Ledia Runnels' "Mysterious Orient"

Year of the Water Dragon!

So, you want to be a ninja? March 19, 2011


Page from volume 6 of the 15-volume Hokusai Ma...

Page from Volume 6 of 15 Volumes: Hokusai Manga

Have you ever wanted to be a ninja, a covert agent or mercenary of feudal Japan? If so, you would specialize in many unorthodox practices in the arts of war. Your functions would include espionage, sabotage, infiltration and assassination. Still think you are up for the job?

The abilities to be sneaky and deadly quick are your trademarks. You would travel in disguise as the front-line person who goes to check out and judge the enemy’s situation. If you are good at worming your way into other people’s confidence, then you might dress up like one of the enemy and walk among them gathering information. Just don’t get caught. Being hoodwinked is something most people frown upon.

You might be asked to set fire to the enemy’s castle. If you are a secret pyromaniac, this is a good job for you. Another job description besides spy (kanchō), scout (teisatsu), and surprise attacker (kishu), is that of agitator (konran). If you are good at causing a ruckus or a flat-out riot, this could be the job for you.

You will become part of a long and popular sect that has captured the imagination of Japan and the world. Your predecessors figure prominently into Japanese Folklore and legend, though sometimes it is difficult to separate historical fact from myth. Your legendary abilities include that of invisibility, walking on water, shape-shifting or the ability to split into multiple bodies. You should be able to summon animals or transform into them including birds and be able to control natural elements such as earth, wood, metal, fire and water.

Your origins are obscure and difficult to determine. One idea seems to rise above the rest; your predecessors appear to have come into existence in the Heian period, in the early days of Japan, from 794 to 1185, when the capital city was located in Kamakura. Unfortunately, there are few written records to check out these sketchy details. During the unrest of the Sengoku period, that took place from the 15th to the 17th centuries, mercenaries and spies were hired from the Iga and Koga clans.

A good book to get your hands on is the Bansenshukai manual. It was written in 1676 and details Chinese military philosophy as well as the techniques for espionage, the type that formed the basis for the art of ninjutsu. You should definitely study the The Art of War (Sunzi Bingfa), by Sun Tzu. It has invaluable information that you will be required to know. I’m pretty sure, there will be a test or two…

File:Yamato Takeru at 16-crop.jpg

Yamato Takeru dressed as a maidservant, preparing to kill the Kumaso leaders. Woodblock print on paper. Yoshitoshi, 1886.

Your family or clan is organized into larger guilds, each with their own assigned territories. There are also ranks involved. You can aspire to be a jōnin, the “upper man or woman”. It is the twenty-first century after all. This is the highest rank representing the group. If you like to boss people around, or have a “Mommie (or Daddy) Dearest” type of yearning, and if you want to be the person that others come to for hiring out the other members of your guild as mercenaries, then this job could be perfect for you.

The chūnin is the “middle man or woman” and is the assistant to the jōnin. At the bottom of the food chain is the genin or “lower man or woman”. If you don’t want to lead and instead want to be in the thick of it, this is definitely the job for you. You get to carry out the actual missions, which is way more fun, than bossy people around, don’t you think?

You will live in a secluded, remote mountain village, in the provinces of Iga or modern-day Mie Prefecture or Koga, which is now called Shiga Prefecture. This is where all your training takes place. It is the perfect place due to its remote location and inaccessibility of the surrounding mountains.

Also, the skills of ninjutsu require the aid of magic know as an onmyodo (see prior post) to calculate when it is the best times to carry out your covert operations.

File:Bansenshukai-v8-diagram.jpgThis is a diagram from the Bansenshukai, using divination and onmyodo.

Though I must warn you, it may be difficult to join if you were not born into this profession. Tradition is very important and is usually kept in and passed down through the clans. Most ninja are trained from childhood. It is important to learn martial art disciplines, survival and scouting techniques, information regarding poisons and explosives at a very young age. Scary, no?

Physical training that involves long distance runs, climbing, stealth methods of walking and even swimming are also taught to the very young. You must also learn how to blend into the woodwork by studying common professions so that you will be believable when you go incognito as a spy. You may even be asked to have medical training so that you can stitch up a wound right on the spot. You should know how to administer “Black Medicine” that will stop bleeding.

