I am not dead. I assure you of this.

I have been quite busy. The word for this summer is 「結婚式」、 or “kekkonshiki”, which is Japanese for “marriage ceremony”. Last year, I asked Akane if she would marry me, and she was delighted to say yes. The ceremony itself will be later this summer, and we are both consumed with preparations. Relatives will be arriving from all over Nippon, and many of our friends from here in Iga Province will be attending as well. It will be an occasion of much joy, but it also requires much planning and effort.

Aside from this, the Saitekika campaign proceeds apace. Every day, I must meet with the Nichiren priests and sometimes even the Tendai priests, to ensure that our path is Righteous and Harmonious. When there is time between those meetings, I must go to the cities we are trying to capture, and find our enemies and slay them.

And finally, I have resumed progress on my own Kongōshu style. After a day of battling Noriaibasha’s enemies with the chain and kama, it’s nice to come home and get out the sansetsukon and keep up my skills in the Steel Road ryū.

But all of this leaves me very little time to write these tales. I regret that this is not likely to change soon. Some time ago, I wrote that I would be updating more frequently. I must now change that; I should not promise that which I cannot deliver.

There may occasionally be short messages. And these tales will not cease altogether. But I do not know how often I will be able to write them.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

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 scroll — 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 rōnin from Hikone, making a second post in a single day.)

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( May. 23rd, 2009 03:58 pm)

This is the initial WordPress post, that normally just says “Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!”

I could delete it, but it makes a great honeypot for spammers, so I’m leaving it here. Anything that comments on it will be assumed to be a spambot and dealt with accordingly.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

I shall be spending some time with Clan Nettobuku, so it's best if I introduce the people that I am working and fighting alongside. And a note for those who are not familiar with Nippon, or who read my scrolls only rarely and need to be reminded of who's who and what's what: You can always look at the scrolls marked with the kanji for "meta" to see helpful information about what everything means. So if you need to refer to any of my scrolls that describe my clan, or fighting styles, or the geography of Kansai during the Sengoku Jidai, you can find them with that tag.

And now, the people of Clan Nettobuku:

The High Lords

  • Lord Reiji: This is the man who started Clan Nettobuku, and who guided it for its first year or two. However, while his vision was clear and his path was sure, his knowledge of combat and how to choose skilled warriors was not as great. Now, the day-to-day leading of the clan falls to...
  • Lord Tai: Tai is a wise noble lord, well skilled in the ways of leadership. He does not speak over-much, but what he says is well-considered.
  • Colonel Kobushi: The supreme commander of Clan Nettobuku's armies. My boss, just as General Wāro was back in Clan Iwinaga. He spends much of his time with Lord Tai and with Mitsu, but also meets with his fighters frequently to make sure we are practicing and our strategies are keen.
  • Mitsu: An abbott of the Tendai branch of Buddhism, he is in charge of the four Nichiren priestesses (see below).

The Other Fighters

  • Bunmei: The other ninja working with Clan Nettobuku. He and I get along fairly well, if a bit distantly. (This is okay; it means we trust each other to do things well and properly.) He's not from Iga, but he knows his ninja arts quite well. Like me, he's adept at city fighting and the Pagoda Bearer school of ninja-ken fighting, but he's also skilled in the Aka Hōseki Jōgesen school.
  • Captain Tomo: A warrior of diverse experiences and full of calm, competent skill. He seems at home in urban, forest, or plains combat, and is a strong asset to our team.
  • Daigo: A mighty fighter, most recently a yamabushi, but looking to move into more of a warrior path. (Sadly, the clan's needs have required him to practice a fair bit of shugendō in the mountains, but he is assured of real fighting once the mountain passes are clear.)
  • Ikuya: He is adept in the net- and rope-fighting arts of Shima Province, both in the Mai-Shikuo and Ōraku schools.

The Monk and Priestesses

  • Binya: The only Sōtō Zen monk we have (which will likely prove to be a problem later). Another one, Etsuya, fell ill a few weeks back, and is still resting. (We hope for his return, but it is not assured.) Binya is well attuned with Buddha-nature and the ways of harmony, and also has become very familiar with the terrain of Izumi Province.
  • Iyona: The wisest and most senior of the four Nichiren Buddhist priestesses who guide our clan in the ways of righteousness and duty. She has a discerning eye and a sure hand, and came to her holy duties only after spending some time as a warrior. Also, she is from Iga, and we have sometimes been at the same pleasure-houses.
  • Riruko, Sakura, and Kirika: The other three Nichiren priestesses. Each of them has some function within the temple, but I don't really know the internal details that well. They all seem quite holy, and quite good at their devotions and knowledge of righteousness.

Last, but certainly not least, I would be a fool and an ingrate to leave out Chiyoko. If she had a title, it might be something like "quartermaster" — she ensures that all is running smoothly, that the castle is kept clean, that messengers are met when they arrive, and that weapons are sharpened as needed. She is as the unseen Tao, without which all would stop.

Update, 2008-10-07: We have hired another ninja, named Jimon, who has been placed over Bunmei and me. Also, the Nichiren priestesses have acquired an abbess named Jīya, who helps guide the entire clan in the ways of righteousness. Chiyoko, sadly, has had to leave us, for her home village is too far from Castle Nettobuku.

