Sunday, December 24, 2006

Current Projects

Right now I'm busy with two unrelated projects. I am currently translating selected sections of the Shinchokoki (信長公記) - A record of the life of Oda Nobunaga. I plan to translate at least 10 sections, almost done with the first section.

Also, I'm going gung-ho into gathering information for the Shinsengumi section of the SamuraiWiki (which you can find here.) I've translated basic info on about 10 members in the past 2 days, and over the next month or so should be able to gather info on another 70 or 80 members. After which I'll start filling in the actual biographies. Most are in "stub" status as I put up each member with basic information such as the years of birth and death, and thier various aliases, and where they were from. I also picked up Romulus Hillsborough's "Shinsengumi" book, and have just started reading it.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I was able to attend the Kofun lecture, and it was interesting, although since Kofun aren't really my thing I don't know how much I was actually able to follow. Theories were thrown around about how Himiko might be buried at Hashihaka, and how she may have been a shaman-priestess, rather than a "queen".

The Samurai Archives Forum now has monthly study groups that focus on reading and research on a specific topic. This month the topic is "Kofun", and is being facilitated by user "Nagaeyari". The next few are being worked out, but it appears that January will be the "47 Ronin", facilitated by user "Wave Tossed", and February will probably be on the "Shinsengumi", facilitated by myself. Basically what each study group entails is a "suggested reading list", as well as some materials provided if available, and a facilitator who "directs" discussion.

If you are interested in joining a future study group, drop by the forum and sign up.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

UH Japanese History Lectures

Last week I attended a lecture by Dr. Yoshiko Dykstra entitled "The Shogun's Woman: Lady Kasuga". It was very interesting, and I took copious notes. I still have more to add, but here are two SamuraiWiki entries that resulted:
Today I will be attending a lecture called "THE QUEEN MOTHER CULT AND MIWA RULERS OF EARLY KOFUN JAPAN" by Dr. Gina Barnes. I'll post here after the lecture and hopefully add to the Wiki as well.

Monday, November 13, 2006

SamuraiWiki User Badges

I have been hard at work creating new badges for Users of the Samurai Archives Wiki. The new badges denote interest or specialization in a particular category. Click Here for a list of the currently available User badges. As of the writing of this entry, there are 12 badges available, including interest/specialization in Japanese castles, the Sengoku period, Samurai movies, as well as badges to reflect different levels of Japanese ability.

If anyone is interested in researching Japanese history and contributing to the Samurai Archives wiki, feel free to sign up.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Improved Site Search

A new site search has been implemented that allows users to specify searching the forums, the wiki, or the Samurai Archives:

The wiki still hasn't been completely spidered by Google yet, so it won't give full results, but it is more "forgiving" than the built-in wiki search for misspellings and close spellings.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wikipedia plagiarism

A few days ago it was brought to my attention that a user named "Darin Fidika" on Wikipedia has been copying text sentence by sentence from the Samurai Archives to wikipedia for nearly a year. Various people from our corner jumped in to fight to get the copyrighted materials removed from wikipedia. It looks like this is finally happening. Up to at least 700 articles taken from the Samurai Archives sentence by sentence have been deleted or are slated for deletion.

Shockingly enough, "Darin Fidika" seems to be incapable of comprehending what he has done. He feels that even though entire articles were copied sentence by sentence from start to finish, because he changed a few words (and more often than not simply butchered the english language) that he is fully justified. His further "justification" for his theft is remarkably inane and ridiculous - he feels that there aren't "enough" samurai articles on wikipedia, and that it "isn't fair" that the samurai archives has all these articles. This is to say nothing of the time and effort that we have put into the Samurai Archives over the years, researching and translating Japanese sources, countless hours of effort to make the information available. "Darin Fidika" has no comprehension of research, study, plagiarism, or copyright. He believes that since he can't find any other information via the internet, it is OK to steal from the Samurai Archives, because "Where else can [he] find the information to create wikipedia articles?". Obviously, until such time that there are people at wikipedia willing to translate japanese sources, to do new research to create original, cohesive articles, there will be no additional "Samurai" articles on wikipedia. So what? If people who contribute to wikipedia are not willing to put in the time and effort to research and create articles, then obviously there is not much call for such articles. Wikipedia is not "the internet" - people who contribute to wikipedia do not have free reign to plagiarise copyrighted materials just because "there aren' t any articles about [it] on Wikipedia yet".