I won’t kid you, there is a lot to learn, so if you are a late starter, better crack the books and polish up your throwing stars. The jōnin will expect a lot right out of the gate.

To help you in your quest, I have included a list of tactics you will need to know (learn):

Hitsuke – the art of distracting the guards by starting a fire away from your planned point of entry. This is a “fire technique” known as (katon-no-jutsu).

Tanuki-gakure is the ability to climb a tree and blend in with the foliage. It is a ”wood technique” known as (mokuton-no-jutsu).

Ukigusa-gakure involves throwing duckweed over water in order to conceal underwater movements of your fellow ninja. It is a “water technique” knowns as (suiton-no-jutsu).

Uzura-gakure involves curling into a ball and remaining motionless so that you appear like a stone. This is an ”earth technique” known as (doton-no-jutsu).

Starting fires in order to cover a ninja’s trail falls into another katon-no-jutsu “fire technique”.

Now this is the fun part, you get to dress up in costumes or disguises. Any of you who like going to those crazy anime conventions or whose favorite holiday is Halloween will certainly appreciate the entertaining aspect of this.

File:Komuso Buddhist monk beggar Kita-kamakura.jpg

Here is a photograph of a komuso monk. It is just one of the many possible disguises you get to put on.

You can also dress up as a Shinto priest, or an entertainer, such as Kabuk andNoh. You can pretend to be a fortune-teller, a merchant, a ronin, you know, a samurai without a master, and a Buddhist monk. You can even be a regular “Jin” or person who goes to gather firewood. Now, how difficult is that.One of my favorite disguises is that of the mountain ascetic or (yamabushi), translated as mountain warrior, which would allow you to travel freely between political boundaries. While wearing the loose robes of Buddhist priest you could carry concealed weapons, such as a cool tanto blade. If you should decide that you want to take on the disguise of a minstrel or sarugaku, this would allow you to spy in enemy’s buildings without arousing suspicion. Disguises such as a Komuso, or a mendicant monk, who are known to play the shakuhachi, bamboo flute, are really fun. Just make sure you really can play a flute. Discordant music is not a good way to blend. That is for sure. The good news is, you get to wear one of those large “basket” hats that will conceal your entire head!

Listen to
Sound of Shakuhachi
John Kaizan Neptune
plays
Tsuru no Sugomori9
(The Nesting of Cranes)

If you are one of those that likes to go in under the wire, so to speak, you would  probably wear one of these.

File:Ninja Armour.jpg

A suit of armor purportedly worn by ninjas

Sorry, but the black garb is part of the “legend” or “myth” aspect we were talking about earlier. But I think if you bring it up at the monthly meetings, the guild may concur and agree that this could become a new tradition. After all, black does blend in well with the black of night. Wouldn’t you agree? And all those anime and live action movies already have the costume down pat, so you could just copy them. The guild might even make you a jōnin because of your innovative ideas. From what I can gather though, it is much more common to be disguised as a civilian, than to dress in the typical nijutsu armor.

One thing you would definitely need to acquire and bring everywhere with you is a tenugui, which is simply a piece of cloth, in black, I would think. White or red is much too noticeable. It is used to cover your face, form a belt, or even assist in climbing.

Now for the tools you will need to purchase or make yourself if that is your talent. Here is a list, ready? A belt to carry all your stuff in such as ropes, grappling hooks, a collapsible ladder, with spikes at both ends, used to anchor the ladder, spiked or hooked climbing gear, worn on the hands and feet, that can also double as weapons, chisels, hammers, drills and picks.

Better get a really large belt. This is a lot of stuff!

Also, do not forget a kunai, which is a heavy pointed tool, much like a masonry trowel. This is for gouging holes in walls in order to get a foothold or to create a passage of entry. It can also serve as a weapon if necessary. You can use a knife or a small saw such as a hamagari for the same thing, but I say, why carry more things than are necessary? A portable listening device such as a saoto hikigane is also very useful if you should ever need to eavesdrop on important conversations.

A pair of mizugumo which are a set of wooden shoes that supposedly allow a the ninja to walk on water, are important gear as well if you think that you might need to cross a large pond or lake very quickly and don’t have access to a boat. The secret is that they can distribute your weight over the shoes’ wide bottom surface.

