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Old 03-22-2010, 05:52 PM   #37
Scott Harrington
Location: Wilmington, De
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 86
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17

With the down time of AikiWeb (Jun -- you run a good site!) I had some time to do a little ‘research' regarding several points that pop up regarding Takeda Sokaku's younger days. Nothing direct, but some filler. So….

First off, a quick watch of the 2007 TV drama, "Byakkotai" had some neat scenes. Saigo Tanomo, the supposed teacher of ‘aiki' is shown as a middle aged man (without the scraggly beard) in the role as a high ranking adviser. While the movie's portrayal of Tanomo isn't too flattering (in reality the Aizu clan was effectively bought off by the Emperor to clean up Kyoto), it gives a feel of his character. Caught between a rock and a hard place, and knowing bad will happen.

For those not up on Aizu history, the Byakkotai (White Tiger corps) were comprised of students of the Nishhinkan (Aizu's version of West Point). The young men (really boys) actively fought against the invasion of their region and a small group separated by the chaos of battle from the main body committed suicide (19 died with one surviving the attempt), believing their castle had fallen. Very dramatic, a most honorable deed, this group corresponded very much to the southern cadets from VMI fighting in the American Civil War or the Hitler Youth (with NONE of the bad connotations) such that both the German Nazi's and Mussolini's fascists set up statues in Japan to commemorate their sacrifice.

Another source gave some more background of the times that Takeda Sokaku and his family lived through. "Remembering Aizu, the Testament of Shiba Goro" recounts the life of a small samurai child who had just entered the Nishhinkan but too young to enter the Byakkotai.

Much like Saigo Tanomo, whose family killed themselves, Shiba Goro lost his mother, grandmother and two sisters along with his brother's wife to ritual suicide. Besides this terrible incident, he describes the subjugation of Aizu by the Satsuma (‘potato samurai' -- an insult) and Choshu clans. He states that in a 9 month period involving the Boshin War, 2,610 Aizu men died (not including Samurai women and civilians.)

With the Aizu clan surrendering, the hardships continued with no income, no food, forced relocations, and very little future. Shiba Goro talks of barely surviving, losing his hair from poor nutrition, and even having to consume dog.

This is the atmosphere that Takeda Sokaku would have endured, his father having served in one of the corps made up of Sumo players and hunters. Tough times afterward and the only future were political connections and attempting to get an education (that was Shiba Goro's ticket out, having eventually studied French and other subjects in a military academy, leading to a successful career as an officer). A near illiterate Sokaku did not seem to be a promising help to the family.

One reason Takeda Sokaku in later years went to Hokkaido (besides acting as a ‘bodyguard') might have been that 200 fellow clan members had ‘relocated' to this frontier after the war.

The Aizu clan, heavily regimented with strict codes of honor, were struck down by petty politics as Emperor, Shogun, and warring parties fought to lead (or not lead) the emerging Japan out of the nearly 250 year Tokugawa blockade and contend with the western world. Even before the Boshin War, gunpowder weapons from rifles, cannons and even Gatling Guns began to supplant the way of the bow and arrow. Sword and spear met minie bullets and canister. Hot lead defeated cold steel.

But the samurai way can best be stated in the death poem by Saigo Tanomo's older sister, written just before she cut her own throat:

Each time I die and am reborn in this world
I wish to return as a stalwart warrior

Scott Harrington - Waiting with BATED breath for TIE 18.
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