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Do not plan for my return.
General Takamichi Kuribayashi, of Nagano, writing to his wife
I just got back from sword training in Nagano. Nagano is in the Japanese Alps. The winter Olympics were held there in 1998. It is an area of volcanic mountains and stark and mysterious rock formations. The countryside is beautiful. And the food is delicious.
Two small details stick in my mind. I could get an English newspaper in Nagano. But it was a day old. Outside Tokyo the newspapers are always a day late. And one organized man bought all his omiyage souvenir presents on the way there.
Sanada Yukimura is a famous samurai from Nagano in the Sengoku Warring States period. He was a master of military strategy. He was called the best warrior in Japan. He fought in many battles.
His father Sanada Masayuki fought with Yukimura in the Western forces against Tokugawa Ieyasu. But in an astonishing tactical move he aligned his first son Sanada Nobuyuki with the Eastern forces. It was reminiscent of the Judgment of Solomon. Whatever the outcome the Sanada line would survive. But the family would be forever divided.
General Takamichi Kuribayashi was an impressive warrior from Nagano in the twentieth century. He was played by Ken Watanabe in the Clint Eastwood movie Letters from Iwo Jima.
at ease talking or remaining silent
moving or staying still
serene even when greeted with sharp weapons Yoka Genkaku, The Song of Enlightenment
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs Rudyard Kipling, If
This is a true story about a famous aikido teacher.. One day he got into a fight. He let himself get provoked. The blood rushed to his head and he lost his cool. But instead of using aikido he punched the other man. He got into a punching match. It should have been easy for him to handle the situation. All he had to do was keep cool. And let his training kick in.
So decades of training. And great technical ability.
Out. The. Window.
I saw a similar thing happen once with someone who had done judo for many years. He made a completely unjustified aggressive comment to somebody. The man warned him. But the judoka didn't cool the situation down. He took the rudeness up a notch. So the man just punched him. The judoka didn't throw him. Or control him. Or wrap him up and take him to the ground. He headbutted him.
The final result was that the other man punched him a few more times. The judoka ended up in hospital. The other man ended up in a police cell.
Years of training. Forgotten. In an instant.
These weren't beginners. One was a professional aikido teacher. The other was a veteran of many judo tournaments.
I've written about a time travel movie before in time takes. I saw another 'time slip' movie recently. This one didn't sound very promising. A time travel movie starring a member of an aging boy idol pop group. Tsuyoshi Kusanagi from SMAP. Let me add an aside here that I really dislike the Japanese habit of inserting idols into what might otherwise be interesting movies and drama series. The movie was a remake of an animated movie. From a long-running anime series about a young boy. The original anime movie was popular and even won some awards. Then somebody somewhere had the idea to make a version with real actors. And made the inspired choice of Takashi Yamazaki the director of Always: Sunset on Third Street to direct it.
Always was a huge hit in Japan. It was set in a local community in postwar Tokyo. The director's clever use of a combination of locations and sets and computer graphics brought the Showa era brilliantly to life. It fuelled a nostalgia boom for the simpler and purer life of the nineteen-fifties. There were also a couple of sequels.
In this movie Ballad a boy goes back in time to the Sengoku Warring States period of Japanese history. Eventually his parents go back in time too to find him. Just as a battle is about to begin.
So Takashi Yamazaki's recreation of life in warring states period Japan was excellent. The battle scenes especially were very well done. Details like the order of battle and the techniques fo