Sunday, 6 December 2015

"My Kingdom for a Horse!"--

--Or "Me and the dignity of my Nobunaga's figurines" XD

As you know I'm a passionate collector, and among other things I decided to offer to Nobunaga some room in my collections.
This is one of the little miniatures portraying Nobunaga that I managed to get. It comes from the collection Sengoku Funroku (戦国風雲録) from the Historical Figure Museum (ヒストリカルフィギュアミュージアム) line.
It was released on 2004 by F-Toys.
Nobunaga is shown in all his contempt as he desecrates the funerary service of his father.
So, this peculiar figure came with some "extra parts" to place Nobunaga on a horse of choice.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Nobunaga Chicken Nanban turning even more "Nanban"...

The Autumn season is at its peak, and as we know "Autumn" in Japan rhymes with "Eating".
For today's post I resume an old limited edition bento sponsored by the Nagoya Omotenashi Bushotai relished with some experimental sauce, as I decided to copy this recipe and share my results with you.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Nobunaga the Demon King

Writing a blog about Nobunaga means that, sooner or later, I had to contemplate the issue of Nobunaga as the devilish villain of fiction.
It's one of these "legends" that always manage to piss me off, and I must say that I'm really disappointed when people approach me to tell me that they love Nobunaga too as in Devil Kings he's absolutely badass. ARGH!

*claps hands* May I have your attention please?
The story has its roots in a letter that Luis Frois compiled as one of his annual reports to the Jesuit Company and that mentioned an exchange of letters between Takeda Shingen and Oda Nobunaga.
The report is dated 1573, so the rivalry between the two daimyo was at its apex (Shingen would join the Anti-Nobunaga Alliance on 1572, and he would die a few days after receiving this letter).
The relationship between Nobunaga and Shingen, former allies, turned sour when Nobunaga attacked and burned to the ground the Enryaku-ji, the "mind" of the Ikko Ikki rebellions together with the Hongan-ji, on 1571.
After this fact, Shingen, a fervent Buddhist, gave protection to the survivors of the massacre, among which was Kakujo (覚恕), the head of the Tendai sect (天台座主, Tendai-no-zasu) based in Enryaku-ji.
According to Frois, Shingen made a boast about his role of protector of this fundamental figure for his religion by signing this further declaration of hostility as "Head of Tendai Sramana Shingen" (天台座主沙門信玄, Tendai-no-zasu Shamon Shingen), probably with the implication that he was focused on protecting the head of Tendai, not that he was declaring himself as that.
To "nickname" oneself after the name of a deity was not so absurd, think of Kenshin that considered himself the incarnation of Bishamonten himself-- Anyway, Nobunaga read this and probably thought that Shingen was out of his mind, so he replied ironically, signing his letter with a sarcastic "Demon King of the Sixth Heaven Nobunaga" (第六天魔王信長, Dairokuten Maou Nobunaga), as a way to mock Shingen's pompous nickname, impersonating his exact opposite.
As usual when it comes to the sources coming from Frois' reports, there are no actual sources to compare them with, but they spread and radicate instantly-- And during the centuries, because Nobunaga was making fun of Shingen, he was stuck the role of Satan in every videogame known to history (well, that and the one of the tsundere loli!).

To illustrate this post, I grabbed an image from this blog, that depicts a modern rendition of this legendary signature of Nobunaga.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Everything (?) about Nōhime

A few days ago I stumbled upon a documentary about Templars. The afterwords of the lecturer left a big impression on me: she said that "We have to be modest towards history and grateful towards legends", because history is subject to change as soon as new informations and datas are acquired, and because sometimes the first hint to an interesting fact is because we heard about some weird legend about them that left an impression... I thought that it's a wonderful summary of the "spirit" of the scholar, and I was amused about how this principle applies perfectly to the figure of Nobunaga.

Nōhime as played by Mizuki Arisa in the TV specials dedicated to the wife of Nobunaga(2012)
Nobunaga though, is a pretty famous historical personality, and he can sport a good amount of infos about himself-- There are some equally popular characters that we suppose to know everything about, but as soon as we start to move the dirty water of the legend, we realize that there's very little hiding in that huge dark pool: one of these characters is Nōhime, "The Noble Lady from Mino", the legal wife of Nobunaga.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

"Tenka Fubu": when Good Government becomes a Weapon

The motto that Nobunaga came with after his victory in Mino, "Tenka Fubu" is planetary famous, but sometimes its real meaning comes a bit subdued by its implicitly aggressive tones.
Roughly translated as "Unification by Military Rule", it's usually assumed that Nobunaga considered war and aggression as a political statement, a bit like the Roman Empire, that based on war and territorial annexion his purpose and sustenance.
This is, under obvious aspects, true, but it's simplicistic and kinda idiotic to limit the acumen of Nobunaga's government over war alone.
Truth is, if we pay a little more attention to what Nobunaga's social and urbanistic improvement meant, we could find where the modernity of Nobunaga's mindset really was: the use of politics as a weapon.
One of the first economical policies introduced by Nobunaga is the famous rakuichi rakuza (楽市楽座, lit. "Comfortable Market*, Comfortable Guild"), that allowed free distribution and commerce of goods in the provinces controlled by his autority.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Nobunaga in the Art of Tsujimura Jusaburo

As usual, while conducting random researches on Google, I stumbled upon something worth a short post.

