Quick word of warning, Jan. Please read between the lines. (This message will self-destruct in five minutes.) Even if they do let you fire a gun, it could be against the law, with the person who gave permission putting his neck on the block, so you may have to report here in writing that, sadly, they did not let you do so.
Day 4 (Part 2) I'm back Well the million dollar question remains unanswered. Would I be able to carry a gun during the parade. Well, the problem is that there is just enough guns for the members of this Teppo-tai. A few even borrow theirs from a collection in the Uesugi jinja. These guns are clearly marked on the stock with red ink. And also, only members are allowed to carry guns during this parade. My translator told me I probably be allowed to carry a flag. Which I was totally ok with. But during the practice on day 2 a rumor started to circulate that one member broke his leg during a fishingtrip two days earlier. So there might be a gun avalibe. I got this information a bit on the side from my translator. So, really I had no clue. One hour after I arrived, I was kitted out and looking like a million dollar
The middle gun was the one I eventually got to carry. But at this moment I had no clue...
We were now just waiting for the bus to take us to a local school from were the parade started. Still no flag or gun. Then from behind me I heard the Taisho's commanding voice: Jan San! Dozo! I turned around and saw how he presented a textile bag with the unmistakeable shape of a teppo. Must admit my pulse went up a bit. Inside the bag was the fallen members beautiful 20 monme Yonezawa O-zutsu. 10 kilo of pure killing power Apparently the Taisho had talken to the injured man and explained who I was. And permission was given. However, this not being my gun, the gun must remain in the bag during the parade. And so be it. With my new friend over my left shoulder and a thick ramrod supporting the gun from my right shoulder (typical Yonezawa style) I walked to the bus. After a short busride we arrived at the school which was full with people taking part in the parade. To say that I created a bit of a buzz amongst the people when I walked out of the bus, is to putting it mildly. A fellow member carrying a hefty 30 monme came up to me and said that I should walk with him during the parade, bringing up the rear of the Teppo tai. Moments after I heard a big wardrum start to beat. Three samurai on horses took the lead and as tradition dictates followed by the teppo tai.
Priceless moment number 1...
The trick was to follow the beat of the war drum. On the first beat your right foot hit the ground. After that your every step was directed by the pace of this drum. Carrying a heavy gun whilst maintaining a proper posture and keeping the rythym wasn't easy at first, but I got into the it surprisingly quick. My concentration was upheld by the fact that the member in front of me kept looking back at my feet every 2-3 minutes to ensure I didn't mess up the apperance
Priceless moment number 2. The first non Japanese (temporary member) of the Yonezawa Teppo-tai moving out onto the streets of the town...
So there I was, on the move, with the Yonezawa Teppo-tai. The crowed stood 4-5 rows thick on both sides of the road. The sun was beating down from a clearblue sky. Temperature around 25-26 degrees. I had about 4,5 km infront of me. The first ten minutes went on pure adrenaline. The crowd was sheering and I heard a lot of "hello" shouted towards me followed by smiles and thumbs up. A few people even bowed, which felt a bit strange to be honest.
Slowly but surly I was starting to feel the weight of the gun. The barrel was digging deep into my left side and there was nothing I could do about it but keep waking. Another ten minutes past and I was in real pain.
Never mind the pain and agony. Eyes straight and chest out...
Then suddenly a command was called out. And to me great relive I saw the entire troop shifting side of the gun. At the same time people came running out and offered us cold tea in paper mugs. With the gun on my right shoulder and two cups of cold tea down my neck, I was back in the game. The highlight came when we walked pass the trainstation. The whole plaza was packed with people. I was in the zone. The guy in front of me had stopped looking at me, so I guess I passed the test regarding the rythym I pushed out my chest, raised my head, and kept one foot in front of the other. This was def a moment I will cherrish for the rest of my life. After 1 hour and 15 minutes, we finally reached the field were the battle reenactment should take place. There was a big tent errected where the troop could relax. It was now that I realised how tired I was. But I wasn't the only one. Most of the members dropped like flies to the ground. Guns were scattered everywhere. But there were big smiles all around. The Taisho came up to me. Pointed at my feet and my shoulders. I gave him a thumbs up, which seems to have pleased him. 10 min later I found him sleeping in the grass.
Time for war...
About two hours later it was time for the show. It was very funny to see the guys preparing their guns. Yonezawa Teppo-tai is known for it's big loades of gunpowder. For the 10 monme gun they use 30 gram of gunpowder. For the 30 monme 40 gram. Combine that with a hell of a lot of paper jammed down the barrel and you get a cannonlike bang when the fire their guns.
