Piers, My other pair are in far better condition being in printed cotton. I have to start putting up fencing tomorrow but I will photograph them. This pair seem to have layers and layers of cloth or wadding in them for warmth. Ian
Spent the evening getting the Kote ready for Sunday. The backing is totally gone and needs redoing. The Kusari-katabira chain mail is rusty so I have dabbed it lightly with camellia oil and wiped it off. The edging is badly frayed so I have stitched it up where I can to strengthen it. Under the stresses of lugging guns around and constant soaking in sweat, the strings and backing eventually rot and pull apart. Almost every time something gives.
For measured loads of black powder, I have created some Hayago quick-loading tubes out of small glass bottles, enough to hold a ten-gram charge in each, with luck. The corks I have attached with strings to the bottle necks. Normally we use those polyethylene 35mm film cases which are perfectly suited to the job, but do not look very authentic on the battlefield. Will these bottles look better and do a decent job? Are the necks too restrictive? Will the corks stay in place and not spill inside the Doran waist box? In an ideal world I would use bamboo tubes, but I have not yet found exactly what I am looking for. (I could use real antique ones, but they are rather rare, they are not really weather-proof, and you cannot see at a glance whether they are full or empty.)
The pistols (8 gm) and the big guns (20 gm for mine) we only fire once, so we load them before we set off to the castle. The long guns take 10 grams and we fire about five or six shots from them, reloading and firing in line, so we need to put the prepared rounds inside the Doran. Then off we go, drums beating, gongs banging and Horagai shells trumpeting our arrival.
Weather forecast for tomorrow morning in Tsuyama is sleet, then rain, then cloud.
Temp. 4 degrees at 9am, 8 degrees at 12 midday.
We go ready to expose ourselves..., but my Shigami will be gritting its teeth!
Edit (Later in the evening) The weather for tomorrow is looking worse now. Rain all day.
I used to hope in inclement weather that our display might get cancelled. I was irritated when our leader felt he needed to show that we will go out in any weather, when my expensive armour, all of our expensive guns and armour will naturally suffer. Finally I have come to understand that what I choose to wear or not to wear is my affair and I should adjust it accordingly beforehand. No-one has ever told me this; it is the bitter fruit of years of suffering! Thus, having two sets of some things, I have now put the replica sune-ate and sode in the hall ready for 6:30 am tomorrow, and the 'good' bits are staying home dry. Oh, and the Shigami/Shikami will not make its debut tomorrow. Might wear the tiger's tail instead.
The weather was bad, cold and wet, but it could have been worse. Instead of the Shigami I put the Hamaguri shell up front.
To cut a long story short, the display went exceptionally well. People fired with discipline from the very first volley (Tachi-banashi Issei... Hanate! = Standing volley 'one voice'... Fire!) and the crowd were wowed, a moment of shocked "Waaaooohhhh... and then loud clapping. So different from the one we did here last year when it was all over the shop.
Edit. The little cartridge bottles worked well. Some members had wandered over in the changing room to look at them, commenting, "Drug capsules from the UK?" (Will probably use them again next Sunday at Susai Castle.)
Hahaha... Anthony. You wouldn't believe some of it even if I told you, so I have spent most of the day today trawling the web for photographic evidence of the incident. In the meantime the guns are still in the hall waiting to be cleaned!
To reach our base camp we had to climb 74 large stone steps in full armour carrying two matchlocks, sword etc. . As we stood on the giant castle steps further up, getting ready to fire over the heads of the crowd, a cold blast of air swooped in and we could see our breath. At the same moment it started spitting with rain/snow mix; spots of rain were getting into the pan as I poured in the priming powder, and I had to hide the glowing match under my hand, but somehow the crowd stuck with us and the display went really well.