Tsujimura Jusaburo is one of those Japanese artisans whose work can't do anything but leave you breathless, a wonderful, creative mix of tradition and revolution, East and West, all of it topped with a love for the precious detail that couldn't help your eyes getting wet with inspiration.
Tsujimura-sensei was born on 1933. He became a professional dollmaker at the age of 27, but only on 1996 he found a special place in Tokyo, in the Ningyocho (no place would be more appropriate, with such a toponomy!), to open his theatre-museum where he still exhibits his skills as an artesan, performer and theatre artist.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Oda Nobumasa, the "Gary Stu" of Edo

Frequently, when talking about Nobunaga's "Demon feats" with people, I couldn't help but ending to repeat "This is probably some Edo fabrication" at least a thousand times for each word, and I know that when I do my listeners tend to hate me, as if I'm "spoiling" their favourite character from a fanfiction.
Truth is, that much about what we consider "historical facts" of Sengoku Era are pretty much legends or details coming straight from popular fiction of the Edo era. One of these examples are the kabuki plots: everytime you hear about Nobunaga beating Mitsuhide, or making him do humiliating things, keep in mind that that's probably some scene from a play.

You can tell that Edo period did to Sengoku era what the Reinassance did to classic culture and what Humanism did to Reinassance: in case of lack of informations, they made up stuff to fill gaps according to their sensitivities.
It's a bit disturbing to realize that probably history is not that "exact science" that scholars assume it is, after all even the most blatant sources must be interpreted and contextualized by a third party, and all the final results would always be "personal" results.

This long introduction served the purpose to create the right mood to talk about this certain guy, Oda Nobumasa.
I stumbled upon this name during one of my usual researches on Nobunaga, and I was surprised to see him listed as Nobunaga's older son, as I never heard of him.
Both curious and perplexed, I tried to find out more, and I saw that Nobumasa was Nobunaga's illegitimate son and, on top of it-- He's an Edo fabrication.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Nouhime (2012, 2013)

Today I'll tell you about the recent TV Asahi TV special in two episodes dedicated to Nouhime, the wife of Nobunaga.
The director here is Gotou Noriko, that on her Wikipedia page is listed as a scriptwriter, and the "author" of the original story is that same Yamaoka Souhachi of another Nobunaga movie, in fact there are lots of similarities between the two plots, with some scenes that looks as if taken directly from the movie of 1959--
It's always interesting for me to look for movies or tv series dedicated to the women of the Sengoku era, as there is very little information about them, and unfailingly I'm disgruntled to waste my time on the usual stereotypes: Nouhime at a gallop in the woods of Mino, Nouhime practicing archery and duelling with her brothers -defeating them, Nouhime who's the only one who can grasp her husband's way of thinking, telling him what he should do and why he did because she knows better. It doesn't matter if it's a movie about Nouhime, Gō or whoever: to make a female character interesting, she must be characterized like this.
--I could stop the review right here, but I won't, as, despite my harsh words there are some very interesting points that deserve a further analysis.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Kiyosu Conference (2013)

Today I'll review a movie where Nobunaga is barely showed and he leaves a lot to be desidered anyway, but can be considered an interesting watch, as it's focused on the events right after Nobunaga's death and shows a good number of Nobunaga's relatives.
Of course the whole thing is very dramatized so it can't be considered historically accurate, and on top of it it's a comedy movie nonetheless, but it's been a really fun watch and I recommend it to you, in case you're curious to get to see more about characters who are usually pretty much ignored on the other dramas focusing on our Nobunaga.
The director of this sparkling movie, and the author of the novel on which it is based, is Mitani Koki, used to jidaigeki movies as he had the chance to direct the taiga drama "Shinsengumi!" (2004).

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Nobunaga "Il Principe"

Time for some of my random dissertations, today focusing on how similar Nobunaga's policy was compared to the one "idealized" by one of his (almost!) contemporaries from the other side of the world, a certain Niccolò Machiavelli.
The Italy of the Reinassance and the Japan of the Sengoku Era were in similar conditions, even if thing were probably worse in Italy because of the persistent invasions of everyone from the rest of Europe and the Middle East, and the neverending (frequently treacherous) mingling affairs between Signorie, Papacy and foreign nobilities creating even more friction and conflicts.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Akechi Mitsuhide - The Man God Hated (2007)

Time for another review of a movie that I managed to watch thanks to my friend Barbara, so the first line of this post is dedicated to her!

Today I'll talk with you about the tanpatsu "Akechi Mitsuhide - The Man God Hated" aired on Fuji TV on 2007, centered around the man who entered the history books because he killed Oda Nobunaga, his very own Lord.
The movie is well paced and entertaining, and despite a good amount of historical inaccuracies and scenes flavoured in a kabuki fashion, it's very fun to watch, even if not extraordinarily fulfilling.
The director is Nishitani Hiroshi, that from what I get from his curriculum is specialized on police procedural movies and comedy TV series, while the script is by Sogo Masashi, who made a name of himself because he took care of the scripts of a good number of anime.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

[comic] Ware Tada Taru O Shiru

Time ago I wrote you about my contribution to the comic anthology "O, Lux Beatissima", a dounjinshi project of Asaki-san, and finally I found a moment to translate it for your viewing pleasure XD
In case you're wondering, the set is the Battle of Okehazama and the story is based on a legend about Eiroku coins that you can read in great details here-- I suggest you to read this article before facing my comiclet x'D !

The comic must be read from right to left, Japanese style.
--And sorry in advance if my English sounds ridiculous!

1According to the Japanese Era calendar scheme, it was year 1560.
2The daimyo that controlled the provinces of Suruga, Totomi and Mikawa (the modern Shizuoka prefecture and part of the Aichi prefecture), one of the contestant for the Shogunate. A fierce enemy of the Oda Clan, Yoshimoto was the arch-enemy of Nobunaga's father, Nobuhide.
3The province controlled by Nobunaga, it's part of the modern Aichi prefecture, the one where the city of Nagoya is located.
4Two strongholds located in modern Odaka township of Midori ward.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Nobunaga's favourites: hawks, archery and horses

As we know, Nobunaga, faithful to his portrait of a "countryman", has aways been depicted as someone who enjoyed outdoor activities, expecially if it could offer a proper contrast to some of his enemies, expecially to Takeda Shingen, who enjoyed poetry and the study of Classics.
The "Shinchokoki" offers a good sample case of Nobunaga's favourite past times, expecially as a youngster: swimming and entertaining himself with never-ending horse riding.

Later on these healthy hobbies would develop in typical past times for the adult bushi, centering around the art of hunting.
If riding horses across his province would proven a crucial point when it came to the art of war, it's interesting to see how, besides getting to know the shape of its territory for military purposes, these "inspections" would later be functional to the reasearch for decent hunting places.
Hunting doesn't feel like the mere fact of killing animals to eat, it develops the vibe of the "acquisition", the "conquest", the need to do something "familiar" in a newly acquired territory as to "mark" that territory as his own: a ride followed by a hunting session rather than a visit to a famous temple to lazy it off was pretty much Nobunaga's standard behaviour after the conquest of a new land.

When it came to hunting, archery was the standard, an activity where Nobunaga excelled and that we know he was quite fond of.
Another favourite "tool" for hunting, though, were Nobunaga's prized hawks, as he was an enthusiastic "collector" of these precious birds of prey, and a famed pratictioner of takagari (鷹狩), the Japanese falconry.

Falconry was imported from Korea around the IV century, and it became an immediate status symbol for the Imperial Court.
It later spread to the kuge class of warriors, turning into the expensive and popular past time of Nobunaga's times.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Nagoya Omotenashi Busho-tai @ EXPO 2015

Yesterday was the last day of the Festival of Aichi and Nagoya in Milan (あいち・なごやフェア in ミラノ), an event of the Japanese Pavillion during Expo 2015.
Among various shows to promote the culture and treasures of Aichi prefecture, was the exhibition of the Nagoya Omotenashi Busho-tai (名古屋おもてなし武将隊), the "Promotional Army" of Nagoya featuring the most prominent historical figures of the prefecture, among which was our favourite, Nobunaga!
I was lucky enough to attend the event with a friend, and so are a few pictures of the Devil King & Co.!

The above pictures were taken by and with my friend Matteo, who graciously allowed me to share them with you ^^

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Nobunaga's Unexpected Allies pt.II: Pirates, Ikko Ikki and Warrior Monks

--Sorry for the recent lack of updates, guys! For this post I decided to resume the talk about those unexpected allies that Nobunaga got to gather around himself in peculiar times of his life, expecially those that can be considered as his mortal enemies and focus their "good name" on it.

