Lao Wai. Oh, yes, it's a fine art/science, David! Potentially dangerous indeed. Brave boys! Once the Hibuta is opened, anything can happen. I hope anyone reading this thread will be super aware of the possibilities.
They can go off unexpectedly early, or unexpectedly late, and it may depend on the ambient humidity, what powder you are using, the amount of ash, or how you rammed the powder with the karuka, even to the shape and diameter of the karuka face.
One rule we have is to remove the cord if it is still in place, and shout "Fuhatsu!" as a warning to others. Preston did well keeping the gun pointed towards the target, just in case. Hangfire is called Chihatsu 遅発 in Japanese, ie a late discharge. The flame could be working its way through or around damp or densely-packed or wadded material. Sometimes you can spend days wondering just what happened, or didn't. NB, if you close the panlid and then the gun suddenly goes off, you risk losing your lid...
In a smaller way I have been getting my act in gear, Malcolm. (Fancy footwork included.) Only three days left until zero hour.
The weather is hot and humid now; the erstwhile dry rainy season has really kicked in at last. Does the act of filling with water every last inch of flat land in Japan attract the rain and clouds and bring on this humidity? Or does the rain attract the farmers out? Which came first, the paddy field or the rain? The humidity has gone from 40% in May to 75% now. Last year at this time we were preparing for Nagashino (Shitara-ga-hara).
A message came through today asking me to pick up two other members with their guns and luggage, and to prepare against heat stroke. Will the little wagon manage to carry three people, three sets of armour, three swords and nine guns up into the mountains? So anyway, during an uncomfortably hot sunny spell, I spent some time hanging up clothing, adjusting ill-fitting pieces of armour with some sewing, and checking the guns and packing them, making a special note to take the Haidate this time.
On Friday the members of the NBTHK sword society (wait for me!) will be dedicating a sword at Kibitsu Hiko Jinja. Saturday is the full-armour teppotai assault, and then if we are still alive there is another sword meeting in Takamatsu, Shikoku from early on Sunday morning.
Monday evening. My back is giving me grief, but there has been no rest for the wicked, especially in this damned heat.
On Saturday 10 cars and vans packed with suspicious characters and weaponry converged on the sleepy town of Nariwa just outside Takahashi City, in the Bitchu region of the former Matsuyama Han. Although it is in the mountains, the area gets extrememly hot in the summer for some reason. Takahashi was a crossing point for river and foot traffic throughout the middle ages and the Edo Period, although the only signs of that today are in the place names, the wonderful wizardly castle on the top of the mountain and the Buke Yashiki former samurai residences in the town below. It is the people though who keep the traditions alive, and one of the big events is the Kagura dance held every seven years. They also do a children's version, with that final scene of the bloodthirsty coiled Orochi serpent being tricked and slain by the two-sworded warrior Susano-O-no-Mikoto. The word Kagura is actually written non-phonetically 神楽 which originally means "Amusement of the gods". It's a kind of pantomime from before the age of radio and television. www.kawakin.net/kagura/k9/page9.htm
On Saturday evening, 1 July 2017, the children were getting ready for their great performance. Before that as the evening was setting in, some battle-weary troops would appear and blast away with fire and smoke in the gathering dusk. The field was a single empty building lot in a narrow shopping street parallel to the main road. We were given a windowless corrugated iron garage in which to change. It was 36 degrees, terribly humid and we were running with sweat even before we had started changing. Mr O had arrived back from the dead to everyone's evident relief and great clapping and cheers, his first official appearance in more than six months, and after telling everyone off for this and that, he slowly got dressed up in a splendid outfit, yes even with a menpo!
Members who live in the immediate area were called forward to take a bow and despite the crying children, gradually the crowd warmed to us. There was much clapping for any well-executed performance, especially from local members. Mr F let fly with a great flash and sparks, and made a huge deal of leaping back with the recoil. The watchers loved it. Poor Mr K the elder has cancer so he did not do his ashigaru running around scene this time. In that heat I do not blame him. No-one noticed in all the excitement that I had forgotten to bring my Jimbaori; I managed to cleverly and deviously hide the fact throughout the whole display!
There is much more to be said, but most of it is little details. Finally it was over and we could go back to the Black Hole of Calcutta and shed our armour. I was feeling slightly sick from heat exhaustion (?) so I went and sat in the car with the air-condition running. The temperature gauge indicated 36 degrees outside in the darkness.
Since the town could not pay much, we used the whole budget they gave us for dinner at a cheap and cheerful restaurant. I finally got home around 11:00 pm after driving around town dropping off people and luggage.
On Sunday I had to go to a sword meeting in Takamatsu in Shikoku, so it was today before the guns got cleaned. Lots of hot soapy water and steam added much to the season's enjoyment! Typhoon No.3 will be coming ashore in Kyushu tomorrow.
