Katana : Japanese traditional sword – Part 2 –
Katana : Japanese sword (2)
Japanese swords are famous as samurai’s weapons, but was it impossible for common people like farmers to own them?
Japanese swords for civilians
If you have seen an old film “Shichinin no samurai” (Seven samurai) by Akira Kurosawa, you might think that Japanese farmers in the old times haven’t got proper weapons to protect themselves, let alone the knowledge of how to fight.
In the film, farmers in a small village suffered from frequent looting by a bunch of lordless samurai, and they wanted to hire skilled samurai who could fight against the villains for them.
The story seems to take place in 1586
*, the “Sengoku” (Warring States) period.
In fact, there were lots of battles everywhere as you can imagine from the name of the period, so most of the farmers had got their weapons including Japanese swords and they did fight against authorities when necessary.
There were leagues which local lords, merchants, farmers and / or “ji-zamurai” (local samurai) organised, and some of them raised riots.
The word “ikki” refers to the leagues and their activities, but probably many Japanese think of riots by those leagues.
One of the most famous “ikki” in the “Sengoku” period is “Ikkou-ikki” (Ikkou revolts).
“Ikkou” is abbreviated word for “Ikkou-shuu”, a sect of Buddhism.
People including samurai who believed in the religion revolted against feudal warlords.
They were quite powerful, and even occupied a province of “Kaga” (southern part of present “Ishikawa”) once.
Nobunaga Oda had great difficulties and it took ten years to overpower those “Ikkou” people.
In 1588, Hideyoshi Toyotomi ordered “Katana-gari” (sword hunt), seizing weapons from civilians to avoid those kind of troubles and to separate people from different classes much more clearly.
Later in Edo era, travelers were allowed to carry “waki-zashi” to protect themselves.
Also, some civilians were given a permission to have their own family name and carry two swords, katana and waki-zashi, like samurai from the government to praise their achievement and / or good behaviours.
You can tell this from the line by Kanbei, the leader of samurai, speaking to Kikuchiyo, a samurai imposter.
The line is like “You are born in February 17 in 1574. This means you are 13 years old this year.”
You may say “1574 + 13 = 1587, so “this year” in the film must be 1587!”
However, before adopting a solar calendar in 1873, everyone got old on January 1 no matter when your birthday was, and every new-born baby was one year old (there were no zero year old baby).
This age-counting method is called as “kazoe-doshi” (lit. counting age).
The “kazoe-doshi” method was still commonly used even after the government established a law in 1902 to adopt Western system of counting age solely and exclusively.
So, the government had to enact another law in 1950 to encourage people to use Western age-counting system instead of “kozoe-doshi”.
Thus, if Kurosawa intended to make a film as authentic as possible, it should be 1586.
I believe Kurosawa had tried to be true to the history, because I’ve heard he was such a perfectionist that he prepared a real letter in an envelope to use for a film, in spite of the fact he just needed the envelope.
(It was the same for the audience whether a letter was there or not, because inside of the envelope was never shown.)
And the film has the reputation as a very well researched creation.
So, it was a big surprise when I knew that the very basic setting – helpless farmers hired samurai to protect their village – was quite improbable whether the story took place in 1586 or 1587 (it was clearly before “katana-gari” in 1588).
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
Last time, we talked about the sly kitsune or the Japanese fox. In this post, we will feature another animal that is popular in Japanese legends and myths and just like the kitsune, is sometimes depicted as a trickster, the tanuki or the Japanese raccoon dog. Tanuki, Not Your Ordinary Raccoon Though they look like […]
Today is Health and Sports Day in Japan (体育の日Taiiku no Hi). It is a national holiday that is held annually to commemorate the 1964 Summer Olympics that was held in Tokyo. Nowadays, it still exists to promote sports and active lifestyle among the Japanese. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts […]
Kendo kata are fixed patterns that teach kendoka the basic elements of swordsmanship. The kata include fundamental techniques of attacking and counter-attacking, and have useful practical application in general kendo. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 […]
Continuing our feature about Japan’s Golden Week, this post will feature the second and third holidays, the Constitution Memorial Day and Greenery Day. Constitution Memorial Day The Constitution Memorial Day, or Kenpō Kinenbi (憲法記念日) as it is known in Japan, is a national holiday in Japan that is celebrated every May 3. The date signifies […]
Japan is blessed to have four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The word setsubun (節分, seasonal division) referred to the days marking the change from one season to the next. So, originally there were four of them, but nowadays, only the day before the beginning of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar, called […]
At this years company excursion, we traveled down south to Seto Inland Sea. Located in between Imabari, Ehime and Onomichi, Hiroshima. It took us about three hours to reach the port of Shitadami where we boarded a small cruise vessel to experience the Rapid Tides of the Kurushima Strait. Before the cruise started, the cruise […]
What is “ninja”? From “Mansenshuukai” a.k.a. “Bansenshuukai” (a famous ninjutsu-sho, a book about ninja’s tricks), an excellent ninja is described as one who makes a great success but; Makes no sound Has no odor Remains nameless Never win a name for himself / herself Makes outstanding achievements just like creating this world About the expression […]
Dog in Japan One of the very popular animals in Japanese old tales. As long as I remember, usually drawn as a white medium-size Japanese dog in a book, with a curled tail and erect, triangular ears like a Kishu dog. The dogs are always loyal, take the good men’s side. I can’t remember any […]
Mastering karuta requires a combination of quick reflexes and memorization. And for the Japanese language learner, karuta also offers the perfect blend of procrastination and productivity, a way to work and play at same time. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text […]
Sumo (相撲, spelled as sumou in romaji, literally means “striking one another”) is a competitive full-contact wrestling sport where a rikishi (wrestler) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyō) or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts […]