecrated anew.

And I am bringing both a 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. and a jō stickA shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior.A shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior., to be prepared for any type of yōkaiAny supernatural creature. Includes ghosts, demons, monsters, shapeshifters, spirits, possessed objects, and so on.Any supernatural creature. Includes ghosts, demons, monsters, shapeshifters, spirits, possessed objects, and so on. that might try to thwart this last ceremony. I may not use metal weapons in the shrine, but I have been practicing my jō moves, and I feel confident that I will be able to do whatever becomes necessary.

Afterward, Akane and I hope to refresh ourselves with a celebratory meal at a restaurant near the shrine. It is very tasty, but we hardly ever get to go there, being too busy with the shrine itself.

Unexpected Victory at the Shrine

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I promised Kento I would go to Ichimen on Saturday and battle the Ayamari more. But as I prepared to leave Hoshiakari, a villager came running: “The 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. is in the shrine! Again!”

Again? After only one day? And in broad daylight, for once? This was not its usual style. Cursing and moaning, I went to the shrine. Sure enough, there it was, as large as life and as ugly as ever. Its iron-sheathed club flashed toward me, and the battle was joined!

I had only a small jō staffA shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior.A shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior., but I was fueled by my rage and frustration. I struck hard and fast, dodging the monster’s blows. One swing left it off-balance, and I dealt it a mighty blow on the side of its head. It fell down dead at my feet, and then its shape blurred and shrank down to the visage of…

…a wizard of the Hakka clan! Those who invade others’ territories by guile and duplicitythis one seems to have gotten in using a password that was part of the enormous Gawker password leak last Decemberthis one seems to have gotten in using a password that was part of the enormous Gawker password leak last December, only to deface and destroy! This is an enemy I was very glad to have killed.

But has the oni always been the Hakka, wearing a mystical disguise? Or is it truly the case the Hakka simply heard about Hoshiakari’s oni problem and decided to exploit it for his own ends?

Regardless, the shrine must be re-purified and reconsecrated. I have plans for that operation, but they will take some time to put into effect. The Teitōken campaign is still absorbing too much of my time and energy.

A Very Busy Friday and a Very Tired Ninja

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

On Thursday, we finally found a way that Satonori can vouch for me with the armory guards so I can have weapons. He and Haruna are now both assisting me in Ichimen. They are both carving a path of blood and death through 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 Ayamari, while I take on the rooftop fighters.

On Friday morning, I awoke to news that the shrine of Amaterasu had once again been occupied by an 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.. I could do nothing about it; my duties to Clan Noriaibasha required my presence in Ichimen. So off I went, to slay Ayamari — and then to be called into no fewer than five meetings, consuming most of my day.

At least one of these meetings was useful, though: We went through all of the assassination orders and target descriptions supplied by the Sōtō Zen monks, and were able to identify many cases where two different orders described the same target. “The man in the green kimono? He’s the same as the kama fighter with a slight limp in his left leg.” “Ah, then we will combine these orders.” When we were done, the number of enemies had dropped from 35 to under 30.

But one of the worst problems is still the rooftop fighters. Before I left the castle on Friday evening, Kento presided over a meeting with me, Haruna and Satonori. We agreed that we would divide up the enemies yet to be fought, and that I would spend my weekend in Ichimen clearing off the rooftops.

Then I left, and did not go home. I went directly to the shrine of Amaterasu, where I drove off the oni. I arrived home late at night, and Akane poured me a vase of sake and put me to bed. The next morning, I knew I would simply have to arise and go back to Ichimen.

When I have time, I must tell the tale of this morning… and then the tale of this afternoon.

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.

Misfortune Takes Me By Surprise

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I was right to be worried about misfortune yesterday… I was simply wrong about just what shape the misfortune would take.

My demonstration was not a failure. Not a great success, either, for there were so many things to show that we ran out of time, and I will have to schedule a second session. But certainly, it was more of a success than a failure.

Unfortunately, many other things yesterday were failures. In particular, I discovered that there has been a massive incursion of Ayamari into Ichimen. The messages from the Sōtō Zen monks had not been reaching me. Someone within Clan Noriaibasha has made a grave mistake, but tracking down the culprit will have to wait. First, we must retake the city.

And, while I was busily trying to curb the Ayamaris’ numbers, I received a message from Hoshiakari: More trouble in the shrine of Amaterasu. Once again, I had to cancel a dinner with Akane and go deal with the hateful 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.’s mischief.

This time, however, Akane offered to come with me. Even if we didn’t have the dinner we’d been hoping for, we did get to spend some time together. With her help, driving away the demon was even easier than usual.

