Posts Tagged ‘tomodachi’

Note: This is the Japanese word for “friend” or “friends”.

After the Wedding

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

I promise, I am not dead.

Far from it, in fact. Two weekends ago, Akane and I were married in a joyous ceremony in Ueno, the capital of Iga Province. We were surrounded by friends and family, and everyone was happy. Akane wore a beautiful white uchikakea type of highly formal, ceremonial kimono, generally only worn at court functions or weddingsa type of highly formal, ceremonial kimono, generally only worn at court functions or weddings kimono with silver embroidery, and everyone remarked on how lovely it was.

A week before the wedding itself, I went out with many friends for an evening of dedicated carousingbachelor partybachelor party. (Akane, meanwhile, did much the same with many of her friends.) Since my venture involved some travel along the Tōkaidō, we naturally stopped in at the town of Kusatsu, and I gave my Kongōshu style a try. My friend Rikio, something of a mix of 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. and 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., immediately found a problem with it, and I had to make some changes. Still, it was enjoyable to give my nascent fighting a style a real test!

After the wedding, Akane and I spent a week relaxing at some hot springs in the mountains before returning home. Now I am back at Castle Noriaibasha, where my clanmates are pleased to have me back.

I will report more when I have time.

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.

A Change in These Tales’ Style

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

On Friday, I wrote about the “great and deadly battle” that awaited me… or so I thought. And shortly afterward, I wrote one of my short messages, in which I mentioned that winning that battle had been almost disappointingly easy.

On Saturday, a friend of mine came to visit. She asked how my battle had gone — which made it clear that she had not read my short message.

For some time now, I realize, I have been using this — my main scrolli.e., “this blog”i.e., "this blog" — as a place to start stories, but not to finish them. This is an unwise practice. In particular, it means that those who don’t read the short messages are given only the beginnings of my tales, but never their conclusions.

For this, I most humbly apologize. I am sure it must have been quite frustrating.

In the future, I shall ensure that this chronicle is complete in itself, self-sufficient. The short messages will serve only as a supplement to this journal, never a replacement for it. This also means I will be writing more often here — sometimes more than once a day. (For example, on Friday I would have posted the conclusion to my battle with the 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. from Hikone, making a second post in a single day.)

What a Real Samurai Can Do

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

A friend has been visiting from Edo for the past few days. Last night, Akane and I had dinner at a fancy restaurant in the capital with him and his childhood friend, a samurai woman named Beniko. During the meal, the conversation turned to the difficulties of recruiting skilled fighters.

Akane said, “Oh, I know! Have her try the Three-and Five Strike,” and so I told Beniko what the requirements are. One of the nice things about it as a warriors’ test is that it doesn’t bother to state what the warrior’s movements, footwork, or other technique should look like. It simply specifies what you must do to the target. This means it will work with any weapon at all — even though I’ve been testing manrikigusariA chain weapon with weights at both ends, which can be used for striking or entangling. Obviously, the movements and style for using it are VERY different from the samurai sword!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.

Obviously, the movements, strikes, and footwork for using a manrikigusari are very different from those that work with a katana!

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.) fighters, I could still ask Beniko to perform it with her katana and have the test make sense. So we briefly stepped out into the restaurant’s ornamental garden…

And she performed it beautifully, with hardly any hesitation. There are a couple of aspects of the Three-and-Five Strike that are a bit trickyThere are a particular couple of bugs that people usually make the first time they try to write FizzBuzz, but they’re the sort of thing a decent programmer should be able to catch and fix when asked a couple of leading questions.There are a particular couple of bugs that people usually make the first time they try to write FizzBuzz, but they’re the sort of thing a decent programmer should be able to catch and fix when asked a couple of leading questions. — the first time you try to do it. But that mistake teaches you how to do it properly, if you have any skill or training at all.

Beniko’s execution, however, was nearly flawless. Each time she was about to make one of the standard mistakes, she spotted the problem ahead of time, and simply worked it into her motions. It was a joy to behold.

Once again, I see that a true warrior can do a Three-and-Five Strike easily, and it is absolutely not too hard to use as a test for Clan Noriaibasha.

A Good Warrior Is Hard to Find

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

We are still having trouble finding skilled urban ninjas at Clan Noriaibasha. Nippon’s endless war has taken its toll, and there is starting to be a shortage of able fighters. I have taken to asking applicants some very simple questions regarding the use 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. 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.)
, and asking them to show me one of the simplest possible 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.: The Three-and-Five Strike.

Still, they fail.

Some make excuses. Some try to distract us with tricky weapon-flourishes and intimidating poses that don’t actually accomplish anything. Most simply go away in defeat. This kata is terribly simple. Any warrior should be able to perform it, with any weapon they know. Easily. Anyone who cannot would be a liability in any fighting force.

We finally have a scroll of introduction from a man who might be able to do more than flourish his kama and growl menacingly. He will come to the castle on Friday, and we will take his measure.