Anyone seen my gun...
Strike a pose... Give the man some credit for performing the perfect Kasumi Ryu stand with the heavy 30 monme.
The Teppo-tai was ordered to the front for the opening volley. I had changed the gun for my trusted Canon. Relaxing the arm a bit casual on my tanto...
A total of three rounds were fired. Only one missfire. That came from the Taisho's son who took part of his first display. No doubt due to nerves. During the time they was firing their guns, I was taking some very nice pictures.
Best seat in the house...
Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the festival came to an end. A total of 180000 people had watched it. We packed our guns on a truck and then walked back to the Taisho's house. Damn tired but with a big smile I changed back to my own clothes. Got back to the hotel for the best hot bath I ever taken One hour later I was back at the Taisho's house for a big party. 50 people was celibrating a job well done with a lot of food and even more to drink. I kept a long speach thanking everyone for this amazing experience (with the help of my translator). I got a lot of gifts and an open invitation to come back whenever I want. Already looking back at this event, I feel rather good about myself for not making a complete ass of myself. But I'm most proud over the fact that I was the first non Japanese ever to serve in the proud Teppo-tai of Yonezawa in their 400 year old tradition. With that the rest of my journey continues.
It actually got quite emotional during the celibrations afterwards to. When the whole gang sat down along two rows of tables the Taisho held a speach thanking his troops for a very succesfull start on the new season. Because of that and for the reason that they had a guest that travelled from far a way to join them, he wanted them all to sing a special song they normally do at happy occations like weddings and so on in Yonezawa. I was expecting a happy upbeat song. Instead one of the men from the other side of the room, started off in a way I only had experienced in temples before. But after one line all fifty of the men joined in with deep voices finishing three verses. Near the end of the song I saw tears falling down on the face of the Taisho. Def a most emotional moment for the men. Even my female translator was surprised. She is born in Yonezawa and she said she never seen or heard anything like this before. Sometimes it's these small unexpected moments that in the end will stick up in my internal harddrive. That and the enormous kindness shown to my by the people of Yonezawa will for ever be a part of me. Well....and also the moment outside the trainstation, when for a short moment everything worked in perfect harmony and I, for but a brief second, felt like a Bushi on my way to fight for my lord
Happy you enjoy them, David. It will be much better after I edit the texts when I come home and include some pictures.
Well, spent about 2,5 days now in Sendai. It such a contrast to go from a small town like Yonezawa with 88000 people to Sendai with one million. The tempo is higher and people are more focused on getting from one place to another. I find Yonezawa better for my stressed out western nerves Having spent the first five days of this trip following in the footsteps of the house of Uesugi, from Aizu to Yonezawa, I now changed focus to the mighty Date. My friend Sasaki San used to work 12 years in the Sendai City museum, where massive amounts of objects are on loan from the Date family. On wednesday Sasaki San picked me up at the hotel. We went straight to the museum cos an unexpected "problem" had arrised. Firstly, a new exhibition about old Egypt had just started. Golden week plus mummys equals a lot of Japanese However, my able friend manage to stear us through the masses. Second issue was that the current curator, who was supposed to show me some extra matchlocks had just gotten sick. But in true Japanese spirit he had arranged for me to see some really rare guns belonging to the Date. A treat. Unfortynatly the damn dusty mummys had taken up some room from the katchu so there were a quite a few armors to watch. After this visit we turned up the matchlock "nerd meter" to the max About five km south of the castle is the only remaining gunpowder storage area from the Edo period. They had a total of four of these areas around the town on a blastsafe distant from the city center. Here the Date kept their blackpowder stored in buried "pits" placed out in rows. Large earthen walls protected the site. These days it's not more than an overgrown pit in an residential area of the city. After this we left Edo-jidai for the afternoon and took a drive down to the coast near Sendai airport. Sasaki San wanted to show me the area effected by the 2011 tsunami. Must have been an absolute horror when the sea came crashing in. Five years on a lot of the area still looks like a mix between the western front 1917 and the face of the moon. Saw some images I will never forget.
Five years on, the scars are still there.
The new wall that runs along big parts of the Sendai coastline. 10 meters high. Behind it are a handful of smaller walls. Not sure it will help if they are struck with a big one in the future...
The day ended with a great dinner at an Chinese restaurant downtown.