The sad fact is that probably fullly 60% of all sengoku related biographies, clan information, and general history currently on wikipedia has come from the Samurai Archives, and more often than not has gone uncited. I think it would be great if people interested in Japanese history would contribute new, original scholarship to wikipedia, rather than gut and rape the Samurai Archives for all it is worth. Everyone should find this fiasco with wikipedi disturbing. The fact that a single user, "Darin Fidika" was not only allowed to post hundreds of plagiarised articles completely uncited over the past year, but was also in fact lauded for his "interesting articles" (see his Talk page), is a severe blow to the reputation of wikipedia.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Samurai Archives Wiki - Online

The Samurai Archives Wiki (SamuraiWiki) is now live and online:

We have already added a tremendous amount of information, but we need all the help we can get to build the largest repository of pre-20th century Japanese history on the internet. All you need to do to contribute is to sign up. If you decide to help out, just be sure to read the information on the main page on how to edit, and on the correct formatting.

Currently the main areas that need editing and adding are the Edo and Bakumatsu period (info on the 47 Ronin, Shinsengumi, etc) and information on the arms and armors of the Samurai. We also need to build the Samurai movie database as well as the history and fiction book database.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Samurai Fiction Contest 2007 - Update

The Entry fee for the 2007 Samurai Fiction contest is now $10. After December 31st, the fee will be $15 until the deadline in April. If you are an aspiring writer, published writer, or know someone who is, let them know:

For every 5 entries, the Samurai Archives will add an additional $50 to the total winnings.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dragon Tattoo - Part 4

Voila - the finished product - a blue Japanese dragon tattoo:

The side, see previous posts for comparison:

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Samurai Wiki, Part 2, and new S-A "Citadel" URL

The new Samurai Archives SamuraiWiki is moving steadily forward, and will probably be ready to go live by the end of the week. Keep an eye out. There will be plenty of opportunities for interested historians and editors to contribute.

The Samurai Archives Citadel online community is now housed on the Samurai Archives:

Monday, September 04, 2006

Samurai Wiki

I am in the process of putting up a "Samurai Wiki", to create a giant Samurai biography page. The "famous Samurai" section, being all HTML, is a pain to update, so I intend to replace it with a mediawiki driven page. Stay tuned for details.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Third Annual Samurai Fiction Contest

The entry phase of the third annual Samurai Fiction contest is now underway. Between now the entry fee is only $7, and will increase incrementally as the entry deadline approaches in 2007. Details can be found on the information page for the contest, however this year for every five entries, the Samurai Archives will add an additional $50 to the total winnings. Winnings will be split 80/20 between the winner and the runner up, with possible prizes for honorable mention. Encourage anyone who may be interested to join - the more people who join, the more stories - and the larger the potential winnings.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dragon Tattoo - Part 3

Session 5 is now finished, and all of the scales are now complete. All that remains is coloring for the fire, teeth, tongue, claws, horns, and spikes.

Here is the portion of the dragon on my arm, after session 4:

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And here is the same area after session 5:

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The scales are for the most part three shades of blue - purple blue, light blue, and a blue-white combination. Darker colors were used in the shaded areas for depth, and the previous black and white shading adds to the effect.

This is a picture of the coloring that was done this session:

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This session was 2.5 hours, no breaks. The next session should finish it off.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know about Haniwa...

...But were afraid to ask.

