HI EVERYONE!

I’ve been out of the loop for a bit now, busy with the business of writing etc. For those following my book’s progress, it is pretty much decided that the local middle school is using my novel, LEGENDS OF THE HENGEYOKAI, BOOK ONE  TENGU PRINCE as curriculum next April. I’ve been doing fine tune editing to make sure the book is ready for a teacher to read and teach to a class full of sixth graders. This is so exciting!

TENGU PRINCE has a new cover that I hope projects the theme of the story a bit better than the first one did. Also, I am fine-tune-editing book two in the series: CHERRY JEWEL. I hope to have it ready by this October, but a lot is happening now withTENGU PRINCE so not sure if I will find the needed time to spend on CHERRY JEWEL just now. It will be ready by April of next year at the very latest.

English: James Franco at the Austin Film Festi...
English: James Franco at the Austin Film Festival in October 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Johnny Depp at the Austin Film Festiv...
English: Johnny Depp at the Austin Film Festival in October 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am looking for an agent and plan to attend the Austin Film Festival next month. I have gone twice before and find it an exciting place to meet other writers as well as movers and shakers in the film industry.

Hope all of you are having a fantastic September! I wish all the best for you.


A wonderful and informative post.
PLEASE MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE ORIGINAL BLOGGER’S POSTS. They were kind enough to let me share this wonderful article with you.

百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai

Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujara

In Goto city in Nagasaki, on the morning of the 15th day of the Obon festival of the dead, it was said that an evil wind blew. Anyone who felt the caress of this evil wind would fall sick and collapse. This day also happened to be the traditional day for visiting the graves of ancestors. It was believed that the souls of the unworshiped dead flew on the winds.

Since olden times, the people of Japan believed in and feared the unworshiped dead, called muenbotoke ( 無縁仏). Farmers blamed everything from droughts, to strong winds, to infestations of insects on these unhappy spirits. And so, during the Obon festival of the dead, along with the usual offerings of rice and sake to the ancestor spirits of the family, they would try to calm the spirits of the muenbotoke and the Buddhist hungry ghosts, so…

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Watasumi Sanjin: Legendary Dragon


 Monument of the Legend of Izumi Kotaro in the Omachi Dam lakeside park.                   (See larger image at this link.) http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Izumi_Kotaro_statue_in_Lake_Ryujin.jpg

Dragons are big news in Japan and have been so for a very long time. The most ancient of them all is Watasumi Sanjin, also known as Ryujin, who ruled the upper, middle and lower sea. Named the “Great Watatsumi  (sea) god” in the Kojiki, the oldest chronicle of Japanese myths and compared to the mountain god, Ohoyamatsumi.  The deity, Izanagi–who escaped from Yomi, the underworld created Watasumi along with the Sun and the Moon and nine other gods in Japanese mythology.

Watasumi has Shinto Shrines throughout Japan dedicated to him. Ōwatatsumi jinja or Daikai Jinja, in Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka, the Watatsumi Jinja in Tarumi-ku, Kobe, and the Watatsumi Jinja in Kokura Minami-ku, Kitakyūshū.

File:Watatusmi-Jinja.JPGTarumi-ku, Kobe

File:Owatatsumi-jinja2.JPGSumiyoshi-ku, Osaka

Watasumi Sanjin is just one more reason to read Legend of the Cherry Jewel, the urban fantasy action/adventure, set in Japan, when is comes out next year.

(Coming soon to Amazon.com, but you can read the first chapter of Legend of the Cherry Jewel here at: http://lediarunnels27221912.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/legend-of-the-cherry-jewel-chapter-one-lost-and-found/

RELATED LINKS

Dragons of the Orient “Hengeyokai” Shape-shifters http://lediarunnels27221912.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/dragons-of-the-orient-hengeyokai-shape-shifters/

Watasumi  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watatsumi

Sumiyoshi sanjin   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumiyoshi_sanjin

Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumiyoshi-ku,_Osaka

Tarumi-ku, Kobe   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarumi-ku,_KobeTarumi-ku, Kobe

“Sengoku” Historical Japan


Uesugi Kenshin
Uesugi Kenshin

In a nutshell, the warring states period actually began eleven years before with the Onin War, 1467 to 1477, and lasted to the beginning of the 17th century. The conflict began in Kyoto, the capital city of Japan from 794 until 1868, and was between two powerful families, the Hosokawa family in the “west “and the Yamana clan in the “east” over shogunal succession. The “Kyoto” war spilled over into the outlying provinces and led to the bloody civil war, labeled” Sengoku”, by historians when the social and political upheaval evolved into a constant military clash between the lesser warlords that pitted samurai against samurai. The conflict ended after the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when Tokukawa Ieyasu defeated the followers of Toyotomi Hideyori. The unification of Japan finally came about when Emperor Go-Yozei appointed Ieyasu as military leader with the title of Shogun, or bakufu (tent officer) in 1603.

