Friday, 26 September 2014

Gunshi Kanbee (2014)

I could finally watch the subbed versions of the last episodes of the "Nobunaga's arc" of the current drama taiga Gunshi Kanbee, which means that I could finally drop it XD and most importantly, write about the Nobunaga starring there!

The role was covered by an actor that really meets my taste in men, so I was as surprised as a bit wary: in fact, I guessed that Eguchi Yosuke was a bit "too manly" to cover the role of Nobunaga effectively. To give you an example, it's as if someone like Lorenzo de' Medici would be interpreted by Sylvester Stallone.
Fortunately I was wrong: I liked the sanguine acting of Eguchi, and after the tiny trauma of seeing an oyaji playing the role of a 16 years old outsuke, I found myself more and more engaged with the work of this extraordinarily expressive artist.

So, after we ascertained that the actor playing Nobunaga was quite cool, we have to take into consideration his role in the drama and-- Let a grimace up my lips.

A few words on the nature of the drama are required.
First, the protagonist of the TV series is Kuroda Kanbei (played by the good Okada Junichi), a legendary strategist of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's crew.
I won't complain about the over-dramatization of his life on an attempt to make the watchers sympathize and cheer for him or the disturbingly "made-up" similarities with Yamamoto Kansuke, but it's obvious that the role of the strategist in this series is depicted as even superior to that of the warlord.
It shouldn't be surprising, but it is: warlords are depicted as fickle, unfocused and "sentimental". Unable to think coldly, they do the wrong thing at the wrong time, leading to desaster.

This aspect is quite strong with the interpretation of Nobunaga, and it's blatant since the first episodes.
In the scene of the first battle against Saito Yoshitatsu he's depicted as hopeless, acting only on instinct and regrets. In a difficult situation, he could only attack over and over, like a beast.
We have to wait for the intervetion of Hideyoshi (here played by an expressive Takenaka Naoto) to see our hopeless warlord "secured" back in his authority.

The drama is quite obvious about the kind of man who is supposed to lead.
Warlords are just required as a "symbol", for their "charisma", but sure they are not the best kind of people to take as an example.
Calculating, aware of his surrounding, favouring the "local" and a modest life with family and neighbours-- An ideal that sure doesn't fit Nobunaga.

An interesting example can be found in the decorations of Nobunaga's quarters:

Eccentric, colourful (I laughed when Nobunaga explained his room to Ieyasu with the expression "This is the style of the fool of Owari") and excessive. They are the traits of a creative, curious nature that sure fit Nobunaga's character, but they are also an accent on his vanity, his superficiality and, in short, his inapteness to lead, his lack of the balance and sobriety expected by the source of power.

The climax of this misrule on Nobunaga's part is the scene of the massacre of Araki Murashige (Tanaka Tetsushi)'s relatives and servants, here featured as some sort of Christian martyrdom by the hands of a merciless Emperor of Rome:
How Dashi (played by Kiritani Mirei) turned from the spoiled noblewoman of history to the angelic heroine of this drama was one of the tasteless parts of this whole series-- Thinking that it was supposed to be the emotive climax of the whole thing and that it left a good number of Japanese watchers teary-eyed!

In the end, the result of this and many more evil-doings (the top was Nobunaga planning to become the new Emperor-- Project that made Mitsuhide (Koasa Shunputei) take betrayal into consideration) is what we know, the Incident of Honnouji.
Sure the presence of Kichou (a vapid Uchida Yuki) in the middle of the battle was one of the most ridiculous things that I ever saw.
Also, I couldn't help but laugh at the "Dream of a Japanese Middle-Aged Woman", the recurring "ultimate wish" of the average Japanese old lady for a travel around the world with "hubby", that found its way also in this drama.
The presence of Nouhime in this scene was SO ANNOYING that I couldn't even focus on the nice arrangement of the final fight, expecially the manly way Ranmaru and his fellow kousho protected their lord:
--After all the scene of Nobunaga's last fight at Honnouji is pretty much standardized, thanks to the accurate depiction of the Shinchoukoki-- So the only things that capture the attention of the watcher and make it memorable are the "little details" like this.

In short, a wonderful actor, nicely fitting also a charming but not very pleasant portrayal of our favourite warlord-- The drama is entertaining, but it has some parts that are quite difficult to digest, besides the unbearable "interpretations" of the script-writing.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

All the matsuri dedicated to Nobunaga

I'm getting ready for my upcoming trip to Japan, so I was making a few researches about the Japanese town festivals and events dedicated to our Uesama.
I don't think that I'll ever manage to see the most of these, but maybe some lucky guy out there could make a good use of this list ;)

This post is divided into three categories: the matsuri completely dedicated to Nobunaga, those dedicated to a peculiar event (battles, birthday...) and the general historical matsuri when you may happen to find something Nobunaga-related.
As the dates are subject to change, make sure to check the related websites for more precise informations.
Also, as Nobunaga events continue to pop-out, consider this list as still "under construction".

A Nobunaga re-enactor from the GIFU Nobunaga Matsuri of 2012.