Prof. Nagaeyari has started to post pics from his trip to Japan, and has an extensive blog post on the Japanese clay Haniwa:
Ancient Japan: Haniwa 埴輪

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Best Samurai Film Decapitation

There has been an ongoing discussion on the forum about the best decapitation in a Samurai film. A few that were mentioned were the decapitation of Bijomaru in "Azumi", the deleted scene in "The Last Samurai" where Ujio lops the head off of an offending villager. My personal favorite is a scene near the start of Mibu Gishiden (When the Last Sword is Drawn), in which the main character kills a Samurai who doens't have the "guts" to commit seppuku. I happen to have a clip right here:

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Japanese Dragon Tattoo - Part 2

I thought I'd show some specific detail in the process.

The first image shows the initial outline. The section in red highlights the approximate area where the second image shows. Sort of a "Before" and "After".

The highlighted area above indicates the approximate area of the image below.

Highlighted area after the 3rd session. As a side note, every scale was done freehand with the tattoo gun - no tracing there.

As I continue, I'll post updates.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Japanese Dragon Tattoo

In sticking with "traditional" Japanese images, tattoo number six is a Japanese dragon. So far, nothing for (inside joke)

So far for the dragon, the breakdown goes like this:

Session 1: 3.5 hours. Full outline.
Session 2: 2.5 hours. Scales and detail.
Session 3: 2.5 hours. Shading.
Session 4: 3 hours. base coloring.

Total: 11.5 hours - and it's not done yet...!
(The 11.5 hours doesn't count the time taken to decide what colors to use, the freehand drawings, or the Jaeger or Bushmills breaks - that would put it at around 16 hours).

I'm probably looking at three more sessions. Unfortunately I only thought to take pictures after session 1 and session 4, and just a small slice of session 3, so some of the development is missed. Regardless, here is the original outline after the first session. Everything is custom. Basically, Mike (the guy who drew and tattooed it) drew the head freehand on paper, and transfered it to my chest. Then with a sharpie and some highlighters, he drew the body, arms, legs, fire, etc. freehand:

Session 1

Basically, everything behind the ears and horns were drawn freehand right on my shoulder and arm. You'll notice the lack of scales, shading, etc. This is just what is unofficially known as the "battle outline".

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Session 3

This is an image of the tattoo after session 3 - since I didn't take a full pic of it, I had to grab this from the lower corner of the picture I took after session 4. At this point, this section still hasn't been touched since session 3. You'll see the scales (added during the 2nd session) and the shading, which was done during session 3. You can compare this to the same section (just below the claws) in the above pic of the first session.

Session 4

This is after session 4. It is hard to see because of the flash, but three different shades of blue are used on the head, and every scale is colored seperately, the base is a bluish-purple, and the outer edge is a lighter blue, with a sliver of negative space (skin) left at the outside edge of each. This is right after it was done, so the ink is very thick and dark. In a few weeks all the excess ink will come out, and it will look more uniform.

So far maybe 1/5th is colored. The next session will continue the scales, most likely the other details will wait until after that. The current plan is for the underbelly to be pink, the horns along the back will probably be red, as well as the tongue. The fire will of course be orange-yellow, and the eyes will stay as is, but will have some white added. The horns on the head, which are based on deer antlers, will be brown. Still not sure about the claws. Might go with white.

Even though this was the 4th session, I didn't know until I sat in the chair which color we were going to do the dragon. Originally, the plan was to do a dark pine-green, but we eventually decided to match the colors of the two hannya on my back - one is red with blue eyes and a blue tongue, and the other is blue with red eyes and a red tongue. I'm not the artist, so I leave the details to Mike. So I think the assumption here is that I'll be getting a similar dragon on the other arm, with the colors reversed. But that would put at least another 20 hours ahead of me with what I need to finish on this one, and the next one, and those needles are not particularly fun. Sort of like a Japanese "gaman taikai" type TV show.

For the heck of it, I played around with photoshop, and this is what I came up with. I thought it was interesting:

Monday, July 24, 2006

Red Shadow

Here's some info on the movie "Red Shadow".

