伊賀上野、三重県 (Iga-Ueno, Mie Prefecture)
With my cousin Winston in town to visit, we natrually decided to take him far away from Kusatsu in order to give him a pleasant taste of the country. The monkeys, the snow-shuddedring Suzuka (鈴鹿) mountains, and the 1 liter vending machine purchasable cans of beers are just too vital to the Japan experience––we couldn't let him leave empty handed!
In sooth we headed out to the city appelled of Ueno in a northern valley of Mie to visit the "home of ninja." Winston has long pursued an interest in ninja history, culture, and lifestyle, and Katie and I were also intrigued to learn more about the mysterious stealth and secrecy behind the Iga Ninja clans.
We seem innocent, but wow, are you in for trouble. Katie has all of China's nuclear weapons, the ghost of Saddam Huessein, and about 50 suidice bombers under her hat.
Here is the ninja mentality. When the Samurai and fuedal lords began using their authority irresponsibly, many families decided to separate from mainstream society and develop an independent form of self-governence in rural and mountainous areas. Nijustsu arose as a means of defending themselves and their communities from governing classes who wanted to claim taxes and assert power over all within reach. Their guerilla tactics arose out of necessity, driven by the needs of self-defense and survival. At the same time, many ninjas also rented their knowledge of disguise and stealth and became assassins to abet warring samurai lords. Many a ninja were hired for mercenary duties that the proud samurai would not deign to perform due to their strict ethical code.
Sorcery and subterfuge!!!!
The Iga ninjas were finally destroyed in a series of attacks by a daimyo (fuedal lord) named Oda Nobunaga. His initial army of 4,000 warriors died and failed to conquer the Iga ninja and allies. However, a second wave of approximately 40,000 soldiers did the job, and almost entirely destroyed the surrounding villages. Some families who knew the secret of the ninja escaped and continued to practice their ways in nearby mountains.
This is by no means an entire history of ninja, only a very brief and non-expert look that I got from a few hours in Iga. But two interesting questions I thought of are;
1) What is it in human beings that makes them believe they need to rule over others? Why did the landowners during fuedal times need to control entire valleys and ranges? Why have humans always tried to take and enslave each other? Why does one man's power (in the example of this story, the samurai) derive from the number of people he can kill?
A samurai warriors helmet. I can see how this thing could literally ignite one's sense of self-righteousness. I'll bet decapitating someone while wearing this crown of Prometheus would feel pretty empowering.
Maybe we should call Freud back for this one. Or Jenna Jameson...
2) Why did the ninjas, who left the samurai realms to begin a simpler and more peaceful life, allow themselves to become tools for the samurai and very people they despised? If the ninja families truly wished to remove themselves from land struggles and warring egos, why did they reenter that society and attack it?
I know that those staunchly destructive samurai and the meddlesome ninja who did these things were not the sole representatives of their populations. But these questions should be more often attempted and pondered because these are the types of personalities who have been warring and causing the overwhelming majority of manmade casualities throughout history. The ultimate question that this leads to, one that most people hopefully do not have an automatic answer, is what ideals are worth killing for? Who, if anyone, deserves to have authority?
I elect these two strapping chaps! They sure appear trustworthy and as common as flies on a mule's ass, or rabies in a junkyard rat. I vote for Captain Pringles and his sidekicks, the 1 liter beers (with the Winston-Salem team as their understudies).
As always, I would love to hear some responses to these querries; either personally or on the blog here. Thanks for listening.
The remaining photographs are taken in and around Ueno Castle (上野城). This was actually one of the most decorated of any Japanese castle I've visited so far, as the photos reveal. Unfortunately I do not yet know the proper names for many of these object––the helmets, the human carrier, etc.––but as soon as I learn I will update those portions.
This is a hybrid of classical Japanese symbolism: the red rising sun eclipsed with a rane in mid-flight.
High tech S&M equipment. I do NOT want to play anymore!
Another Taiko (太鼓) bass drum
This was used to transport the Daimyo and other fuedal lords. The cramped space, unfortunately difficult to capture on camera, gives a good perception of human evolution over merely the past 4-500 years. I know I have a different point of reference, but this device looks more like a torture device that a vehicle of transportation. On another note, I think it's a shame that luxury kills a person's motivation to use his own body.