Jan, Please give my kindest regards to Sasaki San. I met him through the Royal Armouries and stayed with him when I went to Sendai. An absolute gentleman who took me to see excavations at the remains of the castle and the stores at the museum. Both treasured memories. Ian
Sasaki San is just a delight. He was absolutly blown away when he heard about my adventures in Yonezawa And I can assure you that Mr Bottomley was a hot topic yesterday. Will keep it at that for now. You will understand later, Ian
Well, better keep this rollin whilst my IPhone and the local wi-fi still loves eachother... Sasaki San had given yesterdays program a long hard thought in order to "tie in" my trip to the Tohoko-region with the Date and Uesugi. So in the morning we jumped in to his car for an 1,5 hour drive north to the old castlesite of Iwadeyama- jo. Date Masamune was born and raised in Yonezawa. A fact that locals are very proud over. During the siege of Odawara 1590, Masamune delayed a trip down to assist Toyotomi Hideyoshi with the siege. Which of course angered Hideyoshi. Date Masamune did eventually make the journey south to pleadge his alliance. He was forgiven by Hideyoshi but was forced to leave Yonezawa and move to Iwadeyama-jo. He stayed there until 1603 when he finally moved in to the new town of Sendai. So there was the connection. After our visit we had lunch near the castle. For dessert we stopped by a small shop that makes Manju. A steamed dough ball filled with sweet beanpaste. An absolute treat The interesting part was that this bakery was first open 1770 and apparently their treats was a great favorite for many local Date lords during the end of Edo- period. On the way back we stopped by a couple of tombs belonging to Date Masamune's sons which controlled this area during the entire Edo-period. The evening was spent in Sasaki Sans house enjoying a great dinner put on by his wife. A great way to end the day.
Today friday I actually had a day off. Been in the thick of it for a week now. So the "Don't disturbe" sign was up and I had a lazy morning followed by an easy day in the town. The weather here is great with sun and about +24 degrees. The trees are green and flowers everywhere. Best time of the year in Japan if you ask me. Tomorrow will start very early with a 0700 Shinkansen down south. It's time to cross path with the Teppo tai Taisho of this forum, Piers Been looking forward to that for a long time.
Ah Okayama!!! Feels like a home away from home. Arrived yesterday after an almost seven hour long trainride from Sendai with a 30 min stop in Tokyo. Must have gotten on the slowest Shinkansen in Japan. The damn thing stopped at every station between here and Tokyo. But it actually gave me some time to digest my first week over here and get ready for the next. Piers being the perfect host, picked me up at four. We then went over to the local swordshop for an interesting meet and greet. Afterwards me, Piers and the shopkeeper went out for dinner together. Didn't know that fried beef artery could taste that good... After a beer and a touch of the stronger stuff I hit the bed like a 500 kg bomb. This morning Okayama greeted me with clearblue skies. The temperature went up to somewhere between 25-30 degrees but a slight breeze made it an fantastic day out. We started really early by going to a new outdoors antiquemarket. My first one ever and it would not disapoint me. Piers made the first catch of the day. Something small and beautiful as always. On our second turn around the stalls my eyes first found a small candle holder. Perfect for my Tokonoma at home. Whilst looking at this one my eyes caught hold on something I've been after for many years. A very nice powderflask. This one is about 5-6 cm tall and made for primer powder. In really good condition. Came with a small iron rod for unscrewing the bisen-plug. After some smooth negotiations by Piers I got both items for a bag of crisps After that very succesfull start to the morning, it was time to get kneedeep in samurai history. Piers took me to the sight for s very famous siege. In the summer of 1582, on orders by Oda Nobubaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi went on the warpath against the Mori who controlled western Japan. At Takamatsu castle Hideyoshi deployed his famous flood tactics by deverting a nearby river. With the defenders almost drowning by the rising water, the commander of the castle, Shimizu Muneharu, offered to commit seppuku in order to save his men. This Hideyoshi agreed upon after which Muneharu, sitting in a boat cut up his stomach with the famous crossshaped cut. Me and Piers visited the place where his head now rests. After lunch Piers took me high up in the surrounding mountains to an old castle site from the 5th century (hope I was right there ) It was built and controlled by a Korean prince who had been forced to leave his country. For a couple of hours we hiked a long this castlesite with a fantastic view of Okayama and it's surroundings. Piers entertained me by telling the historic background, which made the visit really interesting for an old castle freak like myself. Fascinating to see proof of Korean building techniques smack in the middle of the heartland of Japan. Now it's time for dinner so I can recharge the batteries for tomorrow.