It is sort of a hybrid mix between "Samurai Fiction" and "Azumi" that takes place during the Sengoku period of Japanese history, sometime after the 1540s (because of guns and open trade with the west), and centers around ninja working for the "Togo" clan, which I suspect is a made up clan, although the Kyougoku and Rokkaku clans are probably based on the respective clans. The little ninja team consists of Takenaka Naoto who plays the head ninja - "Shirokage", then you have "Aokage", the goofy and slightly less intelligent ninja, "Akakage", the eventual leader of the ninja clan, and "star" of the movie, and "asuka" - the obligatory female ninja and love interest. Although one has to wonder why she didn't get a "shadow" name like the two guys... Different rules for female ninja, perhaps?

This isn't a "great" movie, but compared to a lot of the recent ninja movies and strange movies that try to be hip and cool (Like the absolutely horrible and painful to watch "Pistol Opera), this is actually pretty good. It has a better than average soundtrack, nutty slapstick humor, good action. Some minor drawbacks are no blood for all that hacking and slashing, and the tossed in romantic comedy aspects (which were actually "cute"), and misplaced drama - the comedy ebbs and flows - you go from brilliant scenese of slapstick comedy to relatively serious scenes, with the only transition being semi-comedic fight action. Overall, far better than averge, good cinematography, with just an overall cool style to it. It comes close to the style of "Samurai Fiction", but is no match. If you want a cool, stylistic movie with interesting characters and a great soundtrack, see "Samurai fiction". However, if you've already seen it, and want more, then try this one out. Hotei Tomoyasu unofficially reprises his role as the big bad ass samurai from "Samurai Fiction" in the first scene - the movie is worth a look for that scene and the "Ninja in the attic" scene alone.

Here are some other reasons you should go out and rent Red Shadow:

Ninja Babes!

Samurai Babes!

Slapstick comedy!

Historically accurate Ninja uniforms!

Hotei Tomoyasu!


Yes, Tanks!

Samurai Action!

Cool bad guys!

Takenaka Naoto!

More Ninja Babes!

Don't just take my word for it - I stumbled on this review, and took the liberty of posting an excerpt here:
If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Gosh, I wish they’d make a modern Ninja! movie with a kickass soundtrack, stylish directing, good-looking stars, lots of cool effects and scary villains to fight, and it should be the Japanese doing it since an American director would only fuck it up,” then Red Shadow is for you.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Some Samurai Movies

This is from a post I made at the Citadel - it seems a waste to let it fade into history, so I'm putting it here, because of how long it took to put together - the movie titles are linked to my reviews on, or the movie page on, or to some other related page. The "Trailer" links obviously go to the trailer:

Twilight Samurai - Trailer

One of those "instant classics" from a few years ago, available in the US with subtitles. Starring Sanada Hiroyuki, from The Last Samurai and "Ringu".

When the Last Sword is Drawn - Trailer

A few very minor plot quibbles aside, I think this was a very engaging story. Just recently released in the US, with subs, starring Nakai Kiichi.


Intentional or not, I thought it was a great homage to Akira Kurasawa's use of Toshiro Mifune, with a big insane battle at the end. Available in the US. I don't know who is in it, but one guy looks just like a Japanese Benicio Del Toro.

At a bar and brothel in Edo, many masterless samurai gather, somehow sensing that the end is near for their way of life. Spending their time drinking and cavorting with the prostitutes, the samurai have lost all purpose in their lives. However, when another group of renegade samurai that have turned to violence and pillaging enter the town, the listless samurai who frequent the bar see a chance to regain their lost honor.

Samurai Fiction - Trailer

This movie was hilarious, sort of a "modern" feel to the classic "samurai" movie. Starring Hotei Tomoyasu as the big bad ass Samurai. Available in the US. There aren't any subs on the trailer, but it should give you an idea of what it is all about.

Ganryujima - original movie page

A very original, re-concepted "Musashi" (as far as I know) with Musashi as a foulmouthed, insane and brutish bully, and Sasaki Kojiro as the upstanding hero - with a hilarious twist ending. I don't think this is available in the US yet. Staring Masahiro Motoki.