The first "misfit" of this historical adventure is the figure of the "pirate".
Not so different from the image of the Western corsair, Japanese pirates were pretty much warriors who preferred to attack from the coast, usually profiting of the convenient opening on the sea of their hometowns.
Talking about "pirates" is then just an improper way of talking about naval forces, and when talking about a powerful navy, the reference by default is one of the arch-enemy of Nobunaga, the Mouri clan of Aki.
The Mouri became the impressive powerhouse that they were because of their massive naval force. Its bulk was composed by the Murakami clan, that in 1576 contributed to the defeat of the Oda during the first Battle of Kizukawaguchi.
Another famous "pirate" who gave Nobunaga some headaches was Ohama Kagetaka, seated in Shima Province, allied with both the Takeda and the Uesugi and related to the Kitabake clan of Ise, the very clan that Nobunaga bent to his will on 1569, imposing Nobukatsu as its adopted son-- From these premises you may feel that pirates were pretty much Nobunaga's enemy, expecially if you consider the design on certain videogames when it comes to the Mouri clan.
In reality, Nobunaga could boast some resourceful "pirate ally" in the figure of Kuki Yoshitaka too.
Yoshitaka allied with Nobunaga on 1574, providing naval support during the Siege of Nagashima, where Nobunaga could finally defeat the last rebels of his very own Owari province.
He gave his support again on the above mentioned first Battle of Kizukawaguchi, where the Murakami defeated his fleet by using lighted arrows to set the ships on fire. It's from this defeat and the unreasonable request of Nobunaga to come up with a ship that could resist fire attacks that Yoshitaka is usually credited with the invention of the "iron ships" (tekkousen), ships constructed on an unflammable iron structure that would later develop in the atakebune of the Invasion of Korea, which were covered in metal plates.
Thanks to this intuition, the fleet of Yoshitaka would defeat the naval force of the Mouri, giving a huge blow to the resistance of the Ishiyama Honganji.

Speaking of Nagashima and the Ishiyama Honganji, we enter the second "misfits" of this peculiar circle of allies of Nobunaga, the infamous Ikko Ikki.
Literally, ikko ikki means "One Opposition, One Riot" and were sort of "confederates" composed of warrior monks, commoners and ji-samurai, all grouped together to protect their interests and independence from the strong powers of the daimyo. From Nobunaga's perspective, just "rebels" and a huge pain in the ass.
He spent 4 years to defeat the Ikko Ikki of Nagashima, and over 10 when it came to the Ishiyama Honganji.
Beside them, another terrible bother for Nobunaga were the Ikko Ikki from Saika, the so-called Saika Ikki, allies of the Ishiyama Honganji and the Mouri; the Saika Ikki were quite bothering expecially because they were leaders when it came to the use of firearms.
Their leader was the famous Saika Magoichi, another arch-enemy of Nobunaga, a character surrounded by so much mystery to paint him almost as some kind of ninja in some variations of the story.
Ironically, one of first Ikko Ikki to collaborate with Nobunaga starting 1577 would come exactly from that oh-so-incorruptible Saika team.
To get the idea, we have to understand how the Saika Ikko was organized: located in Ota, the area, developed around the Kinokawa river and influenced by the Negoro-ji, was composed of five different groups, roughly based around five castles of the area. This organization was called the Saika Gorakami (雑賀五緘衆), the "Five Linkage of Saika".
Saika Magoichi was the leader of one of them, the Jikkago (十ヶ郷), and his rival, a certain Tsuchibashi Heiji, was the leader of Saika-no-Sho (雑賀荘).
The other three groups, shockingly, on 1577, decided to join Nobunaga's cause, providing help to invade the area.
Ota Gyuichi in his Shinchokoki reports that thanks to them "acting as their guides in the mountains, Sakuma Uemon, Hashiba Chikuzen, Araki Settsu-no-kami, Bessho Kosaburo, Bessho Magoemon and Hori Kyuutaro struck deep into Saika and visited even the remote borderlands of the territory with fire and destruction".
On the same year, "fearing the devastation of the entire province", seven leaders of the Saika Ikki, included Magoichi and Heiji, surrended to Nobunaga, who pardoned them, pacificating the area.

This story is usually omitted when it comes to Saika Magoichi, everywhere portrayed as the epitome of freedom and rebellion against a devilish Nobunaga.
Another story that you'd rarely hear is how Magoichi asked for Nobunaga's help against Heiji on 1582 to eradicate his influence over the area: the leader of the Tsuchibashi clan was thus erased, and his son, part of the Negoro-ji, was forced to diminish his power within the organization.