Nobunaga Matsuri

The festivals dedicated to Nobunaga, besides the usual stands and stages with samurai performers and idols, are usually centered around a horseback parade and a matchlock exhbition.

[MAY 15 (if Sunday) or FIRST SUN. AFTER May 15] - Nobunaga Birthday Matsuri from 10:30 to 16:30
This festival is dedicated to the birthplace of Nobunaga and its promotion, Shobata in Inazawa city, featuring the ruins of Shobata Castle.
The first part of festival is held at the square in front of Shobata Station (Meitetsu), featuring a marching band and historical talks, and the second part is held at the nearby Shobata Elementary School, with the exhibition of taiko drummers and the local Ootsuke-tai.

[FIRST SUN. AFTER June 2] - AZUCHI Nobunaga Matsuri from 10:00 to 16:00
This festival is held in June to commemorate Nobunaga's death.
The parade starts at Azuchi Station and ends in front of the ruins of Azuchi Castle, where a stage for entertainment and stands are located.

[FIRST SAT. and SUN. of OCTOBER] - GIFU Nobunaga Matsuri from 09:00 to 15:00
On Saturday a memorial ceremony to Nobunaga is held at Sofuku-ji; the parade with historical characters happens on Sunday morning.
The various events are held around the Gifu Station area and the main streets (Nagarabashi-dori and Kinkabashi-dori).
The parades and the open-air events are cancelled in case of rain.

[SECOND SUN. of OCTOBER] - KIYOSU CASTLE Nobunaga Matsuri from 09:00 to 16:00
The event is held outside and inside the Kiyosu Castle in Kiyosu.
The Nobunaga that takes part to the parade is 16 years old, a tribute to his "otsuke days".
In case of rain, it's postponed to the day after.

[SECOND SUN. of NOVEMBER] - Nobunaga Kouyo Matsuri from 09:00 to 15:00
This event celebrates Nobunaga's tour of Fujinomiya after the defeat of the Takeda Clan.
It's a seasonal festival dedicated to gourmet food with various culinary stands, plus a parade and a matchlock gun exhibition.
The area of the festival is Nishiyama Honganji, by the grave of Nobunaga's soldiers who died in the battle.

Other Events related to Nobunaga

These events usually provide some historical re-enactment, Zen or Shinto ceremonies, special openings of temples of halls of treasures.
Also, please note that when memorial services are held in Buddhist temples, you're supposed to attend in formal clothes (black). If too embarassing, you can wait 'til the ceremony is over and visit the temple after it.

[EVERY 28th of the MONTH] - MOCHITSUKI EVENT at BANSHOJI from 18:00∼
It's called "migawari mochi" which means "scapegoat mochi". Kato Kiyomasa called it so after a monk of Banshoji temple told him about how a mochi that Nobunaga got from the temple protected him after an attack.
To remember the event and wish good-luck to everyone, the ceremony of "mochi making" is held every 28th of the month in front of Banshoji temple and the treats are distributed gratuitously to the audience... As long as you're lucky enough to get one before they finish!

[MAY 5] - NAGASHINO Battle Banner Matsuri from 09:15 to 16:00
A festival to commemorate the fallen of the Battle of Nagashino featuring a samurai parade and arquebuser demonstrations.
The area of the festival is by Nagashino Castle.

[THIRD SUN. of MAY] - OKEHAZAMA Historical Battlefield Matsuri (Arimatsu) from 10:00 to 20:00
Event dedicated to the Battle of Okehazama, that saw the armies of Nobunaga and Imagawa Yoshimoto face each other in Okehazama.
Besides the usual parade and the stage events, in the evening there's a suggestive memorial service where lanterns are left on the Oike lake for the peace of the soldiers dead in there.
There also also some historical touristic walks led by voluntaries.
The events of the festival are located in the Okehazama Battlefield Park and the Oike lake and the precints of Choufukuji temple.

It's possible to enter and walk the temple precints, but the main temple is usually closed.
This is one of the three temples in Kyoto who are said to preserve the ashes of Nobunaga, the other two being Honnoji and Kenkun shrine.
The entrance to the main temple costs 1000 yen. A memorial service is held in there too.

[FIRST SAT. and SUN. of JUNE] - OKEHAZAMA Historical Battlefield Matsuri (Toyoake) from 10:00 to 17:00
Saturday is reserved to the memorial services of Nobunaga, Yoshimoto and their armies, Sunday is the day for the parades, shows and promotional events.
The events happen around the whole city: focal points of the celebrations are the Okehazama Battlefield Park, Kutsukage Castle and the precints of Kotokuin temple.
The events would be held even in case of light rain.

[FIRST SUN. of JULY] - SHITARAGAHARA Battlefield Festival from 09:00 to 14:30
A festival dedicated to the decisive battle of Nagashino.
The re-enactment is located on the old battleground of Nagashino.
There's a memorial service for the fallen, taiko performances, a parade of boys in yoroi and a matchlock guns demonstration on the original site.

