LOL yes. Out of about 10 applicants, they had to choose the new Lord Hideie and and Lady Ukita for the next year.
This time we cross the Inland Sea to Miyoshi in Shikoku, former lands of the Chosokabe Clan. (need to hide the Hosokawa Kamon on the top of the gun barrel as they don't like them around there. A band aid?)
Prepared and packed the guns yesterday and because we are expecting rain I rather reluctantly oiled the very rusty kusari katabira on my Muromachi kote. Today I am sorting armour, helmet and accessories, ready for tomorrow's 4:20 am start. I have a small round mirror Maedate with the Hachisuka Manji swastika on it which could offset any ill feeling.
We were lucky with the weather again. They often make jokes about having a "Hare-otoko" or "Hare-onna" in our ranks, someone whose very presence makes the sun shine as we usually seem to dodge the rain. This time it started spotting right after the demo had finished.
By Sunday evening it was lashing down, so when I finally got home about 7 pm I left everything in the car for the night. On Monday it was better weather so despite my creaking limbs and sinews, the sweaty Hita-tare underwear got washed and hung out to dry, and the armour and kabuto got stacked in the hall to let the air through. I cleaned the guns, but not too thoroughly as we have another big display this weekend during the famous Daimyo Gyoretsu in Yakage.
If anyone has a chance to visit Yakage, the vast Yakage Honjin Inn is preserved exactly as it was in Edo times, to put up the Daimyo trains passing through on the Sankin Kotai. "Shita-ni!" "Shita-ni!" (Get down on your hands and knees. Look/Get down! Look/Get down!) Well worth a look inside.
Right, getting slightly out of step, but now we are approaching our last large event of the year this Sunday, the Yakage Daimyo Gyoretsu, and the forecast is more rain! One morning and one afternoon live firing. At this event last year we managed only one out of the two demonstrations as the rain was just too much. It was pretty miserable just doing the one even. The video is up somewhere, the spectators all holding umbrellas. Got all the gear ready today, but I am wondering whether I should announce on Sunday "Oops, I forgot the 20 Monme..." Nicely lacquered, it really should not be laid out on a rainy pavement waiting for its turn, even semi-protected under a wet tarpaulin.
The coolest thing for me about Yakage personally is that there is a shot of our lot on one of the Omiyage sweet things boxes they sell here to the public. I was wearing the black Iyo Renzan katchu set. That's when you know you are part of life in Japan, when you are featured on a bento box.
The quick update is that we got soaked yesterday. The morning line firing went well and the crowds loved it. From there on everything went pear-shaped.
The threatened rain moved in and piles of equipment were covered in plastic sheeting. We all sheltered for an hour under a tree waiting for the afternoon show. In the background the speaker shouted incessantly "Shita ni, Shita ni!" as the Daimyo procession snaked its way through the town. The speakers fell silent and we were all lined up ready to go, matches burning hopefully.
Then after twenty more minutes and a series of mixed messages we were told to stand down again, the refrain "Shita ni" having restarted. It had been a break for the retinue to rest. We extinguished our matches and covered them up as the rain was getting stronger.
Finally the word came to proceed into position, so after drums and gongs we inserted our sashimono, took up our Horagai Tritons and blew massive blasts as we marched to the firing line. Now the real massacre started. Misfire after misfire as we struggled to keep our powder and match dry, the fine powder that you pour into the supposedly dry pan and vent hole. Water dripped off our mabisashi straight into the pan. Burning match cord ends, blown away, swiped the puddles below, rendering them useless. They pulled the sheets off the waiting big guns, which became soaked. The early crowds started to drift away as even their umbrellas were not keeping them dry. Still some stayed, perhaps interested to see how early armies could have coped with battle on a rainy day. I had cut my thumb earlier doing some running repairs on the long gun, so my hands were dark brown with blood, oil, and wet gunpowder. When I fired the soaking wet big 20 Monme, it slipped and spun like a large eel in my hands under the recoil, but I just managed to catch it in my arms. Caught on someone's blog here: bellbell13.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-21.html Why did they not cancel this, everyone was surely thinking? Perhaps it was the heavy Police presence, watching to see if we were properly using up our allotment of blackpowder? (None must be left over.)