We mentioned the Negoro-ji a few times already, so you may have guessed from where the third "misfits", the Warrior Monks (souhei, 僧兵) who supported Nobunaga, came.
In fact, when the "Three Linkage of Saika" decided to give their support to Nobunaga on 1577, even a certain Sugi-no-bo from Negoro-ji (根来寺の杉の坊) was there.
But, again, let's go in order.
The Negoro-ji was another Buddhist temple filled with fierce and proud Warrior Monks, who just like their laic counterpart were quite skilled with firearms, expecially when it came to guns of Tanegashima manifacture.
The "leader" of this revolution is to find in the figure of Tsuda Kenmotsu (Sanchou), who on 1543 went to Tanegashima himself to learn about the new weapon imported by the Westerners; he would develop the Tsuda-ryu school of gunnery, which secrets would be inherited by his second son, Tsuda Shozan, together with the leadership of the above mentioned Sugi-no-bo which is nothing else but a rectory within the precints of the Negoro-ji.
Warrior Monks from there would follow the Ikko Ikki to support Nobunaga's men in their raids. This kind of behaviour is not to judge too harshly, in fact both Ikko Ikki and Warrior Monks, expecially when so specialized in warfare, would easily act as mercenaries if required and profitable.
It's ironic to see the son allying with his father's arch-enemy, but it must be noted that Negoro-ji never bothered Nobunaga ever again after the pacification of the area, and viceversa.
Was it because of foresight on Shozan's part or the fear inspired by the still vivid scene of the burning of Mount Hiei on 1571..?

Whatever the case, it sure came in handy here.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

「O, LUX BEATISSIMA!」Nobunaga Comic Anthology!

Yesterday was the last day of the doujinshi market of Super Comic City 24, an event that showed my humble debut as a doujinka in Japan!
In fact I managed to collaborate on a comic anthology promoted by the extremely kind and patient Asaki, supported by the always irreplaceable Teap-dono, who acted as my interpreter and translator T^T !

I took part in it with a very short comic featuring the Battle of Okehazama, trying to render the charisma of Nobunaga in those fateful hours.
I managed to get a few copies for friends through Teap, I'll make sure to review the whole thing and to offer a free "scanlation" of my contribution as soon as I get the volume in my hands!

If you're interested in the purchase, you can get a copy through Toranoana. The website doesn't offer a shipping service for foreign countries, but you can still get one through services :D
Further previews of the contents can be found on pixiv!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Oda Nobunaga in Anime pt.II: The Historical Melting Pots

Beside those investigated last time, another disturbing tendency with Nobunaga's contemporary renditions in anime is that of taking a bunch of historical characters from various eras and places and mix them together in some heroic (?) situation of sort.

One of the first series to pop-up styled after this tendency and featuring Nobunaga as the main character is "Nobunagun".
This series was first released as a manga in 2011 by the author Masato Hisa and reduced into a 13 episodes-long anime series on January 2014.
The first proper comparison that popped into my mind was with the manga series "Hagane" by Masaomi Kanzaki dated 1998, which main difference with "Nobunagan" was that the "protagonist" hosted the genes of Miyamoto Musashi rather than the genes of Oda Nobunaga.
In this anime, Shio Ogura is your spacey military otaku girl, who lives her passion with a shy and reserved character, sure that people may make fun of her because of her strange tastes.
Things change for ever when Shio is forced to join the mysterious DOGOO organization, that fights evil aliens for the sake of humankind, because of her peculiar genes, coming staight from the Incident of Honnoji.
So, Nobunaga-sama comes to give strenght and tactical smartness to the girl by temporary possessing her body and showing his strategical genius.
Besides Nobunaga, the other main characters host the genes of Jack the Ripper, Gandhi, Newton, Geronimo, Gaudi, Galileo, the photo-reporter Capa, the criminalist Vidocq and the surgeon Hunter. In my opinion DOGOO had to do a better job with its DNA selection in case of alien invasion! I mean-- Robert Capa?!
The character of Shio was cute at the beginning, expecially because of the fun military passion, then the random sexual innuendos she's the victim of and her really stupid crush on Jack the Ripper left this watcher with a very huge WHY?! on her lips.
I was hoping for some interesting development and well, it just ends with Jack reciprocating his feelings for Nobunaga-chan. --Sorry if I find the mental image a bit disturbing XD

During the same exact period we were presented another anime of doubtful taste, "Nobunaga The Fool".
This was another intriguing project, born as a live stage exhibition in 2013 and later developed into an anime to air on January 2014.
The trailer of the anime looked quite promising, a mecha series set in a Sengoku look-alike mysterious planet and a struggle for power with pretty characters-- I was kinda perplexed by the size of the boobs of Jeanne d'Arc, but I wanted to give this series a chance.
And of course it was a waste of time.
If the superficiality of the characters' treatment in "Nobunagun" was almost its redeeming quality, here the scriptwriters of "The Fool" did their best to characterize the "Western Invasors" as evil, useless, treacherous and overall perverted-- Of course the only reason for the Westerners to be attracted by the Eastern Planet was to steal all its energy and resources, turning the planet into crap.
I still can't believe what happened to guys like Cesare Borgia, Nicolò Machiavelli and Charlemagne in this freaking anime.
The only Western characters who were treated with some mercy where only two: Leonardo Da Vinci, because he followed his wish to visit Jap-AEHM, the Eastern Planet to look for enlightment, and Julius Caesar, because he had the "good taste" to fall in love with a proper Japanese chick, the meek and charming Ichi-hime, Nobunaga's little sister.
The portrayal of Nobunaga had its interesting bits and revelations during the episodes, like how his acting as a fool hid the inner pain and troubles that he wasn't supposed to show, but on the contrary, to use as fuel for his ambition "whatever may happen", I mean, stuff that made one hope for some badass resolution, but no, the conclusion of the anime was exactly as pointless as I was afraid, and in the end Pandor-AEHM, Jeanne's boobs were almost the only redeeming feature of the series.

