14 May 2008

The Samurai's tale

The Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima, fought between the forces of Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen is considered a tactically interesting battle. So intersting, that in the little town of Yonezawa, they reenact that famous battle every spring. That annual battle seems to get Yonezawa its fifteen minutes in the spotlight. Yonezawa was the stronghold of the Uesugi clan during the Sengoku period of Japanese history.

Last month I got an email from one of the local newsgroups asking for volunteers to participate in this year's enactment of the battle. There was this small unit of about 15 that welcomed 'foreigners' to participate. That sounded very interesting. Why not, I thought, and promptly volunteered all four of us. But the organisers were not allowed to recruit samurai of under high-school age. The kids could not be samurai, and one of us had to drop out too. Guess who lost that toss??

On the big day, we started off early in the morning, and drove to Yonezawa. If I thought I lived in a small town, Yonezawa was... well.... way smaller. Since we'd had a really long drive to get there, we were among the last to arrive, and Arun was rushed into the changing room to get into costume.
And that perplexed the little one totally.
"Amma, why is Appa wearing a silly dress?"
"That's not a dress, baby. Appa is wearing a costume."
"Why is Appa wearing a costume?"
"Because today your Appa is a samurai."

And having satisfied her curiosity to that point we marched off to the battlefield.

And there she saw the armies swear fealty to their respective daimyo, in this case, to Takeda Shingen.
And they're ready to fight. For honour, for glory and all that jazz.
"Amma, why is Appa dressed like Spiderman?"
"No, baby. Appa is dressed like a Samurai."

And then the Uesugi forces start to get into formation.
"Amma, is Appa going to fight with those people."
The questions don't stop, do they.
"Amma, now I know what's happening. Appa is the good Spiderman, those people are bad Spiderman. Now all the good Spiderman uncles are going to scold the bad Spiderman uncles."

Talk about impeccable logic.

And they charge and are engaged in battle.

The forward troops light signal flares, and the troops start to get in formation.

The reserves on the other side of the river see the signal. They ford the river and hit the Uesugi armies from the back.

And battle heats up again.

Much as I hate to say it, I totally missed the climax of the battle. One little kid demanded to be taken to the restroom immediately, and refused to wait till the war was over.

And by the time I got back, the battle was all over, the battlefield littered with the (pretending to be) dead.

Well, when you got to go, you got to go.

I have to admit it was a great day. The battle was beautifully choreographed, and Arun had loads of fun.

But there were some really funny scenes out there. The bulk of the troops were high-school kids. The distribution of the sexes was equal. And it lead to interesting skirmishes. The armies charge. Four school girls meet in the middle of the field. They looked at each other and giggled.
I swear I'm NOT making this up!

After the battle, an old lady came up to Arun and asked to pose for a picture with him. She was so excited and she said, "Last Samurai?? Tom Cruise?" Err... lady.... Hmmm.. never mind. Say cheese.

As the troops went back to change into 21st century clothes, one bunch of Samurai charged a bunch of schoolgirls who were chatting by hte roadside. They squealed (loudly) and then wanted to take pictures.

Here, we see little girls start Samurai training... jut in case some weirdo charges her..

This shot was taken before the battle. It was so totally incongruous.

Did the average samurai warrior have to deal with little girls insisting that they had to be picked up right now? Or have to count how many hugs each kid got?
This one did. So what if he was wearing a Spiderman 'dress'.


Tys on Ice said...

so cool!

do they get to swing those swords, or is it just wood?

man, they shud recreate mahabharatha in india...i really wud love to shoot rain and fire and flying snake and other such things ...

damn! u having so much fun while my biggest excitement of the day is watching a camel eat a plastic bag..

Gouri Dange said...

vidya what absolute fun is to see and hear all this through your eyes and ears. The Battle of the Good Spiderman Uncles and Bad Spiderman Uncles will go down in history as one of your best blogs. Not to speak of the quirky pics - Samurai Uncle holding quick conference call before charging into battle. keep telling more...

Anonymous said...

Last Samurai - hahaha. That's just classic.

And that katana is bigger than Aditi!

Anyway, the moment I started reading this post, I was reminded of this classic Southpark episode: http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/103779

Joy said...

Cool :) I never knew of this traditional battle of Nippon but seems like some fun.

amma said...

beautifully written

Madhumita. said...

You sure know how to spend your weekends :-D. Wow - lots of fun, the kids look adorable and the samurai clearly had a blast!

Vidya said...

@tys: those are wooden swords... there were good sword fights,a and there were the hams who got (mock-)stabbed and took forever and a day to die... rolling and writing all over the place. Camels eating plastic bags?? Get the SPCA there for some entertainment!

@Gouri: thanks :)

@Antrix: Thanks,D :) it was really awesome.. yes, the Katana is way larger than Aditi'

@Joy: there's also an annual re-enactment at Kufu in Yamaguchi prefecture!

@Madhu: hehehe... thats why I asked you to come on over for a holiday :D

bee said...

hahaha!!! that was awesome.