The word mizugumo comes from the Japanese water spider or argyroneta aquatica japonica. A set of inflatable skins and breathing tubes are also handy devices that allow you to stay underwater for prolonged periods of time.

You may have to pick and choose which of these handy devices you want to take along with you on any given mission. The goal is to not to be overburdened. Remember, it is of the utmost importance to move quickly and in silence. If you have too much stuff jangling around… well you get my drift.

Now, your weapon of choice, of course, is the katana blade. Isn’t it everyone’s? And all those samurai can’t be wrong! Still, if you can find room, it is good to carry a shorter sword or dagger also, most probably in back of your very heavy belt.

The katana has several uses beyond normal combat. In dark places, the scabbard can be extended out of the sword and used to probe the area. The sword can also be laid against the wall as a means to gain a foothold by standing on the guard or tsuba. You could stun your enemies before attacking them, by putting a combination of red pepper, dirt or dust and iron filings into the scabbard, so that as the sword is drawn the concoction will fly into the enemy’s eyes, stunning them until a lethal blow can be made. How cool is that! Just make sure the wind is not blowing in your direction.

File:Kusarigama-crop.jpg

A pair of kusarigama

Also, try to find room for an array of darts, spikes, knives, and sharp, star-shaped discs known as shuriken. A bow with arrows is always good for sharpshooting as well as a sickle or kusarigama that has, from what I am told, proved very useful. It consists of a weight on one end of a chain, and a sickle or kama on the other. The weight is used to injure or disable an opponent while the sickle part can kill at close range. Simple gardening tools such as a kunai or sickle can also be used. But they are not nearly as cool. It’s just an opinion.

Explosives such as hand-held bombs and grenades are also good to have in your mini arsenal. Soft-cased bombs that release smoke or poison gas, along with fragmentation explosives packed with iron or broken shards of pottery used as shrapnel are also good to have on hand..

Other assorted weapons include: poison, caltrops, (made of two or more sharp nails or spines arranged so that one of them always points upward from a stable base). Also good are land mines, blow guns, with poisoned darts, acid-spurting tubes, and firearms. The happō is a small eggshell filled with blinding powder or metsubushi and is useful if a quick escape is needed.

File:Actor-as-nikki-danjo-kunisada-1857.jpg

Actor portraying Nikki Danjō, a villain from the kabuki play Sendai Hagi. Shown with hands in a kuji-in seal, which allows him to transform into a giant rat. Woodblock print on paper.Kunisada, 1857.

File:Kumawakamaru by kuniyoshi - 24 paragons of filial piety.jpgKumawakamaru escapes his pursuers by swinging across the moat on a bamboo.[105] Woodblock print on paper. Kuniyoshi, 1842-1843.

File:Jiraiya - kuniyoshi - japanese heroes for the twelve signs.jpgJiraiya battles a giant snake with the help of his summonedtoad. Woodblock print on paper.Kuniyoshi, c. 1843.

REFERENCES (or where to learn more about the subject…)

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Ninja http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninja

Tai Hei Shakuhachi Japanese Bamboo Flutes

 

http://www.shakuhachi.com/home.html

(My favorite ninja movie.) “Ninja Assassin” A young ninja turns his back on the orphanage that raised him, leading to a confrontation with a fellow ninja from the clan. Starring: the handsome and very sexy “Rain” as the hero, Raizo.

TRAILER found at http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2358117401/

 

Onmyōdō: Ancient Magic in Japan (Film, Manga, Anime, Novels and Games) March 13, 2011


Fudo-Rieki-Engi (不動利益縁起)

Image via Wikipedia

The magic and mystery of onmyōdō and the onmyōji, who practice the ancient art, are an esoteric combination of Wu XingYin and Yang, Taoism, Buddhism and Shintoism. It came to Japan in the fifth and sixth centuries.

In the popular culture of film, manga, anime novels and video games, there are a host of these magicians and soothsayers, tweaked with extraordinary, supernatural power.

The anime, Ghost  Hunt presents the character, Lin Koujo, an onmyōji, who can exorcise or summons spirits and control shikigami–spirits similar to a witch’s familiar.