I'll close this sad list with the only "jewel" of this peculiar genre, the fun "Drifters" by Kouta Hirano, author of the famous "Hellsing".
This manga started its serialization in 2009, and on 2013, bundled with the OVA of the last DVD of "Hellsing Ultimate", was presented a short animation video dedicated to this series, more an omake to the fans of Hirano rather than an actual trailer for an OVA in the making:
Here instead of people with random genes or incarnations of the historical figures, we have the actual historical figures who are transported into a fantasy world, where they find themselves involved in the troubles of the locals, led by mere survival insticts.
The forces on the battlefield are separated into two factions: "The Drifters", those whose deaths were mysterious and left unproven, part of which Nobunaga is, and "The Ends", those who met a terrible death by the hands of others, making them grew spiteful of humankind.
Nobunaga is portrayed as a man in his fifties, being "transported" in the new world right after the Incident of Honnoji: he has a temper and it's a really fun and enjoyable portrait.
I found it interesting how Nobunaga's behaviour is centered around his feelings as a "father", that are the reasons why he takes under his protective wig the yound and wild Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist of the series.
The manga of Hirano is quite outrageous and disturbing in many parts, but it's that kind of narration and style that made him popular and entertaining as an author.

This genre start from another curiosity of people: what would happen if important historical characters from various places and historical periods would get to meet? Well, the answer is quite obvious: a war.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1965)

--And here I am to review another historical movie, this time dedicated to the rise to power of a young Tokugawa Ieyasu, yet featuring an exciting rendition of our favourite warlord, Nobunaga!
This 143 minutes-long movie was released on 1965 and directed by Daisuke Ito, who also took care of the scriptwriting.
As we already saw for "The Lucky Adventurer", the "source" for this movie was another popular novel by Yamaoka Souhachi, "Tokugawa Ieyasu" in fact, serialized from 1950 to 1967 on newspaper; from what I could see, the story stops at the third volume of the novel, featuring the introduction of the Oda clan and ending with the Battle of Okehazama.

Our first meeting with Nobunaga is during the captivity of Ieyasu (named Takechiyo) by the hands of the Oda.
Nobunaga is intrigued by the strenght, smartness and dignity of the little boy and offers him his friendship, sympathizing with the forced distance of his mother.

The actor playing Nobunaga both as an adult and as a youngster is Nakamura Kinnosuke, again, the same actor who played Nobunaga on the above mentioned "The Lucky Adventurer"-- So I won't tell you again about how popular and entertaining this guy is.

This time, I confess you that I didn't recognize him at all-- Sure he changed a lot during those six years... And I'm kinda amazed by how much difference a chonmage and some make-up can do to the facial features of a person!

The portrait of Nobunaga in this movie is quite intriguing.

The difference with the portrait of the daimyo suggested by recent series as Gunshi Kanbee is revealing of the spirit of the times: Nobunaga is a leader so he's both the politician and the strategist.
His eccentricity has the genuine taste of the strong man, and he's far from being portrayed as someone who needs someone to take "care of him".
He's surrounded by vassals, helpers and assistants but he's the one putting his men to use and not the opposite.

The first relevant action that Nobunaga did even as a young lad was taking care of his fellow countrymen. In the scene where he got to meet with Otai, Ieyasu's mother (Ineko Arima), he's showing as teaching kids to sing and dance so that they can sustain themselves.
After this first meeting with Otai, he did everything to keep in contact with the woman for the sake of Ieyasu.
Behind his eccentricity and roughness he's actually the caring type --Not sure how historically accurate it may be, but sure it's a reassuring thing for the audience to assume that they are led by responsible fellows.

Hideyoshi is played by Kei Yamamoto:
It's an interesting portrait! Instead of being characterized as a bufoon, here Hideyoshi has the vibe of the spy, the information gatherer, almost as a fishy henchman from a noir movie...
Nobunaga used to meet him at the market by Kiyosu's castle, but later on he's showed as servicing him as a proper informer: "I know everything in-between Heaven and Hell" is his catchy motto!