Just finished off a quite nice 14 piece sushi plate during my last night here in Okayama. Have a feeling I will be back (again). At least if I have anything to say about it Yesterday was very interesting indeed. Well, it actually started off with Piers helping me to pick a present for my girlfriend. Got to keep the powers at home happy so I might repeat this kind of trip in the future After that we went to Piers house which is close to a 100 years old. It's like stepping into a samurai movie. The following hours I went to work cleaning my new powder flask and a special iron tool to remove the bisen-screw. Under Piers watchfull eyes I actually brought new life into what a few hours earlier was rather dull. I took some "before and after" pictures thats shows what the right tools and some elbow grease can accomplish. I really enjoyed the different steps and found the whole thing quite relaxing. Almost a moment of zen Will post these pictures under the correct thread when I get back home. After a wonderful dinner followed by a couple of hours of rumbling around amongst Piers fantastic stuff, I feel asleep before my head touched the pillow.
Congratulations on not hitting your head on the tearoom door beam! (Everyone else does.) Sorry about that "BANG" as you were falling asleep upstairs. (Thought it better not to tell you what I was doing.)
You got a fantastic deal on the primer flask and Bisen tool set, even though they were old, cruddy and dusty from 150 years or more in the back corner of a country Kura. You looked so absorbed sitting there gently cleaning it until it looked just exactly right. A lovely little jewel of a thing. Who, jealous, me???
Sorry about the rain, but at least on Sunday we walked in the sunshine around Soja Kokubunji Temple and Kofun, Hideyoshi's water seige of Takamatsu Castle, the Devil's Castle Ki-no-Jo on the mountain top, and the Yakui-Jinja, altogether around 18,000 paces.
Soon half way through my visit in Tokyo. Managed to hit the capital in time for a minor heatwave. Some quick reflectments: 1 Been coming here pretty much every second year since 2006. Just like Sankin kotai when I think about it For every year it feels like it's get's more and more crowded. Pretty much constant rush hour. 2 Tokyo with temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s is a handfull. Add 95% humidity in about a month, more than a handfull I would think. 3 My thoughts standing on the plattform of Nippori station this morning around 0800 when a damage train caused some delays "Dear God, this is the end..." 4 Ah, it's rather hot, I think I find a nice place in Ueno Park and relax for awhile... To late, the park is already full. 5 There are the same amount of unbrellas in use during a heatwave as during a downpour. The Japanese ladies really hates the sun. Ok, I stop here Arrived in Tokyo around lunch yesterday. After dumping my gear I went out on the town (read went straight to Kinokunyia). Start to be somewhat of a star at that place. Not so much because of my own merits, more cos I'm good friends to some high rollers in Japan and also dear friend to my fellow countryman Dr de Vos. He's name is mentioned but like a hushed whispher... Didn't find anything major the first time around but I will give it a new try on saturday morning. They shift stuff in an amazing pace. I actually bought something that will be in their next catalouge. It's not even produced yet and stuff is getting sold off. After visiting some other old haunts, I attacked a sushi restaurant before calling it a night. This morning, after making it through the near death experience at Nippori, I desided to visit Yasakuni Jinja. Never been there before. Let me put it like this, an interesting place that laments mans insanity engaging in modern warfare. Let's not get into some of the english translations like the "Chinese incident"... Saw some nice armors, swords and teppos amongst much WW2 items, together with countless pictures of dead Japanese soldiers. After that sobering visit I moved about until I found myself in Ueno Park. Visited the shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu. Gold covered Tokugawa propaganda at it`s best...
To get away from the heat I also dove into Tokyo National museum. One of my favorites cos they keep changing their displays. This time they had amongst many things an exhibition about early Kofun-period. Saw close to ten old kabutos and armors. Rememered Aymerics presentation on Saiga kabuto. Took some nice pictures of different styles of this early style. Up at the "normal" armor sections, they changed a lot since last year. A nice Saiga, a dated Nubie sujibachi kabuto from 1537... The Nubie...
A superb armor with a fantastic russet hanbo.
Overall a very good visit. Now I just downed a healthy load of yakitori. Soon heading back out for some more shopping.
The two last days of my stay in Tokyo was spent relaxing in some of the many nice parks/gardens scattered around Tokyo. Well worth a visit.
When pro's holding the camera the pictures usually turn out good From now on I will always have a few guys following me around and taking the pictures... Piers, all of them had some sort of sidearm. Most were replicas but one member used a very nice waki. But again not much genuine katchu up there.