In the live-action film and manga, Onmyōji,the fictitious account of the famous, real-life magician, Abe no Seimei, is based on the novel series of the same name.

In the manga, Tokyo Babylon and XSubaru Sumeragi, an onmyōji and his sidekick, the assassin, Seishirō Sakurazuka, eradicate curses and vengeful spirits, evil shadow creatures in modern-day Japan.

In the manga series, Shaman King and the novel, Chō Senji RyakketsuYoh Asakura is an onmyōji and a medium who can communicate between the world of the living and the world of the dead, who spends much of his time hanging out in graveyards. His goal is to hone his skills onmyōdō and win the title of Shaman King.

In the video game and anime, Harukanaru Toki no Naka de, Abe no Yasuaki is a dedicated disciple of Abe no Seimei, the famous onmyōji.

The manga and anime seriesNegima!: Magister Negi Magi, involves a secret cult of onmyōji.

In the award-winning anime series, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, childhood friends Arumi and Sasshi find themselves pulled into another dimension where they learn onmyōdō from the famous wizard, Abe no Seimei.

The novel, Teito Monogatari by Hiroshi Aramata, has an evil onmyōji namedYasunori Kato, who is brought back from the realm of angry and resentful souls of dead mystics. His power surpasses even that of Abe no Seimei.

The anime and manga, Onmyō Taisenki delves into I Ching and Taoism for its magical resources.

The manga seriesAsk Dr. Rin! features a powerful onmyōji named, Takashi Tokiwa who is infatuated with Meilin Kanzaki, a young girl, endowed with Feng shui powers, who can read people’s fortunes and advise them concerning the best way to ensure good luck.

The Playstation fighting game, Evil Zone features an onmyoji named Keiya Tenpouin, “The Man in the Shadow” whose main goal is to kill and claim the power of Ihadulca, who can exist in multiple dimensions at the same time.

The novel, Shōnen Onmyōji is set in the Heian era of historical Japan and portrays the life of  Abe no Masahiro, the youngest grandson of the famous onmyoji, Abe no Seimei, whose greatest desire is to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. .

In the manga and anime series, Steel Angel Kurumi, (an artificial humanoid with superhuman physical abilities) the main protagonist, Nakahito Kagura belongs to a family of onmyoji mystics.

The PlayStation game Final Fantasy Tactics includes a “Job” entitled, Onmyoji, which is translated in the English as “Oracle.” The practicing onmyoji has “Yin-Yang Magic” that can inflict blindness, paralysis or sleep on their opponents.

In the card game, Magic: The Gathering, one of the cards is entitled: Goryo’s Vengeance. The card type is arcane which includes spells represented spells by spirits or kami (Japanese word for spirits and natural forces, used in the Shinto faith).

In the anime, “Tsukuyomi’s Moon Phase,” Hazuki and his mother have the ability to summon a shikigami spirit.

In the horror, survival game, Kuon, the main characters are onmyoji. Most of the magic seals and puzzles are based on onmyõdõ.

References:

Onmyōdō

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onmy%C5%8Dd%C5%8D

Wu Xing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Xing

Yin and yang

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang

Taoism in Japan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism_in_Japan

Shinto

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shintoism

Buddhism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism

Abe no Seimei http://en.whikipedia.org/wiki/Abe_no_Seimei

Thirty-six Ghost by Yoshitoshi

http://web.inter.nl.net/hcc/rekius/36ghosts.htm

Magic: The Gathering:  Goyo’s Vengence http://mtg.wikia.com/wiki/Goryo’s_Vengeance

 

A Saga of Seduction in Japan: Tale of Genji (The first novel ever written) March 10, 2011


Ilustration of the Genji Monogatari, ch.5–Waka...

Image via Wikipedia

Many things can be said of Murasaki Shikibu’s fictional account of the Heian aristocracy, set in eleventh century Japan. Yet the true heartbeat of The Tale of Genji, is the recurring rhythm of artful seduction that pulsates through Hikaru Genji, i.e. the shining genji, the novel’s main protagonist.