In this movie both Imagawa Yoshimoto (Kou Nishimura) and his uncle advisor Sessai (Koreya Senda) managed to get a good deal of screentime, and are immediately portrayed as the shrewd villains of the movie.
Faithful to his nickname, "The Fox of Suruga", Yoshimoto, advised by his uncle monk, makes sure to secure his lands by keeping his rivals on check with cruel plots.
How he used up the strenght and resources of his "forced allies", the Matsudaira, placing them on the vanguard of his army to do all the dirty job for him, was pointed out by Nobunaga as a reason to hope for Ieyasu's support.

Nou-hime was played by Junko Miyazono, and her presence in the movie was not very relevant.
She's just showed as serving Nobunaga her meal and seeing him off to pray for him on the eve of the Battle of Okehazama.
A dignified rendition, but just worth a note for the sake of a complete review.

On a fangirly note, an actor playing as Iwamuro Nagato-no-kami, Nobunaga's favourite page during the Kiyosu days-- YEEEE!
He's Koujiro Kawakami and he's a pretty boy!
I was delighted by the presence of so many pages around Nobunaga in that period, a real treat!

Pages and warriors are also the special feature of the Atsumori of this movie; a real show that Nobunaga presented to everyone, expecially to Nagato, that, as Nobunaga jokes, by now he should be bored to see:

"Sing with me, as this may be my last performance!"
Again, a vigorous, moving performance by our kabuki superstar.

Another interesting bit of this movie that caught my attention is the quick "lucky meal" that takes the place of the usual bowl of rice gulped down while putting up the armour:
Nobunaga takes a bit of each of the three dishes and recites (according to the English subs) "Strike! Victory! Happiness! I will eat the ogre!" before swallowing the treat and washing it down with three cups of sake.
I assume that it's some kind of ritual to bring good luck (the word "打ち勝つ" is an expression that means "to overcome")-- I assume that it's also related to the served food... As "katsu" means pork... If you get to know more about this curious ritual, please share your infos!

The Battle of Okehazama is shown while being performed early in the morning and during the famous storm:
It wasn't accurate and I'm always sad at seeing Yoshimoto dying like a moron, but that's it-- A short bit of a battle in difficult conditions to remark the drama of Ieyasu and the stubborness of Nobunaga.

Long story short, an interesting and original rendition of the facts that I suggest you to watch to re-fuel your imagination on the events.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Nobunaga's Unexpected Allies: Shingen and Kenshin

The Sengoku era was indeed a period of disorder and treacherous ways, and it was easy, as we saw in the post of Nobunaga's rebellious retainers, to find an enemy in the friend of yesterday, and viceversa.
Some of Nobunaga's enemies gained their fame exactly because they strongly opposed Nobunaga, but it wasn't always the case and the look of things changed in due time.

I would love to focus this first post on the subject on two of the characters that were most famous for their active partecipation to the so-called Anti-Nobunaga Alliance (信長包囲網, "Nobunaga Encirclement"), Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin.
The relationship between the three is one of those messy things from the Sengoku era indeed, and it's usually not deeply investigated as it's connected to another character, usually dismissed as a moron, shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki.
Once Nobunaga put Yoshiaki back in Kyoto as the legitimate shogun, before the things got sour between the two, Yoshiaki worked quite hard to keep the land peaceful. To do so, he tried to solve peacefully the increasing tension between the more prominent daimyo of the time, supporting the collaborative relationships among the most "touchy" clans.
To do so, he used Nobunaga and his most beloved Asakura Yoshikage to promote diplomatic relationships between the Takeda, the Hojo and the Uesugi, and used Shingen to pacify Nobunaga and Kennyo.

Nobunaga started his correspondence with Ashikaga around 1565, discussing the matter of giving Ashikaga "back" his seat as shogun in Kyoto as a mean to stop the wars the scorched the lands of Japan.
It's mentioned that at first Ashikaga was keener on Kenshin as a supporter, but the continuous battles with his neighbour Shingen proved to keep him busy on the most important time, making him lose momento.
"Momento" which was caught by Nobunaga, who suddenly proved his worth as "saviour of the nation" by capturing Mino in 1567, entering the stage of "proper daimyo".

It's on the June of the same year that Nobunaga would start a serie of diplomatic marriages with the Takeda.
On 1565 Katsuyori, Shingen's heir, would take the daughter of a certain Toyama Naokado as his bride. Naokado was a vassal of Nobunaga, and his daughter was adopted by Nobunaga as his niece, thus making her an important pawn for diplomatic business.
Unfortunately the woman would die on 1567 due to childbirth. She would leave behind the unlucky son of Katsuyori, Nobukatsu, and a chance for another marriage, another unlucky one.
In 1567, in fact, the hand of the young Matsuhime was offered to Nobutada, both of them children fiancee. The marriage will never get to happen, though, because the relationship between Nobunaga and Shingen would turn inevitably sour on 1572-- But let's get in order.