Interesting though to see how inventive you can be in adversity, necessity being the mother of invention. I kept the tip of the burning cord under my left hand as much as possible and blew on it at every chance, the other hand over the firing mechanism to stop the rain working in around the lid. When we had to lay the guns on the ground I placed my Horagai shell to cover the lock and pan. When the order was given to open pans, I disobeyed orders and kept mine shut for ten reports until two blasts away signalled my turn coming up. In this way I was one of the few still able to avoid bad misfires.
So the question on everyone's lips must be, did we win or did we lose the battle? I guess we beat the rain by showing that we still had some firepower at the end. Most of us had chosen to wear less valuable armour so getting soaked was less of a defeat than it might have been. (I will put up some pictures of some of the members' Katchu if you like.) So, a Pyrrhic victory?
My armour, battle flag and guns are now placed strategically around the house drying out today, and my wife has not yet complained. Must clean the Teppo now, a good final clean before the winter.
Be not Defeated by the Rain Written by Kenji Miyazawa (Translated by David Sulz)
Be not defeated by the rain, Nor let the wind prove your better. Succumb not to the snows of winter. Nor be bested by the heat of summer.
Be strong in body. Unfettered by desire. Not enticed to anger. Cultivate a quiet joy. Count yourself last in everything. Put others before you. Watch well and listen closely. Hold the learned lessons dear.
A thatch-roof house, in a meadow, nestled in a pine grove's shade.
A handful of rice, some miso, and a few vegetables to suffice for the day.
If, to the East, a child lies sick: Go forth and nurse him to health. If, to the West, an old lady stands exhausted: Go forth, and relieve her of burden. If, to the South, a man lies dying: Go forth with words of courage to dispel his fear. If, to the North, an argument or fight ensues: Go forth and beg them stop such a waste of effort and of spirit.
In times of drought, shed tears of sympathy. In summers cold, walk in concern and empathy.
Stand aloof of the unknowing masses: Better dismissed as useless than flattered as a "Great Man".
This is my goal, the person I strive to become.
Background to Ame ni mo makezu
After Miyazawa Kenji's death, a single, black notebook was found in a pocket in the lid of his favourite trunk. This is the famous "Ame ni mo makezu" notebook. The poem is written in midst of his repetitious copying of "namu myoho renge kyo"(*) which shows his earnest nature and his reflections on letting go of the desire for pleasure.
The 11-3 at the beginning of the poem refers to the date, November 3rd, Showa 6 (1931). At that time, Kenji was lying sick in bed but his handwriting is not what one would expect from a sick person; it is big, bold, and there are nine pages written on both the back and front.
When this "Ame ni mo makezu" was written, we can assume that Kenji probably had a hunch that he was going to die. With such thoughts lingering in his mind, his earnest wish in the last line - "the person I strive to become" - can only strike at our hearts with a deep resonance. In his later years, he formed the "Rasu Farmers' Association" in order to live in closer harmony with the agriculturists he so admired. In Showa 11 (1936) a stone monument was erected with the opening line - "In the shade of pine-tree grove in the middle of a field …" Even now, many people visit this site. (The Miyazawa Kenji Memorial Society Foundation)
Whenever we are made to do these displays in the rain or snow or mind-numbing heat, the only reason I can think of is something in the Japanese psyche, expressed rather well in the poem above by Miyazawa Kenji.
The 70-year-old author of the blog who took the shot of me busting my Do and trying to keep a handhold on the 20 Monme, wrote this under the photograph: 雨で中止になるかな と心配して出かけました 駐車場が満車なので中止はなし 備州岡山城鉄砲隊が待機中 大名行列が本陣に到着すると開始 雨が強くなったり小雨になったり 指揮官が火薬がしめるのでうまくいかなのは雨のせいと予防線 行列が到着して演武が始まりました すごい爆音 連写のシャッターが１回しか押せません 大きな鉄砲では耳がおかしくなってしまいました やはり火薬が湿るのでしょう発砲できない鉄砲が次々と それでも最後まで演武をしてくれました 鉄砲隊のみなさん雨の中 ありがとうございました
Roughly translated (by me) it says: "I was worried it would be cancelled because of the rain but I set out and discovered that the car park was full and it hadn't been cancelled. Bishu Okayama Castle Teppo-tai were ready and waiting. As the Daimyo Parade arrived at the Honjin Inn, the display started with the rain alternating, one minute heavy and the next light. Their leader warned in advance that the rain was making the gunpowder damp and things might not go well. What an incredible noise, though! I can only push the shutter one shot at a time. These big guns were affecting my hearing. The gunpowder must really have been damp as gun after gun failed to go off. Even so, they performed the demonstration for us right to the end. To the members of the teppo-tai, in that rain, thank you so much!"