*The 'incident' was with a long-legged blond blue-eyed Russian girl/woman/young lady. I was sitting waiting for us to be called into line to start the display when I heard the Taicho calling my name. I staggered to my feet, straightened the armour and turned around to see him needing translation. Standing there massive in full regalia and looking embarrassed he asked me what she was saying. (We often get asked how much the armour weighs, or would it be possible to hold the gun.)
"Do you speak English?" I asked, to which she replied immediately "yes" and asked me where I was from. "England", I said, asking her country in return. "Russia", she replied. In her early twenties, perhaps, she seemed to be part of a group of ladies of various ages, all carrying cameras. "Can you tell him I want him to hold me?", she said.
"Sorry, you want him to hold you?" I asked, puzzled. "Yes" she said. "Samurai are supposed to be strong. I need someone to carry me."
Well, I turned to where our mob were gathered by the tents, mostly the older members sitting and standing there, and shouted in Japanese, "Hey, does anyone feel strong? HELLO!?! Any strong volunteers?" They all looked the other way as if they hadn't heard me. Our Taicho (commander) was still looking embarrassed, with an appealing look in his eyes.
(Samurai should be strong, but they should also be humble, loyal to their lord, strong in purpose and pure of heart, I find myself thinking in reflection.)
To resolve the situation I handed my gun to the Taicho, motioned her close and tried to pass my hand around her waist. My Kote kept getting caught on something so it would not go round. She was wearing a backpack, but I pushed and managed to worm my hand through, and getting a good grip with both arms, and splaying my feet out firmly, I heaved her up. I expected she would hold me around the neck to help take some weight, but she leaned backwards, feet out straight, like a large fish. Her group started taking photographs, one after another. Others joined in. "One more!" "One more please!" "Just one more..." The seconds ticked by and I thought my boilers were going to burst. Suddenly I could not hold her for a moment longer and saying "No, sorry!" I put her down.
She half smiled at me, so I said to her, "You know, I am sixty-six years old." "Oh, I thought you were in your thirties", she said, and turned to her friends to tell them I was 66. In Russian sixty-six sounds similar to English.
"Are you going to watch us?" I asked. "You will see how strong samurai are, as they lift up and fire some big guns!" "Yes, we will be watching", she said.
One of the older ladies in the group, her mother, her aunt perhaps, stepped forwards and softly held my hands in hers. She said nothing, but looked at me with kindly eyes.
Just then we were called into line, so lighting our matches we started forwards toward the steps. I glanced over to see the older lady watching me. I bowed towards her, and that was the last I saw of them.
Having converted some corked brown bottles into Hayago a couple of weeks ago, (see 13 posts above, April 5th) I ran across these glass tubes at an antiques fair on Saturday. (See below)
Apparently they were used for keeping coloured/color dye powders for cloth dyeing about 50 or 60 years ago. These are much closer in size and shape to real old Hayago, but despite the obvious disadvantage of glass being breakable, they have the advantage of being clear.
This is good for two reasons.
1. I can see at a glance which ones are full, and which are empty.
2. Five of our members are usually asked to step forward and do a step-by-step demonstration close to the gallery for the public to watch exactly how we load and fire. Rather than showing them opaque plastic film cases, these glass tubes will be excellent for showing ten grams of black powder being poured into the muzzle.
*Just a question of cutting strips of leather, finding the right cord and some glue, and drilling holes through the corks.
Real Hayago (for comparison) (Hayago = quick-loading tube)
Various powder charges shown, up to the red 10 Monme tube which would probably hold quite enough black powder to fire even the larger O-zutsu.
Various materials were used as you can see in the photo. Wood, lacquered paper, bone, bamboo, ivory, horn, etc., whatever would do the trick. Many of these have a rimmed hole in the bottom with a ball fitted, back through which hole you pushed the Karuka, resulting in powder and ball entering in correct order into the muzzle, if you were clever. I cannot imagine how they would have used a patch in that case though. Perhaps patches were not used, although come to think of it I have seen ball pre-wrapped in squares of thin glued-on paper.
The orange Hayago cord has a decorative tassel that goes down your back. From the front hangs the little primer flask.