It is thought that Genji’s character is most likely based on the real-life man, His Excellency, the Grand Counsellor, Fujiwara no Korechika. Korechika is described in The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon as a man of incredible charm with a hypnotic effect on women. Shonagon goes on to describe Korechika as arriving at court “wearing a rather soft and supple cloak in the cherry-blossom combination, over deep violet gathered trousers of heavy brocade and white under-robes.” He arranges “the sleeves of his wonderfully glowing deep scarlet-purple damask cloak for (optimal) display” (17).

The fictitious version of Korechika starts life as the son of the emperor. In The Tale of Genji: A Reader’s Guide, Genji or as he is sometimes called, Lord Hikaru is describes as a beautiful son, who is so magnificent that he is a possible rival to the title of the crown prince. Robert Greene in The Art of Seduction refers to Genji as one who never lost certain childlike charms from his personality, an attribute that others find irresistibly alluring.

The first to fall under the Shining Genji’s spell is none other than the emperor of Japan, Genji’s own father:

“The emperor’s thoughts were on his youngest son even when he was with his eldest… (The emperor) made constant inquiry after (Genji)” (7).

Though Genji is described as having “the face of one who should ascend to the highest place and be father to a nation…” (14) He is nevertheless striped of any imperial title and appointed to the non-royal Gin clan. The reason for his fall from grace can be attributed to the fact that Genji’s mother is “…a lady not of the first rank, whom the emperor loved more than any of the others” of all the wives and concubines” (3). Despite all this, Genji retains the position of most beloved son to the emperor.

Notwithstanding this political setback, Genji is far superior in deportment and disposition to most anyone else so “that few find it in themselves to dislike him” (13). As it turns out, he is a child wonder with inexplicable talent, like the musical prodigy Mozart. When Genji is only seven years of age, “he (recites) the ceremonial reading of the Chinese classics” (13). The aristocrats of the royal court had never before heard or seen such talent in one so young.

Not only is Lord Hikaru an extraordinarily handsome man as well as the beloved son of the emperor with uncanny artistic talents, he has seemingly unlimited time and wealth that enables him to retain the wild independence that makes a child so gloriously charming. These are just a few of the ways he is able to have such a provocative effect on most everyone with which he comes in contact.

Despite all this, Genji is not perfect. Impulsive to a fault, he follows his heart, more often than not, though it may lead to disastrous results. Particularly in the case of several wives or consorts to other men that invariably catch his attention. One such infamous encounter results in Genji’s banishment from court, though only temporarily it is a sorrowful time in his life.

Still, for many other women, Genji fills the order as Sei Shonagon would say of “Things that make your heart beat fast—“ one being a “fine gentleman (who) pulls up in his carriage and sends in some request” (30). One thing for certain, Genji savors each and every one of his conquests with a singular devotion.

The next to succumb to Genji’s charms is his step-mother, Kokiden, mother of the present heir apparent, Genji‘s older half-brother. “Admitting the boy to her inner chamber, (Kokiden) was pleased (even)…reluctant to let him go. She had two daughters, but neither could compare with (Genji) in beauty” (13). All this, even though in the recent past Kokiden proves a deadly rival against Genji’s birth mother.

At age 12, Genji is married to the Minister of the Left’s daughter. His boyish charm is enough to win over his father-in-law, though Genji’s wife, Aoi–five years his senior, is less than enthusiastic about the relationship.

As a young man of seventeen, Genji bewitches an even younger boy, Kojimi, age 12 and the boy’s reluctant older sister, Utsusemi, the wife of a government official:

“The two voices, very sleepy, resembled each other. (Utsusemi said,) “‘And where is our guest? (Kojimi’s) voice was low. ‘I saw him. He is every bit as handsome as everyone says’” (41).

Genji searches to find Utsumei alone. “His manner was so gently persuasive that devils and demons could not have gainsaid him” (32). “(Utsumei) was bathed in perspiration and quite beside herself at the thought of what… the others… would be thinking… Yet the sweet words poured forth, (from Genji’s lips) the whole gamut of pretty devices for making a woman surrender” (43).

As Utsusemi flees Genji’s further advances, she leaves behind her daughter-in-law, Nokiba-no-ogi. Though a bit startled by the unexpected visitor, Nokiba is quite happy to give her time and attention to the charming young man. “The girl beside him had a certain young charm of her own and presently he was deep in vows of love” (54).