*Now I do not know this man from Adam, but his words somehow give me cheer.
We are at the last event of the year, the Kobudosai. Six gunners this year in Dogi, filling the Budokan with flames and smoke and thunderous roars. The Prefectural Governor has arrived late and is giving a pep speech about the importance of Martial Arts to young Japanese people. Pics to follow...
In the Dojo on Sunday 17 November 2013. They got the Nobori wrong. We are Bishu Okayama 備州 with the Bi of Bizen, not the Bi 尾 of Owari that they are using there.
The flag says Bishu Inatomi Ryu Hojutsu, Inatomi School of Gunnery (although we are more strictly speaking Fujioka Ryu, an off-shoot of Inatomi). Inatomi Ichimusai was the founder of this style; he was Tokugawa Ieyasu's gunnery instructor.
Uwe, a good question and one that would take too long to answer fully here.
The quick answer is that everyone is deaf and almost blind.
Many but not all of the guns have a little brass (sometimes iron) upright panel behind the pan, a sort of flash reflector, called a Kemuri-gaeshi or "smoke returner". I remember firing a borrowed regular army gun in the beginning days, Okashi-deppo, lent out to me by the Tai-Cho. No Kemuri-gaeshi. We were standing in the plaza outside Marugame Station in Shikoku. I kept getting stinging sparks on my face.
Actually I suspect that most practitioners of the art momentarily/involuntarily close their eyes when they fire.
Recently the Teppotai-Cho has been advising those shooting the bigger guns to twist the gun, ie turn the lock mechanism slightly away from your face as you fire, especially when cradled in your arms as with a Kakae-O-zutsu. There have been a few accidents around the country. Sssshhhh........
Perhaps there should be a separate thread on accidents, hopefully to serve as preparatory reading for anyone hoping to fire one of these for the first time...
For example, one former gunner forgot to replace the Bisen breechplug screw back in after finishing swabbing and cleaning the barrel. He put the barrel back into the stock, wiped everything off and placed the gun in its carrying case. Easily done.
When the order to fire a broadside was given, he pulled the trigger and a volley of burning blackpowder cinders buried itself in and around his right eye. His eye was bloodshot for many months but luckily his eyesight was saved. He still carries some deep blue freckles in his cheek under his right eye, "some kind of tattoo?" people ask.
Did you know that the members of the teppotai are not encouraged to wear menpo/hanbo, etc.? The reason for this is that you cannot get your cheek onto the butt when you want to take aim and line up the sights.
There was, however, a special type of hanbo with a quarter section missing, made up in leather, in the right side, especially for armoured Shashu 射手 (shooters). (Imagine the patch of leather on the inner calf of a Suneate. A bit like that.)
During the winter most activity was at zero. People mended their armor/armour, swapped bits, got slowly ready for the new season. There was a gathering in mid-March to announce the approaching campaigns. A newly-woven type of Hinawa cord was handed out, said to be better than the cord we have been using hitherto. We have been given the general call-up to go and defend the giant steps to Tsuyama Castle's Tenshukaku on 6 April under the cherry blossoms.
On a personal note, I have started inspecting the equipment to make sure it is all ready and reliable. The armour and helmets need to be set out and aired, the guns cleaned, and the under clothing has to be laundered and sun-dried. I have been swinging the guns around as dumbbells to get some strength back into the arms, and doing squats for more muscle in the lower limbs.
Note to self: make some hayago with stoppers for individual blackpowder loads of 8g, 10g, 20grams etc. (Better than those film cases we normally get handed!)
People say that the first signs of spring is birds singing in the tree or the flowers of the cherrytree. Naaa, it's when Piers teppo-tai thread is coming to life. Ahh spring is in the air I'm so happy!!! Keep em coming, Piers!
Piers, I recently bought an armour and in the box was a pair of 'Tutsu bakama' for wearing with it. They are really scruffy and discoloured, but of brocade over a rather thick layer of padding - obviously winter wear. I have another cotton pair which are much more sanitary. I will photograph them since you don't see them often. Ian B