Zatoichi - Trailer

A new version of Zatoichi by Kitano "Beat" Takeshi. Entertaining, and with some very strange sequences. Available in the US. Starring Takeshi and Tadanobu Asano from Ichi the Killer.


Sort of a "brokeback mountain" with Samurai and no tender love scenes. Starring Beat Takeshi and Tadanobu Asano. Available in the US.

Azumi - Trailer

Uhhh... a video game / anime brought to life. Read my review and watch the trailer, that will explain it. Entertaining in a novel sort of way. Available in the US.


Friday, July 21, 2006

More New Articles

I'm still working on getting all of my backlogged articles online. Here are two more:

Militant Buddhists: A look at the Ikko-Ikki
From a lecture by Mike Maikeru Baker

The “Badass” Samurai in Japanese Pop Culture
By Nino Moscardi

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ancient Japan: Upcoming Posts

Ancient Japan: Upcoming Posts

'Prof Nagaeyari', a long time member of the various Samurai Archives forums and creator of the 'Ancient Japan' blog is currently in Japan on foreign exchange. We're all eagerly awaiting the presumably massive upload of pictures documenting the trip. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Modernization and the Decline of the Samurai

I've been seriously slacking in uploading the updates to the page. I have a queue of about 5 files. Here is the first article - Modernization and the Decline of the Samurai, by Nino Moscardi.

On another front, I've been working on translating information on Hojo Soun, but burnout has stopped me in my tracks. I hope to start up again soon, but for now, I'll be taking a break. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Mr. Black" or "Wikipedia is crap"

Poking through the mess that is the articles related to Japanese history on Wikipedia, I came across Yasuke, the African slave taken into service by Oda Nobunaga. The article itself is full of false information and conjecture, going so far as to state that Yasuke was nicknamed Kuru-san. Unfortunately "Kuru-san" isn't even a word. The article claimed that "kuru" means "black" - it doesn't. That would be "Kuro". Also, the suffix ~san wasn't in use during that time in Japanese history. So I went ahead and added this:

Although popular unsubstantiated internet sources state that the nickname most commonly given to the African was "kuru-san" (erroneously explaining that "kuru" is Japanese for "black" and Kuru-san roughly translates as "Mr. Black-man"), This is most definately myth. The Japanese word for "black" is "kuro" rather than "kuru", and the suffix "~san" was not used during the sengoku period of Japanese history. The "~san" used in these internet sources were most likely made up, based either on modern Japanese, or from the erroneous use of "~san" in the very popular (and historically inaccurate) book "Shogun" by James Clavell.

We'll see how long it takes for the revisionist historians to remove that section.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Shogun no Yashiki

Welcome to the Shogun's mansion, the new and final home of the Samurai Archives blog. Keep an eye out for discussions, updates, and news.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Hojo Soun's Deer Hunt

In 1495, Hojo Soun took Odawara castle by befriending the lord, Omori Fujiyori, and after gaining his confidence, he staged a large deer hunt, and in doing so was able to take the castle. I am researching this hunt right now, it is not yet clear exactly how he pulled his trick off - it isn't clear if he used the "deer hunt" as an excuse to bring his soldiers into the castle, or if he used the "deer hunt" through the woods to cover his troops advance, or possibly if he staged a small deer hunt with Fujiyori to get him out of the castle while his own troops took it. The source I am currently translating is vague to the point of ridiculous, and I'm trying to come up with more information.

Current Questions (in addition to the last few):

How exactly did Soun use the deer hunt to take Odawara castle?

Was Hojo Soun's sister who was married into the Imagawa clan younger or older?

(Turnbull says older, so far the Japanese sources I've checked say younger. Sorry Mr. T, I'm going with the J-sources for now).

Who exactly were the six men who started as Hojo Soun's initial group?

Did Imagawa Ujichika assist with the invasion of Izu, or did Soun do this on his own?