On another occasion, Genji finds himself whisked into a passionate search to find a mysterious lady that has given him a “heavily scented white fan” to place a plucked white flower in, “known as ‘evening faces’” (58). Later Evening Faces, as the lady is referred to, is found to be the mother of another young woman who Genji will love, Tamakazura.

Even people who have nothing in common with Genji are drawn to him. On occasion someone may receive a “little poem from him or (having) been treated to some little kindness found him much on their minds. No doubt it distressed them not to be always with him” (63).

From a very young age, Genji’s true passion is for his step mother, Fujitsubo, only five years his senior, the same age as his wife Aoi. After the untimely death of Genji’s birth mother, the emperor is to the point of inconsolable grief. He is told about a “lady famous for her beauty” (15). Fujitsubo, also called, “‘the lady of the radiant sun’” because she ranks beside Genji in the emperor‘s affections (16). Her resemblance to Genji’s dead mother is uncanny. For this same reason, and that Genji seems to have little emotional connection to his own wife, Fujitsubo is for him “a vision of sublime beauty” (18).

Although their relationship is in every way forbidden, Genji manages a night alone with the beautiful Lady Fujitsubo. Afterwards, she is found pregnant with his child. No doubt suffering from humiliation and various other unpleasantries, she becomes ill leaving the tenderhearted Genji quite beside himself with concern for her. Much to his sorrow, from this day forward, Fujitsubo will not see him alone.

In his search to fill the empty place left in his heart, Genji meets the child Murasaki, the ten-year-old niece to Lady Fukitsubo. Murasaki will one day become the “true” love of Genji’s life:

A “sudden realization brought him close to tears: the resemblance to Fujitsubo, for whom he so yearned, was astonishing” (88).

From the beginning, the little girl is also quite fond of Genji:

“She would be the first to run out and greet him when he came home, and she would climb on his lap, and they would talk happily together” (111).

While Murasaki is still a child, Genji encounters the Lady of the Misty Moon during a cherry blossom festival. He has little trouble enticing the lady into his bed:

“She came (could he believe it?) to the door. Delighted, he caught at her sleeve. ‘Who are you?’ She was frightened. ‘There is nothing to be afraid of… (He assured her). Quickly and lightly he lifted her down to the gallery and slid the door closed. Her surprise pleased him enormously. Trembling, she called for help. “It will do you no good. I am always allowed my way”, Genji assures her (152).

Robert Greene tells us that “This “self-belief is half of Genji’s charm.” In fact another’s resistance “does not make him defensive; he (merely) retreats gracefully, reciting a little poetry, and as he leaves, the perfume of his robes tails (is left deliciously) behind him” (Greene 65).

Another of Genji’s conquests is the Lady of the Orange Blossoms, the younger sister of one of his deceased father’s former consorts. Genji quietly makes his way to where the younger sister resides. She has never seen a visitor of such “unsurpassed good looks” (217). His manners are tender and she is soon convinced that he would never lie to her when he whispers sweet things in her ear.

Another of Genji’s special talents is his attention to important and intimate details. The way he seduces the object of his desire is to adapt to their moods with tacit details that fill their sights, and sounds while swirling them into a fantasy of delectable scents that will later remind them of the pleasure of his company. This is shown to perfection when Genji is enticed by the beautiful Tamakazura. As Genji shows his regard for the much younger woman, she is made uncomfortable by his attentions. She feels his behavior is inappropriate since she thinks Genji is her father or in the least her protector. In fact her real father is Genji’s former brother-in-law, the Lady Aoi’s brother.

To win Tamakazura, Genji uses his considerable charm, ingenuity and consummate accomplishment on the koto of which he is a master. His majestic playing of the seven-string instrument won her when none of his other tactics did.

The modern reader no doubt sees Hikaru Genji as an incorrigible Don Juan, a shameless rake. Yet Ivan Morris tells us in The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan that for the modern reader who inhabits a monogamous society, The Tale of Genji provides valuable insight into a world where polygamy is the order of the day. The possession of numerous wives and consorts is normal and actually a respectable means of behavior for Heian gentleman.

In the Heian aristocracy, large families have an important advantage, one being that women tend to die young. Also the fact that women are almost completely dependent on men, therefore, a wealthy man who possesses numerous wives and concubines is not labeled a lecher. In fact, it is considered a status symbol.