Also, my friend Marumi has sent me a letter of introduction to a friend of hers, a man who was once an ikebana artist, but has since been learning the ways of chain-fighting. Since Marumi is a very skilled warrior, I trust her judgement that this man could pass our entrance exams. But he has not responded to my letters.

Chaotic Times

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Things have been very busy. Akane and I have a friend visiting from Edo, to celebrate the recent sumō champion. The victory has thrown all of Kansai into celebration; even the people of Iga (who usually keep to ourselves and stay apart from popular fads) have joined in the festivities.

In the meantime, Hoshiakari’s shrine of Amaterasu has been beset by 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. again. I have been rousted out of my bed in the middle of the night to try to drive it off. Each time, I attack with furious blows and the monster runs away before I can kill it… but then it returns again later.

I come to Castle Noriaibasha tired and groggy every morning. But they have good tea here, and so I am able to maintain enough alertness to stalk and kill the targets Kento assigns for me.

Earlier this week, I had a most astonishing meeting with Megumi and another herald from 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.. I will have to tell of the good news they brought me, when I have a bit more time.

The Days Creep Forward

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The world is full of perplexing things. After my discussion with Binya of Clan Atsuzen — which I thought had gone so well — I heard from his herald that my answers had not been sufficiently pleasing. I have asked her to supply me with more information, so that I might improve my skills.

But the timed test 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. for Clan Shōnindō? I was not able to complete all the moves and strikes in the time allotted, and I suspect that nobody could. But what I did complete was apparently sufficient to please them. Next Tuesday, I will visit Castle Shōnindō and meet with Kirika, the warrior woman I have spoken with. I shall probably meet others of the clan, as well.

I am still fairly sure that Clan Shōnindō is too small and young for me. But the fact that they have female fighters among them speaks well for them.

In the meantime, I have yet another test coming up today, this time of my Aka Hōseki JōgesenA very popular sansetsukon (three-sectional staff) style.A very popular sansetsukon (three-sectional staff) style. skills. I have not even touched 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. in a year, and I was honest about this when speaking to the herald who is trying to connect me with some 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. in Kawachi Province. Truly, I suspect that either the gumi or the herald must be somewhat desperate to consider me for their clan, as I am given to understand that they require a Jōgesen expert.

For my part, taking their test costs me nothing but an hour of my time, and may help me refresh a bit. Since I already expect to do poorly, failure cannot harm my self-esteem.

To be honest, I think I am taking this test partly out of boredom. With the exception of yesterday, when I bore a message swiftly to KamishichikenOne of the entertainment districts in Heian-kyō, the capital.One of the entertainment districts in Heian-kyō, the capital. for my friend Arina, I have had no missions to complete. Even that example of courier duty did not include any combat. I must find something to occupy myself.

Weekend Kata Practice, and a Hard-Working Herald’s Message

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

There is a fair in Iga tomorrow. Akane and I will be having friends over to join us at our house, so we have made sure it is clean and welcoming. Between bouts of cleaning, I have spent the day playing with a 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”. kata that my friend Michio described to me recently:

“I can see that there will frequently be situations where I have to hang from a tree branch, roof, or overhang, stab an enemy, then haul his body up into the place where I am in order to avoid being detected. And I have a kata that seems to work for that. It was a good learning exercise.” Curiously, I have never had to solve this exact problem, though it’s similar to one I’ve dealt with before.

So I agreed to work out a kata for it, without having seen Michio’s. Then we can compare them. It will make a good way for him to check how well he is learning the martial arts, too.

Well, either it’s harder than it looks, or I’m going at it entirely the wrong way. But my focus has been very scattered these past few days.

I did not go to Yagyū today, of course. But while I was practicing in the yard in front of Akane’s and my house, I got a message from a herald anyway. A singularly unhelpful message, much like the previous message from one of this herald’s 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. yesterday: It specifies what weapon skills and fighting styles I would need to know, but nothing else. There is no mention of any of the things I need to know to decide if I am interested or not.

Where is the clan’s headquarters located? Would I be constantly on the road from Iga to their castle, and exhausted by all the travelling by the time I even arrived every morning? And is this with a clan at all, or with a larger army? Where do they fight, and what are their objectives and strategies?

On Monday, I have appointments with two other herald gumis. Perhaps I can have lunch with a friend along the way.

Too Much Leisure Time is Not Good

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

I have not been as diligent as I could in practicing my skills, or in writing the scrolls I must post in Yagyū. What I have written, I have shown to some friends, and they have been able to provide much good advice. With their help, I should be ready to visit Yagyū tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have been able to enjoy Akane’s company a bit more. Now that I am not spending long hours chasing Clan Tenya’s enemies, I am not so tired that during my evenings at home.

Over the past few days, my friend Michio has sent messages from the picturesque wilds of Kii Province, where he has recently started learning 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”.. I have responded with some tips and pointers, and he seems to be learning quickly and well. It is interesting to see his enthusiasm and his joy in discovering the ways of combat — so different from my current jaded, tired and cynical state.

It is strange not to have done any ninja missions in over a week. At least Akane needs occasional errands run in Kotobasatsuki, which gives me a chance to travel and do some scouting.