* In the top left I have put one of the new glass Hayago for comparison.
Here´s a detailed shot of a type of Hayago from mine and Anthonys collections. From Piers description I guess these are made for the 10 monme powder charge. They are made, from what I guess, paper lacquered in a beautiful red color. Simple yet functional.
Well done on getting a set. Single they are rare enough, but in sets very hard to find. I guess most of them perished or were thrown out when they lost their usefulness. I have a dealer friend who has some beautiful ones, but they are very expensive.
Today I found some time to visit an antiques warehouse and rummage through their stuff. At first I thought I might be going back empty-handed, but then I discovered a small Horagai on a back shelf. The shell itself looked old and so did the brass mouthpiece, so I tried it out and it made a pretty good sound. The owner is away in China but we took a photo of it and sent it off for a price quote. He suggested a 'furendury puraisu'. I bought it and brought it home. There was no net with it, so with a 6m length of cotton rope I wound it and bound it to give it some protection. Our Teppotai Tai-Cho likes deep reverberations, meaning we all have to carry large shells. He laughs at the silly toots of small Horagai. Size definitely matters to him.
On the other hand, I am fed up with carrying so much clobber each time. You need three hands at least! Recently I have been leaving the large Horagai at home. It constantly drops onto the ground or bangs against things, chipping and threatening to crack irretrievably, adding weight and worry to the outfit.
The long and the short of it is that tomorrow this little one will accompany me to Shinjo Village in the bitter north where the sakura are still going! The weather forecast keeps changing, but the originally-forecast rain may hold off for clouds. I will wear my full Hitatare underclothing top and bottom for warmth under the armour/armor.
Up at 4:30 for a 5:00 departure. Collect one other member, and arrive for the main gathering and proper start at 5:30 am. The journey will take about three hours. Shinjo-Son, here we come!
Took exactly twelve hours there and back. Arrived at the main dispersal point at 5:30pm. (home by 6:15)
Proudly I showed them all the new Horagai in the people carrier. "That's not a Horagai, it's a Heragai!" said the Taicho, to roars of laughter. Hera means 'flat' like a spatula. Secretly though, I could tell they liked it.
From the lower end of the village it looks like a sort of Shangri-La.
The 'Gaisen' Sakura trees lining the streets, (not shown in this shot) were planted to celebrate Japan's stunning naval victory over Russia in the Tsushima Strait in 1905. Gaisen is the same word for victory they use to describe L'Arc de Triomphe in Paris, ie Gaisen Mon or Victory Arch. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Japanese_War#Battle_of_Tsushima
We fired in line standing on the bridge, which you can just see way up the river in the distance.
Occasionally we have national gatherings of various Teppo-tai, in Japan or abroad.
There will be a big one in Ashikita, Kyushu, at the end of September where some 150 'Shashu' gunners may line up on the beach and fire towards the Ariake Sea. (Ashikita is in Kumamoto Prefecture, which used to be called Higo. My trusty army gun is a signed and dated Higo gun.) I think Nihonto Ian knows Ashikita better than anyone!
Couple of pics from the Teppo Summit in Hikone some three or four years ago. Blustery and cold March day it was.
Right, Children's Day (Boys' Day, Tango no Sekku) on 5 May, next Monday. 大型連休 Ohgata Renkyu (The big joined-up holiday, Golden Week) started today.
Need to drag all the equipment out again, check it over and get it ready for the 古武道際 Kobudo-sai, Old Martial Arts Festival at Achi Jinja on top of the hill in Kurashiki. The Jinja is a lovely place to visit at any time of year if you've never been, just a short climb up a flight or two, (or three) of stone steps. There is a Sumo ring, various wooden buildings with cool breezes and lovely views, and a huge famous ancient 藤 Fuji climbing Wisteria which should be in flower now. Anyone who is in Kurashiki on Monday might enjoy the martial arts there, if the weather would just hold up.