As someone not appreciating temperatures north of the +30 mark mixed together with insanly high humidity, you have my respect for fighting to the bitter end. Can imagine that the AC in the car must have felt nice. Think of the poor bastards during the 16th century that was forced out on campaigns during the summer. Apart from getting shot in the face or being speared in the gut, there must have been a lot of fatalities originating from heatstrokes and what not. Otherwise your report contained both good and bad news. Really happy to hear that the Kaicho seems to back in old form. With time spent in the hospitals "repair-pit" I'm sure there is a lot of milage left in that body. Sad to hear about your ashigaru. He always looks to be in good sprit and full of energy. Please extend a wish for quick recovery from the International branch of the Okayama Teppo-tai!
Great update as usuall. I echo Jan. Good news that Mr O is back, restoring order in the battle lines. Let's hope your representative for the Ashigaru depatment can regain his Health.
I sometimes think of the men on the japanese battle fields back in the day. 20-25 kg armor, 40 degrees Celcius with 100% humidity. Maybe carrying a gun as well. Trying to fend off everyone trying to kill you. That was some splendid athletes.
The photos are up on the homepage and various little details become apparent once more.
Because of the dusk, it is hard to make out individual gunners, but the muzzle flashes are most impressive.
During the battle tactics meeting beforehand we were asked if we had any further questions. I could see the waiting gravel from there, so I put my hand up and asked if we would really have to kneel down on the gravel while others stepped forwards for individual displays. Me: "The plot is filled with shards of building gravel, and since there is no-one behind us whose view will be blocked, surely we can remain standing just this evening anyway?" (One one knee you can easily rip your clothing, damage your Sune-ate, and bloody your knee. If you sit, as some do, you can damage your gessan/kusazuri and sword sheath.) "No", came the reply, "the reason for kneeling is to create a contrast, not to enable people to see. So please kneel." One member, Mr T, rolled his eyes and said, "Piers asking for special dispensation again!". Well, yes, I am complaining for my own pain, but equally for everyone's. No-one says anything if I do not. How manly do we really need to be? Mr O stepped forwards out of the shadows, "Use your leather patches to kneel on, the ones you use for the gun butts in Ozutsu displays!" I tucked a black towel into my obi, for wiping sweat, and for kneeling upon when the time came. Later the word passed around quietly, "we have been allowed to sit on the foundation wall behind us!" Surprisingly only Mr D and I did eventually sit on the cinder blocks; everyone else knelt!
I suppose the moral of the story is, "Use your noodle, (think ahead), keep your mouth shut, and carry the right hardware."
General note. Kneeling or sitting on flat ground in full armour is not an easy task; the pain builds exponentially, and standing up again is an even greater struggle.
See the fifth big section down this page, with a red-and-white Jinmaku behind us. (After looking long and hard, I found only three shots which must be me, wearing a black top, generally on the left.)
Yesterday eleven of us went on a 14-hour round-trip to a newly opened museum in Hagi City, an old castle town in Yamaguchi Prefecture down near the S.W. tip of Honshu. We went in two cars, and seven drivers took turns driving in revolving 2-hour stints.
The curator of the Meirinkan Gakusha, (old Hagi Domain School) who also donated much of his own collection to make up the backbone of the display rooms, came out to greet us. Old friends. He showed us around 'his' eight rooms of artifacts/artefacts. There was everything you could imagine from the end of Edo, his area of speciality, and in the last two rooms enough guns and cannon and Bakumatsu dress to equip a ship of the line.
Sunday, and the place was fairly popular. An usher at the door insisted on speaking English with me. Before we started I asked if photos would be permitted. Mr Ogawa looked anguished but then answered firmly in the negative. Over lunch I asked if there was a booklet for sale. "Not yet", he murmured apologetically. There is a movement among museums in Japan to allow shots with a smart phone, but not with a proper camera, so I informed him of that too, in case he did not know, but gently of course. Actually I love this old guy and told him I would not take any shots. I also assured him that as soon as I got home I would advertise this place abroad for him. He looked pleased. I left a congratulatory message in the visitors' book.
Imagine my surprise after rooms of truly unique medical equipment, astronomical instruments, compasses, maps etc., to discover several things that I already own, some of which I had not appreciated the uses of.
To my greater surprise, he also had a room full of all kinds of Jingasa, a wall of Nirayama, and another wall of the black soft leather Momonari kabuto/jingasa that I had been wearing recently, perhaps 15 of them, with gold Mon on the front. I took him aside and asked what their correct name should be. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Jingasa? Boshi? We do not know. That is the problem. So much work still needs to be done in this area!"