The type of disapproval our modern-day societies would put on unfaithful husbands is instead directed at the man who has only one or two wives. He is considered anti-social.

The way Genji comports himself during his romantic liaisons falls into the proper ways a courtier is expected to behave. A Reader’s Guide: the Tale of Genji gives us the appropriate guidelines for ladies and gentlemen of the aristocracy. They should “compose delicate poetry,” written in a certain way with just the proper “shade of the ink”. Even “the selection of the paper” is important, the texture, the color. All these nuances are “meticulously scrutinized for evidence of courtly sensibility” (49).

In the Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature we find more valuable information such that the particular way a courtier paints their calligraphy is very important. They should prepare special music that would entice an erotic encounter. In this way, both men and women carry on their romantic affairs around the standing screens posed between them.

The reason for much of this painstaking decorum is that the women of the upper had few options to deal with the mind-numbing monotony of their lives. These were love and literature. They must have something exciting to fill their days.

In regards to Genji, it is not only his astonishing looks, his sensitivity, and his remarkable artistic talents that elevate him as the ideal male. It is the way in which he savors each of his romantic encounters and their various, individual virtues with almost religious devotion. In Heian Japan, an era when a man could walk away at anytime for any reason, leaving the woman destitute if he chose, once Hikaru Genji gives his support to a woman, he never withdraws it, even though he may have lost all interest in her as a mistress. In fact, he builds a magnificent mansion with rooms enough to house all his women.

Works Cited

Brulotte, Gaetan. Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2006. 680, 682.

Greenway, Robert. The Art of Seduction . New York: Penguin Books, 2001. 55, 271.

Morris, Ivan. The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in

Ancient Japan. New York: Kodansha America, 1994. 236-237.

Puette, William J. A Reader’s Guide: The Tale of Genji. Massachusetts, 1992. 49, 63, 104.

Murasaki Shikibu. The Tale of Genji. Trans. Edward G. Seidensticker. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 3-454.

Sei Shonagon. The Pillow Book. Trans. Meredith McKinney. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. 17, 30.

 

Three “Brother” Mountains of Dewa (Japan) March 6, 2011


日本語: 蜂子神社。山形県鶴岡市大字手向。出羽三山開祖の:蜂子皇子を祀る神社。 Englis...

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Your name is Hachiko, Prince Hachiko. It is the year 593 AD. Your father, Shusun, the emperor of Japan, has been murdered by the Soga clan. You barely escaped with your own life before they could kill you as well. Broken-hearted and afraid, your home stolen by the wicked Soga, you wander  the countryside, almost aimlessly until one morning you wake from your bed on the grassy earth where you fell asleep the night before. You find a three-legged crow watching you sleep. It’s yellow eyes flick back and forth as if carefully examining you.

Intrigued by this strange creature,  you follow it to a place where three brother mountains rise in the near distance. The smallest mountain, the one closest, you name Haguro, “black wings,” in honor of the odd, little bird who led you there. You will always remember the mountain as “birth” since it is the smallest, like a new-born babe and because for the first time in weeks, you feel reborn as if your life has taken on new meaning.

In this uncharted land, you spend many days enduring difficult ascetic exercises as well as a period of penance and mourning for your dead father. Because of your devotion, you are greeted by Haguro Gongen, the deity of the mountain. In honor of the god, you travel to the tallest brother mountain who you then name, Gassan, “Moon Mountain.”

The middle brother is next and you name it, Yudono, the “Forbidden”. Because of your continued devotion, you are greeted by two more deities. Back at Haguro’s summit, you build a beautiful temple dedicated to the three mountain gods.

Soon news travels of the sacred mountains so that pilgrims make the journey from far and wide to worship the three deities of the mountains. It soon becomes a place of learning for BuddhismShinto, and TaoismEn no Gyōja and Kūkai arrive to found the Shugendō or Yamabushi (mountain warrior) sects Even the famous poet, Matsuo Basho comes to meditate and write many of his magnificent haiku. And so this place that you ran to after you lost everything except your life becomes a blessed refuge of peace and meditation for many generations to come.

References and further reading:

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia/Three Mountains of Dewa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mountains_of_Dewa#Significance_in_Japanese_Religion

 

 
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