MORE:

File:Sengoku period battle.jpg

Battle of Kawanakajima in 1561

File:Azuchimomoyama-japan.pngJapan in the Late 16th Century

File:Takeda Shingen versus Uesugi Kenshin statue.jpgBronze statue representing Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin. Nagano, Japan.

File:Takeda Shingen.jpg

Takeda Shingen by artist, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Sengoku Period http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sengoku_period

Sengoku Daimyo/The Website of Anthony J. Bryant http://www.sengokudaimyo.com/

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

Takeda Shingen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeda_Shingen

Uesugi Kenshin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uesugi_Kenshin

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

The Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1858) http://saznj.tripod.com/

Toyotomi Hideyoshi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyotomi_Hideyoshi

“Green Tea” Ceremony: Japan


File:Tea ceremony performing 2.jpg

Also called the “Way of Tea“, where matcha, powdered green tea, is presented in a ritualistic fashion. In Japan, the ceremony is called chanoyu or chadō,  also pronounced sadō. The the art of the performance is called otemae . The primary influence for the ceremony is Zen Buddhism.

Tea gatherings fall into two classifications: ochakai  or chaji . Chakai is a used when simple hospitality is called upon, and consists of serving sweets such as cookies or pastries, thin tea or usucha, and sometimes a  light meal. Chaji is the more formal ceremony where a full-course meal, kaiseki, is served, followed by dessert, thick tea, koicha, and thin tea. An chaji lasts for at least four hours or more.

In China, tea was first drank for medicinal purposes. It was later to be used also for pleasure. In the 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea, that focused on the cultivation and preparation of tea. Lu Yu’s life was influenced by the Zen Buddhism school of ZenChán. Needless to say, his ideas had a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.

In the 9th century, tea was brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Eichū, who had visited China and brought tea seeds back with him. In the Nihon Kōki, Eichū is listed as personally preparing and serving sencha, which is unground Japanese green tea, to Emperor Saga, while on excursion in Karasaki, which is present day, Shiga Prefecture. This occurred in the year 815 ad. The next year, Emperor Saga gave an imperial order that tea plantations be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan.

It was near the 12th century when the style of tea preparation called “tencha” became popular. In this ceremony, matcha was placed in a bowl with hot water poured over it. The water and ground tea were then whipped together.

By the 13th century, the Kamakura Shogunate, the ruling class of samurai warriors, used tea as a kind of status symbol. Tea-tasting, tōcha, parties became popular where contestants could win extravagant prizes by guessing the best quality tea. This tea was grown in Kyoto from offspring of the seeds that Eisai brought from China.

During the Muromachi Period, that centered around the gorgeous cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the formation of what was to become the traditional Japanese culture of today came to be, where the Japanese tea ceremony evolves to aesthetic practice of”Wabi-sabi“. “Wabi” represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences. “Sabi” represents the outer, or material of life. By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan.

MORE:

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Japanese tea ceremony

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

File:Chado1.jpgFile:Black Raku Tea Bowl.jpg16th Century black raku cup used for thick tea.

 

English: Two typical usuicha (thin tea) bowls ...
Image via Wikipedia

Modern tea cups

 

File:Tearoom layout.svgTypica; tea room

File:Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst Dahlem Berlin Mai 2006 017.jpgTea room with tatami rice rush mats.

Fullmetal Alchemist


Cover of Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conque...
Full Metal Alchemist, the Movie

This is one of those anime that I could not stop watching until I had gotten a hold of every single episode. It is a long series, but still I was sucked in and waiting anxiously for each and every Netflix disk to arrive in the mail. The story has the type of heroes that most of us cannot get enough of. The sweet boy trapped inside the body of a robot, a feisty older brother who makes up for what he lacks in height with true grit and magic, to boot.

Below see a summary of the manga/anime copied directly from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Fullmetal Alchemist.

“Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師 Hagane no Renkinjutsushi?, literally “Alchemist of Steel”), is a Japanese manga series (and anime) written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after the European Industrial Revolution. Set in a fictional universein which alchemy is one of the most advanced scientific techniques known to man, the story follows the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, who want to restore their bodies after a disastrous failed attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy.”

You can watch episodes of Full Metal… on Netflix Instant view, buy them at Amazon.com or go to this site: http://www.animefreak.tv/watch/full-metal-alchemist-english-dubbed-online-free .

Hope you enjoy the episodes as much as I do.

Realm of Yamabushi Ascetics and Ancient Living Buddhas


Iwanesawa Jinja 2006
Iwanesawa Jinja

(This excerpt was taken from Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion)   http://www.japantoday.com/category/travel/view/in-the-realm-of-yamabushi-ascetics-and-ancient-living-buddhas

TSURUOKA CITY —

Living in modern Tokyo, one can be forgiven for doubting that anybody wants to undergo serious ascetic training. Perilous hikes on sheer mountain slopes, food and sleep deprivation, solitary meditation, prayers and other religious rituals are distant and exotic adventures. Yet only a half-day’s journey from the metropolis, followers of the ancient Japanese religion Shugendo continue to practice “the way of training and testing.” Their goal is nothing less than enlightenment in this very lifetime.

These are the “yamabushi” (“one who lies in the mountains”), and modern mortals can still follow their pilgrimage in Dewa Sanzan– the three mountains of Dewa–one of two main centers in Japan where “shugenja” (followers of Shugendo) still practice and keep the tradition alive.

Dewa is the name of an old Japanese province that is now part of Yamagata Prefecture in northern Honshu. Three mountains — Mt Haguro, Mt Gassan and Mt Yudono — are considered sacred by the “shugenja” who go there once a year on a pilgrimage to practice their faith.

Travel there in the right season and you can follow the alpenhorn-like sound of the conch shell, blown by “yamabushi” masters decked out in esoteric outfits, as they lead rows of white-clad pilgrims up the mountains. New Age is short lived in comparison to this syncretistic folk religion based on mountain worship, incorporating elements of Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism that dates back over 1,400 years.

Traditionally, the pilgrimage route starts at Toge, a small village at the foot of Mt Haguro. Pilgrims walk up a 1.7-km-long stone path, the Ishi-dan, set amongst a forest of 350- to 500-year-old Cryptomeria trees, before reaching the summit where they pray to three deities, one for each mountain peak, at the Sanjin Gosaiden shrine.

In the old days people walked, but many modern-day pilgrims can’t resist the shortcut of catching a bus that takes them from Mt Haguro to Mt Gassan. Some slopes of the 2,000 meter-high Gassan are covered in snow even in mid-summer, providing an unusual sight. Yudono shrine is not located on the summit of Mt Yudono but in a valley with a descent so steep that steel ladders and ropes must be used by pilgrims and adventurers alike.

Historically, women were forbidden to worship at the shrine. They were only allowed as near as Dainichibo, a temple at the foot of Mt Yudono. It is said to have been established by Kobodaishi (774-835), the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and probably Japan’s best known saint.

Legend has it that after coming back from China where he underwent Buddhist training, Kobodaishi petitioned the ruler at the time to build a temple. Baffled about where the location should be, he threw two ritual objects used in Buddhist ceremonies into the air. The first hit a cedar tree standing near Dainichibo, and the second hit a pine tree on Mt Koya. He promptly established a temple at each site, both of which are still places of worship, as are the trees that still stand there today.

The main attraction at Dainichibo, however, is a fellow named Daijuku Bosatsu Shinnyokai Shonin. He is one of a number of so-called “Living Buddhas” that can be found in temples in the Yamagata area. They appear much like mummies in priest’s robes. However, unlike their famous counterparts in Egypt, they were not mummified after death. They self-mummified themselves while still alive by following a severe ascetic routine as part of their Buddhist religious training.

While ascetic exercises are not for everyone, mere mortals can simply meditate in the superb mountain scenery of the Dewa Sanzan area. Enjoy your own spiritual awakening: catch a glimpse of some fascinating esoteric traditions that reveal the mystical side of Japan so often forgotten in the urban jungle of Tokyo.