Update, 2008-11-03: We have hired two more ninjas, named Benjirō and Saimei. Both are young and somewhat untested, but show some promise. We have also just added a yamabushi named Ishin to our ranks. He will be taking over the trail-blazing duties from Daigo, who is pleased to move into more combat-oriented tasks.

ninja_coder: (Default)
( Aug. 1st, 2007 07:36 am)

The Sengoku Jidai

All the action in the Tales of the Ninja Coder takes place during a period of Japan's history known as the Sengoku Jidai. This is usually translated into English as "Warring States Period" (jidai means "period"). Warring "States" may be a bit of misnomer, because the things that were warring were more like individual daimyō and their lands. Something like "the period of random warlords in an ongoing, chaotic fracas" might be a little more accurate… but it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

The Sengoku Jidai was preceded by the Muromachi Jidai (also known as the Ashikaga Jidai, or the Ashikaga shogunate — basically, the Ashikaga clan controlled the shogunal government, from their headquarters in the Muromachi neighborhood of Heian-kyō). Regardless of what you call it, that period was one in which the shogun started off fairly weak, and soon became a mere puppet. When the Yamana and Hosokawa clans quarreled over who would get to control that puppet, their quarrel grew into the Onin War (starting in 1467), which quickly engulfed all of the capital city of Heian-kyō (now called Kyoto). After ten years, the chaos expanded beyond the borders of Heian-kyō and consumed the entire country; all semblance of centralized authority or government broke down completely, and Japan was plunged into over a century of anarchy.

In American terms, a reasonable parallel can be made with the Old West: in both countries, we're looking at a period of lawless chaos, a time that may look very romantic and heroic in retrospect (from the comfortable remove of more than a century…), but which at the time was probably both inconvenient and terrifying for those who had to live through it. Samurai and rōnin wandered the countryside, much like gunslingers: a law unto themselves.

During the Sengoku, the government wasn't the only thing that broke down. The rigidity of the Japanese caste society also broke down, allowing a variety of non-nobles to rise into the ranks of power through force of arms and skill. This example of meritocracy was called gekokujō, meaning "the underling conquers the master" (which may say something about feudal attitudes toward meritocracy). Individuals like Oda Nobunaga and entire clans like the Hōjō clan, previously a bunch of nobodies, rose to control entire provinces and become major players on the national field.

At the same time, groups of farmers, peasants, and monks banded together in groups that came to be called Ikkō-Ikki (meaning "one mind, one group" or "single-minded league"). These were basically uprisings of rabble that would overthrow the samurai and nobles of a given region, and then rule the place as commoners — something like the American revolutionaries' decision to abolish any system of nobility in their new country, except that the Ikkō-Ikki were all eventually put down.

Eventually. In some places, it took very nearly until the end of the Sengoku, around 1600.

Naturally, any period of such intense chaos had to come to an end: everyone involved wanted it to end, either for their own safety or because they wanted to control Japan. First, Oda Nobunaga launched his unification drive, starting in Mikawa Province in 1568. By 1582, he had conquered large swathes of Japan, and looked unstoppable, but he was betrayed by one of his own generals. After that, his follower Toyotomi Hideyoshi carried on Oda's work, and managed to become the effective ruler of the country, with his son set to inherit his power and become shogun. Unfortunately, Toyotomi died in 1598, before his son was old enough to rule, and the council of five regents that Toyotomi appointed broke down in infighting and mutual betrayals. Eventually Tokugawa emerged the victor from this chaos, and finally consolidated his hold on the country in 1603. This is considered the final end of the Sengoku Jidai, and the start of the Edo Jidai. (Named for the city of Edo, which Tokugawa made his seat of power and the new capital. Edo is now known as Tokyo.)

The period from 1568 to 1603 is called the Azuchi-Momoyama Jidai, after Oda's castle of Azuchi and Toyotomi's castle of Momoyama. The Azuchi-Momoyama Jidai is considered by many to be the final phase of the Sengoku Jidai; others consider it an independent jidai of its own.

The Tales of the Ninja Coder are set (roughly speaking) in the 1570s. Oda had already conquered and unified his home province of Mikawa, but the rest of the country (including Iga, Kōga, Ōmi and the lands around the capital) were still in chaos. It was a dangerous time, with no central authority to protect anyone from anyone else. Aside from the various major daimyō trying to conquer large regions, there were still a great many smaller warlords trying to become (or remain) major powers, and nothing to stop them from forcibly recruiting anyone they could lay their hands on if they needed warm bodies. Aside from that, random bandits, mercenaries, and rōnin wandered the countryside, making their living however they could.

It's little wonder that this was also the period that saw the beginnings of the machi-yakko, or "servants of the town" — essentially, the start of city guard units as somewhat-organized entities. (These later evolved into the police forces of the Edo Period, and some Yakuza groups claim descent from them as well.)

Finally, the Sengoku Jidai was a prime time for ninja to sell their services to the highest bidder: whoever had the best spies and assassins working for him could easily parlay their skills into an advantage on the battlefield.



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