Jan would have enjoyed the racks of Choshu guns, and his explanations for almost every article. For example, fasten your seatbelt, he pointed out that whereas most Choshu guns have chunky 8-sided muzzles, some have bulbous muzzles. Why? This question had puzzled scholars until a certain discovery was made. Yokoyama Tatsuemon Sukenobu is recorded as having gone from Bizen to Yamaguchi with his son to teach gun making. That is how and when the bulbous muzzles appeared! (Choshu were to place orders for thousands of guns from both Sakai and Bizen which had a common ancestry of gun forging.)
And those massive wigs from the battle of Aizu! Purple, black, white, he had them in a wonderful Aizu display, and more at home he assured me!
Anyway, if you are planning a historical trip to Japan, work this place in the Hagi domain into your schedule!
(Somewhere on this site not too long ago I posted a link to panoramic shots of two of the rooms.)
Question. What would you have done in the circumstances?
Well, that sounds like an amazing day out. Def a place for the viking-raid of 2018. And yes, hide your family, the vikings are coming Just love that connection between Bizen and Sakai and Choshu. It's like I've always said; the way matchlock were made with different features can be traced. But it takes time and a whole lot of work in the process. And this specific connection is quite understandable taking into account the short distance between Bizen and Choshu and with the already known fact that Sakai produced many of the matchlocks that we consider to be "Choshu-style". Very interesting little tidbit. To your question, which I guess is about being allowed to take pictures of the museums collection, the answer is easy. If you don't want to come out as a total jerk in the eyes of the curator, you follow the instructions. I love to take pictures. But if you don't plan to burn a lot of local bridges in order to satisfy your need for pictures, you should keep that phone or camera out of sight. Thats my two cent on this issue.
There is a great opening scene in Eric the Viking where a big horrid hairy Viking is about to rape a beautiful young maiden. Eric stumbles into the house and sees the drunken warrior on top of her, so in a fit of pious pity he runs his sword down, right through the grunting beast... and... the rest is history. (Anthony, take thee note!)
Tatsuemon Sukenobu, swordsmith turned gunsmith, is growing more and more famous, both here in Bizen, and also down in former Choshu Mohri lands! There is a Gassaku Hono-to sword in a shrine there, made by father and son. Several of our guns in the teppotai proudly bear his name. (In the museum yesterday there was a fully-working little cannon, on original wooden structure, which was made by Sukenobu. Interesting to see this cannon had a matchlock serpentine working through the central spine of the butt to the touch-hole, a feature I have never seen before. The iron pinch flaps reminded me strongly of the ones on my long pistol.)
That brought back a fistful of memories, Jan. Thanks for finding it. The kids were so noisy!
The evening grew gradually darker until the camera struggled to see the 100 Monme.
My first shot I thought was a misfire and it took me a while to discover that it had discharged. The Tsurube-uchi 'falling well-bucket' ripple volley went well! Then I had a real fuhatsu, but spotted the problem immediately and fired it off as soon as fuhatsu shori (clearing up misfires) took place. Notice the fast vertical smoke ring shot up from the pan of the gunner towards the right around 8:46. See the underarm sweat of the guy firing at 13:20.
For a feeling of the weight and presence of the larger guns, see Mr Fujimoto from Takahashi firing the 50 Monme close to the camera at 14:20, (and again right at the end in that truly magical slow motion summary).
A much better video than I was expecting. The heat and the sweat had given most of us an uncomfortably soggy tunnel vision.
Still, we can see what the hapless Koreans faced when Hideyoshi's troops eventually came ashore. Matchlocks and gun tactics which had developed from years of civil strife over the last thirty or forty years of the Muromachi.
Yes the kids were indeed a tad loud If I'm not mistaken it's usually only Mr K that fire his 50 monme. It's been awhile since I saw Mr Fujimoto doing a tandem-display with Mr K. Looked good. Otherwise I think it all went well despite the high temperatures. I thought Mr O sounded invigorated. And again, that headgear together with the facemask made him look somewhat intimidating
Great fun to see the Teppotai again. I agree with Jan, Mr O looks like he is back on track, always eager to reliev Mr D of the microfone. I notice more and more gold on Mr O's equipment interesting developement. I think you all did very well. The 50 monme and up seems indeed to be a struggle to handle. Great fun!!
In the 100 Monme slow-mo you can see the short match flying upwards and backwards.
You are right Anthony about the Kaicho in his upgraded outfit taking the mike from the Taicho, and for many reasons it is better when he does. Mr Nishikawa the 'new' Taicho has a small dry voice that drones on a bit, putting everyone to asleep. Mr O the Kaicho has a booming voice full of humour and he gets the crowd laughing and clapping. They both make age-related mistakes but between the two of them they have almost all bases covered.