[OCTOBER 19] - FUNAOKA Matsuri from 11:00∼
This matsuri celebrates the day when Nobunaga first entered Kyoto.
It performs a parade of boys dressed as Nobunaga's soldiers, a matchlock performance and some traditional dances.
The event is held in the precints of Kenkun shrine, on Mount Funaoka.
This temple preserves an armour of Nobunaga, a copy of the "Shinchokoki" and other family treasures of the Oda Clan.

Daitoku-ji is a major temple in Kyoto that hosts a great number of sub-temples in his precints; some of them are related to Nobunaga and his family, but they are not regularly open to the public:
• Sokenin (総見院) - Built in 1582 by Hideyoshi as a mortuary temple for Nobunaga; a wooden statue of Nobunaga and one of his tombs is preserved in here.
• Obaiin (黄梅院) - Built in 1562 by Nobunaga as a mortuary temple to his father Nobuhide.
As the periods of opening vary (but it's usually on April/May for the Spring opening and on October/November for the Autumn opening), I suggest you to check the official touristic websites when the time of your visit is approaching.
Also, note that besides the ticket entrance to Daitokuji, there may be an extra ticket to pay to access these temples.

other events

This festival is dedicated to the city of Nagoya and the "Three Fathers of the Land", Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, who were all born within Nagoya borders.
Parades and events pack this two-days event.
In case of rain, the parades would be cancelled.

[OCTOBER 22] - JIDAI Matsuri
The "Festival of the Ages" in Kyoto is nothing but a huge parade featuring hundreds of people dressed as important characters of Japanese history, from Ancient to Modern times, to celebrate the span of time when Kyoto was the Capital of Japan.
Of course you can find also Nobunaga in there.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Nobunaga's Portrait: a drawing or a picture?

I got the hint for this post from the usual Otsuke's, when in one of his post casually said that probably the famous portrait of Nobunaga by the hand of Giovanni Niccolò wasn't a portrait of Nobunaga but a picture of one of his relatives taken in the Meiji era.

Shock ensued.
The chance that the portrait that made us fangirls whimper with historical satisfaction wasn't really Nobunaga.
So today I opened my internet and decided to indagate the issue.

First of all, the fact that the portrait is not an actual portrait of the real Nobunaga is a fact.
The artwork is dated after 1583, when Nobunaga was long dead, as our Jesuit painter reached Macao only in 1582.
According to the original story, the portrait was done by following the description of some relative of Nobunaga, from the Oda Clan managed by his son Nobukatsu.
It goes like this: getting to know about the skills of this Jesuit Italian painter and the novelty that he represented, Nobukatsu commissioned him a portrait of his illustrious predecessor after his death, and Niccolò (also rendered as "Nicolao" because LOL PORTUGUESE) produced this vivid rendition of our Uesama by charcoal.
Centuries later, the Oda were forced to move to the Tendo domain, and only by then the portrait popped up from the inheritance of the clan.
It was declared a family tresure and placed into the bodaiji, besides, a picture was conveniently taken and preserved during the Meiji era.
Obviously the original portrait was destroyed during a fire and only the picture was saved, picture that is now placed into the family temple of the Tendo Oda of Sanpoji (三宝寺) in Yamagata prefecture.

It sounds fishy, doesn't it?

I investigated over Giovanni Niccolò but besides his tiny biography over Wikipedia I couldn't find much. I quickly realized that despite being such a popular painter, the maestro of the first Art School in Nagasaki and someone who apparently brought in Asia the gusto for Western art, there are practically no paintings that could be credited to his hand.
The Japanese Wikipedia, that took this matter to heart, reveals that a famous screenfold portraying the "Western Kings on Horseback" (a very popular theme in Japan) can be recognized as his very work, but if that's true, we can see very little similarity with the realistic style of our portrait.
That Giovanni followed that archaic style of painting, connected to the artistic language of Portuguese origin, though, is a matter of fact.
Following the artworks that his Chinese and Japanese disciples left us as a trail along the Jesuit missions, we do see a similar maniera and language, that can allow us to believe that Giovanni's disciples came to imitate perfectly the style of their teacher.
As it's true that following a style doesn't mean that one can't "imitate nature" properly, it's very little probable that Giovanni, if he ever faced Nobukatsu, dared to produce such a realistic portrait, assuming that he was famous for his Jesuit style of art and that it would have been what Nobukatsu was expecting of him.

Here's a comparison of the portrait of Nobunaga, the portrait of one of the Kings credited to Giovanni Niccolò and one of the "Saviour of the World" paintings of Jesus (dating 1597) that were so popular in Japan back then and quite widespread as an icon:
Sure, comparing a drawing to a painting is kinda rough, but you can already spot the various differences of styles.
I couldn't find pencil or charcoal artworks dating the same period and area to make a proper comparison, otherwise that would have been interesting too.

Long story short, the suspicious over this portrait and the identity of the Oda oin there seem to have some serious foundation...

Credits: the main picture of this post comes from this blog. It's part of an exhibition in Azuchi.