After a week or so of my work consisting of nothing but kama fighting, and the occasional kusarigama 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 ryū, so of course, it requires the sansetsukon.

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-tō 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.

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.

There is urgent news today throughout Kansai: the Kao-no-Hon 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.

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 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, takuan and umeboshi. There was tamagoyaki, and miso soup, and even natto, 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, 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 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!”

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.
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( Mar. 12th, 2012 11:03 am)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 daimyō 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 ikebana 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.

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.

Recently, Clan Tokugawa opened a new front in its war: A direct attack on the Kao-no-Hon 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 Emperor’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.

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.

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 new 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 manrikigusari 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 down.

That’s not even counting the fact that I spent almost all of Friday waiting around 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 Ayamari by the old June 20 deadline. Seijun is deluded. I will have to explain this to him on Monday.

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.

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-sharpening, 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 Emperor.

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.

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 have lately been studying Living Stone kata using the manrikigusari. 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 ryū… 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-sensei 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 kama 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.

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 have been away from Kansai for a few days. Last week, I received a message from my brother saying that Grandmother had died. So I traveled to the south, to the city where Grandmother lived, along with my brother and Uncle-san. Father also went there, all the way from Edo, to pay his last respects to his mother.

Of course, there was no sneaking or combat to be done there. The weather on the shores of the Seto Inland Sea is balmy and warm, even in the midst of winter. The sun shone as we buried Grandmother and Father and Uncle told stories of her life. Also, I finally got to see Grandfather’s grave and pay my respects.

But now I have returned to Iga, and am back in Castle Noriaibasha in Sakai. There is much to do. The Teitōken campaign has not faltered in my absence, and I must meet with Seijun and Nayumi today, to discuss how we will coordinate our strategies.

And I understand there things I can be doing in Migaku with my kama… It will be good to be active again!

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.
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( Jan. 3rd, 2011 11:01 am)

Back at Castle Noriaibasha, bright and early as the new year starts. Last week, the castle was almost silent as people enjoyed their holidays and vacations. Today, everyone is back. The castle bustles with activity as people return to their old tasks.

I have much to accomplish in Ichimen. Seijun the samurai is clamoring for some neighborhood, any one, to be cleared of underworld elements so that he can bring in his troops and have Nayumi start her work. I think Keishutsu will be of the most use to them, if only I can remove the Mōjin fighters that still plague it; after that, I have hopes of liberating Ichibanyōshi from its gangs.

My previous plan had been to finish off the chain-wielding thugs in Kakunin Shiken first, because the Kakunin Shiken district borders Ichibanyōshi. There is much travel between the two neighborhoods, and I fear that the chain-fighters will try to step into the power vacuum left by my removal of the Ichibanyōshi gangs. But the samurai can’t deal with Kakunin Shiken at all. They can deal with Ichibanyōshi, once I’ve gotten rid of the gangs.

This means I may as well clear out Ichibanyōshi now, deliver it to the samurai, and then take care of Kakunin Shiken in parallel with the samurai’s Ichibanyōshi efforts. I just hope this decision doesn’t come back to haunt me later.

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.
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( Aug. 28th, 2010 10:57 am)

In The Tales of the Ninja Coder, I occasionally post haiku. (I also post them a bit more often on my Twitter feed.) Most Americans think of haiku simply as “A poem having 3 lines, with syllable counts 5-7-5”. But classical Japanese haiku have two other important characteristics: a kigo and a kireji. There’s also some debate about just how many syllables an English haiku should really have.

(For the “tl;dr” version, you can skip down to the rules I’ll be using in my haiku.)


A kigo is a seasonal reference, such as “cherry blossoms” (which bloom for roughly a week in spring) or “cicada” (which chirp in the summertime) or “apples” (which ripen in autumn). There are entire lists of words that are used as standard seasonal references, in books called saijiki and kiyose that are basically the haiku poet’s equivalent of rhyming dictionaries or thesauruses.

You can simply refer to a season by name in a haiku, as in:

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.

Notice how this haiku uses the word “wintry” instead of just plain “winter”; that’s okay. (It’s not the best haiku in the world for other reasons, but we’ll get to those later.)

Read the rest of this entry » )
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 spent part of my weekend practicing more kata with the ninja-ken, only to discover that there may soon be a massive upheaval in the ranks of the ninjas. The news is traveling far and wide that the weaponsmiths have made decisions that will make it awkward to use the new batch of ninja-ken. Even the yamabushi have heard about it, and are looking at us with some mixture of sympathy and pity.

But there are still a great many clans that rely on ninjas. Not just ninjas, but ninjas who use the Pagoda Bearer school of ninja-ken fighting. Awkward or not, I'd best make sure I'm still skilled with it.

In the meantime, I have also paid another visit to Ōtsu, and am quickly getting acquainted with the new order of things there, under Lord Mitsuhiro. The local underworld is thriving, and there are many contacts and "people of interest" that I should befriend. The rooftops are still as inviting as ever for a ninja. And, while it doesn't actually affect my work in any important way, it's nice to see that there are a few new okonomiyaki stands where I can grab a bite to eat between assignments.

Back at work for Clan Nettobuku now, I have some difficult enemies to deal with in Hikone — it seems some real opposition is developing in the Ātosugijei district... and once I deal with them, Bunmei is busy with quite a few Ayamari, and could use an assist...


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