The "march on Kyoto" that would grant the seat as shogun to Yoshiaki would happen in 1568.
With the mediation of Yoshiaki, Nobunaga would start a deep correspondence with the Uesugi clan via Naoe Kanetsugu around 1569.

So, one can assume that the situation among these great powers was relatively peaceful, at least 'til 1671, when the relationship between Yoshiaki and Nobunaga would break permanently: the two of them faced their first crisis on 1569, probably because in those days Nobunaga's attacked the Kitabatake clan of Ise without Yoshiaki's consent.
Around 1571 Shingen would show some intolerance to Nobunaga's methods related to the infamous Siege of Mount Hiei, where Nobunaga erased the warrior monks of Enryaku-ji.
As we said, on 1572 Shingen would break his peaceful relationship with Nobunaga.
Kenshin would last a few longer, even after Shingen's death on 1573, 'til 1576, joining the third Anti-Nobunaga Alliance.

In the end it may be a mere matter of math: Shingen was Nobunaga's enemy from 1572 to 1573 (1 year, compared to the 7 as allies), while Kenshin from 1576 to 1578 (2 years, compared to the 6 as allies)-- Probably they were stuck to the role of "mortal enemies" of Nobunaga because they died as such..?

To illustrate this post I picked two beautiful prints coming from the collection "Tsuki Hyakushi" (月百姿, "One-hundred Aspects of the Moon") by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi; for once I gave up on the belligerant portraits coming from the theme of the Battles of Kawanakajima to focus on something more suggestive and revealing of the poetic nature of the two daimyo.
The first print is dedicated to Shingen (1886), as he stares at the moon behind Mount Fuji, across Suruga bay. The poem on the cartouche translates as "On the coast at Kiyomi, even the sky bars the way - the moon is blocked by the Mio pine groves".
The print dedicated to Kenshin (1890) shows the warlord while composing a poem as he looks at geese flying under the moonlight on the eve of the battle of Sadogashima. The poem on the cartouche reveals "Frost fills the camp and the autumn air is still - lines of returning geese cross the moon of the third hour."
To know (and see!) more about the "Tsuki Hyakushi" and its protagonists, I urge you to visit this useful webpage.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Nobunaga's Ekiben at OSOZAI-YA Minomishou

What's better that starting the new year with a post about food XD ?

For this first post of the year I decided to dust-off something from the year that just ended, and give you a review of an ekiben dedicated to Nobunaga that I had the chance to find during my last trip to Japan:
I bought this at Nagoya Station in a shop called OSOZAI-YA Minomishou-- It's by the "Taiko-dori" exit, a few steps away from another lovely ekiben shop, the Nagoya Daruma (which is definitely my favourite).
As the name implies, this shop is specialized on Nagoya food with a charm for the Mino region, so you can keep it as a focus to taste the various delicacies in need of a quick snack.

The whole thing presented itself as a sumptuous banquet.
Unfortunately it was cold T_T But that's part of the charm of an ekiben, isn't it..?

Let's check the contents and try them out!

Let's start with the main dish, the misokatsu!
Delicious and crispy, it's my favourite part of this bento.
As it's quite strong-flavoured, the rule implies that you have to eat the rice with it.
The rice section of this bento is quite luxurious, two rich servings in different colours and dressings.
Unfortunately the extra ingredients and the colours are just for show: it's the usual vapid rice that you'd eat everywhere.
It went down well with the flavoury misokatsu though, so I won't complain too much.
The "pink rice" is relished with azuki beans and sesame, the "orange rice" is decorated with carrots and mushrooms-- But seriously, everything had practically no flavour. Which is probably a merit, given the strong-flavoured side-dish.

I broke through each bit of misokatsu and rice with some veggies to clean up my mouth.
It's boiled beans in a sauce and the renkon, recognizable by its peculiar shape, the lotus root.

Last task, the tenmusu, another Nagoya delicacy:
The version of Osozai-ya is a bit different from the "orthodox" tenmusu, in fact, instead of just one proper shrimp, they like to squeeze a handful of fried baby shrimps inside.
They call this original recipe "Yume Tenmusu". --The rice balls sure are huge and in my opinion waaay too filling-- I had an hard time eating them after I ingurgitated all that rice XD

My general opinion of this ekiben is not extremely positive, then.
The misokatsu sure was delicious, but I didn't like the idea of having it on a pitiful leaf of salad instead of the canonical slices of cabbage, which is used to temper the saltiness of the miso, and also the tenmusu were a bit hard to digest with all the rice and the huge size-- It was definitely a flavoury filling meal, though, and the fact that it was dedicated to Nobunaga-- Well, it's just positive extra points!