MORE:

File:立石光正DSCF0451.JPG

File:Five tier pagoda at Mt. Haguro 2006-10-29.jpgThe five story pagoda near the base of Mount Haguro

Yamabushi blowing shell. http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.phototravels.net/japan/pcd3812/yamabushi-76.3.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.phototravels.net/japan/pcd3812/yamabushi-76.html&h=668&w=488&sz=5

Dewa Sanzen http://www.yamagatakanko.com/english/kokusai/tour04.html

Roads of Oku: Travels in Japan by Dennis Kawaharada

http://apdl.kcc.hawaii.edu/~roads/basho_oku_no_hosomichi.html

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Yamabushi

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

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Three Mountains of Dewa

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

YouTube: “Magical Japanese Yamabushi Ascetis Inteview”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXHGqM18Mqw

Dragons of the Orient “Hengeyokai” Shape-shifters


Japanese Dragon shrine in Fujiyoshida.
Japanese Dragon Shrine in Fujiyoshida

The awesome Dragon of the orient is sacred, beautiful, and blessed with infinite wisdom and vast knowledge. They are playful by nature, but also have the capacity to destroy entire cities with one swipe of their mighty claws and terrifying magic. They are associated with wealth, water and wisdom. All humans desire wealth, whether they admit to it or not. Water is necessary to sustain life on Earth, and wisdom is something we all seek after.

The Dragons of the orient have long, thin bodies, covered in rainbow-hued scales that are strong as steel and magnificently beautiful to behold. They have no wings and instead can bound from the Earth to the Heavens in a single leap. Their heads resemble horses with great billowing whiskers, like a mighty tiger’s, sprouting from their lips. They hear through a pair of horns worn atop their heads like crowns.

When a Dragon of the orient speaks, their voice is like the jingling of coins, yet they possess a melodic quality unequaled by mortal musicians. Closely linked to the elements of water and air, they were originally created from the storms that lashed the earth a the beginnings of creation. In fact, these Dragons love storms so much that they play inside great typhoons. Their claws slash the ground along with the lightning that streaks from their eyes. Their breath creates great clouds that sail into the sky while rain is formed from the pressure of their feet squeezing water from the clouds as they climb into the sky. The wind itself comes from the passing of their breath as they move.

They are known for their wealth and their generosity with humans they are fond of. They are also known to pay unfathomable riches for the freedom to rule the skies. They are especially fond of pearls and will go to great lengths to gain possession of these gems of the sea. Many a human, who has gained favor with a Dragon of the orient, has been presented with pearls that possess magical abilities.

Their king is Ryu-Jin, the greatest and wealthiest of all the Dragons of the orient. Ryu-Jin’s palace is located at the bottom of the ocean, made from crystal and held upright by magnificent jade pillars, encompassed by walls laced with coral and, of course, pearls. Every day precious stones wash down into his palace from the mountains near the seashores. The stones are so numerous that they pile up like mounds of sand that mingle with great piles of magical trinkets and artifacts that litter his palace.

High in the mountains of the Orient is a secret place with a waterfall known as the Dragon Gate. This is the birthplace of all, but the first dragons and is said to lead to their magical domain.

Dragons can take human form and often come in the guise of a humble scholar. In this form, they have been known to sire children that may or may not have the capacity to shape-shift from human to dragon form. Though not all are born with this ability, they all are physically perfect with unblemished skin, sparkling green eyes and flowing black hair. And there is within them all some level of the Dragon’s magic.

MORE

File:Dragonn4.jpg

Japanese Dragon fountain in Hakone

 

Kiyohime changes from a Serpent, by Yoshitoshi...
Image via Wikipedia

Kiyohime changes from a Serpent, by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka

 

File:Tamatori being pursued bya dragon.jpgThe ama diver Princess Tamatori steals the Dragon King’s jewel, byUtagawa Kuniyoshi

File:One of the daughters of the dragon king who lives in then bottom of the sea.jpgThe Dragon King’s daughter, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

File:Kunisada II The Dragon.jpgThe Buddha riding a sea-dragon, by Kunisada.

File:Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Dragon 2.jpgSea-dragon, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

LINKS

AD&D Character Race:

Hengeyokaihttp://www.mjyoung.net/dungeon/char/race007.html

The World of Darkness Wiki: Hengeyokai

http://wiki.white-wolf.com/worldofdarkness/index.php?title=Hengeyokai

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Yōkai

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y%C5%8Dkai

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Japanese Dragon

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

So, you want to be a ninja?


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)


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