But still, this situation cannot continue. We must find a way to kill the thing.

The Return of the Oni… Again

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

I received a message from General Wāro recently, asking if I would give a good report about him to a clan that is considering taking him in. I told him that of course I would do so. On Tuesday night, I was supposed to receive a messenger from his prospective new clan, who would ask me my impressions of the General.

Instead — as readers of my brief messages will already know — a runner came from the other side of Hoshiakari. “There is trouble in the shrine!”, he cried. “Noise and disturbance! Can you help?”

So, instead of dinner with Akane, I laced up my tabithe split-toed boots commonly worn by ninjasthe split-toed boots commonly worn by ninjas and rushed through the woodsIt’d be nice if I could find some colo space for my server that isn’t 50 miles away. Rebooting it when it’s hung is a chore, but traveling all that way makes it so much worse.It’d be nice if I could find some colo space for my server that isn’t 50 miles away. Rebooting it when it’s hung is a chore, but traveling all that way makes it so much worse. to the shrine. I hoped to find nothing more than a few bandits — or, even better, perhaps a vagrant simply looking for food. But in my heart, I knew better.

Sure enough, the oni had returned. The same one who bedeviled us last September, and then again in November. It crouched in the doorway, grinning foully at me.

And of course, not being a priest, I had no o-fudaShinto talismans against evil. They are shaped like tall rectangles, either made of stone or of paper, and have kanji written on them. If you have a paper o-fuda, sticking it to the forehead of a supernatural creature is a powerful attack against it, and may even stop it in its tracks.Shinto talismans against evil. Little paper rectangles with kanji written on them, like mini-scrolls. Sticking one to the forehead of a supernatural creature is a powerful attack against it, and may even stop it in its tracks.. All I could do was attack with my ninja skills.

It threw off my chain with a laugh, and nearly clubbed me in the heart as I scrambled to dodge. A few quick acrobatic rolls got me out of range of its next few strikes, and I tried 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”.. No use. I managed to use 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. to cut a mostly-straight branch from a nearby tree and use it as a 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.. That at least gave me enough reach to stay out of the huge monster’s range.

The battle was long and gruelingEven once I got the server restarted, there was still some trouble with email and spam-filtering services.Even once I got the server restarted, there was still some trouble with email and spam-filtering services., but eventually I managed a solid strike against its wrist, and it dropped its club. As I assailed it with blows about the shoulders, it roared and then fled off into the night.

I must find a way to kill it, once and for all.

Is the Oni Gone?

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Shhhhhhh. Don’t look now, but…

Since the battle I fought with the 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. last week, I have woken up every morning to find the shrine of Amaterasu unmolested.

It was quite a vicious battle, with the oni swinging at me with its iron-shod, studded club nearly as large as I am. It took all my agility to dodge and avoid being struck; even a half-dodged blow would have broken a leg or arm and left me at the oni’s mercy. I threw shuriken for all I was worth, and attacked relentlessly with the bits of ShugendōThe mystical path or religion practiced by the yamabushi.The mystical path or religion practiced by the yamabushi. I remembered.

I did manage to strike it a few times, and it bellowed in pain.

When it ran off, I saw that it was bleeding. The next morning, Akane helped me clean away the monster’s blood and re-purify the area around the shrine before stringing a new shimenawaA consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. Usually hung with holy paper streamers.

As usual, Wikipedia has more information, including some pictures.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism..

There has been no sign of it since. Do I dare to hope that the fiend will never return?

Trouble in the Shrine, and Busy Days at the Castle

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I awoke this morning to find the shimenawa

As usual, Wikipedia has more information.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. at Amaterasu’s shrine broken, and the innards of the shrine scattered and disrupted. I shall have to stay awake some night soon, and do battle with the 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.. This will not be an enjoyable experience, even for one who thrives on combat, as I do.

In the meantime, I am learning the ways of Clan Noriaibasha. There are a great many meetings, for the clan’s people need to coordinate their activities. Such a large clan can prosecute multiple campaigns simultaneously, and individual warriors split their time between the various campaigns. So unlike Clan Tenya, where I spent all my time clearing trails and supply lines to places like Kotobasatsuki, here I am constantly switching from one task to another.

And going to meetings to discuss each campaign I’m involved in.

Right now, the Rōba campaign has been taking much of my time, as I gut our enemies with 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. alone. But I have also recently been attached to the San-Nichikan campaign… and, in a meeting with Jōji, who is in charge of the Kirin project, I have learned more about the clan’s plans for the Kirin-dō kata that I have inherited from the departed mercenary.

There will be much for me to do. In the days to come, I certainly must describe these campaigns and the people of the clan.

But first, I must survive my encounter with the oni.