Viva Fidel Castro? I suppose not…

For those of you who pay no attention to the media, Cuban ex-President Fidel Castro died a day or so ago.  There is a political divide in this country (and several other countries in the world) over whether Fidel Castro was a good man or not and whether or not he was a good president or not.  The divide is so prominent in the U.S. that we’ve essentially been at one-step-away-from-war with Cuba for almost twice as long as I’ve been alive.

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” -Fidel Castro (not really)

But what we must remember is that much of the cruelty Castro is accused of…is because of the United States meddling in his country.  Much of the death toll associated with his regime are CIA-funded counter revolutionaries and assassins sent by the U.S. to destabilize Cuba and oust Castro.

Castro and his cronies ‘Che’ Gueverra and the current president of Cuba, Raul Castro, led a popular revolt to oust the American-backed president, Fulgencio Batista.  In the first 50 years of Castro’s regime he is popularly regarded as killing or imprisoning 50,000 people.  Batista was in power for 10 years and killed or imprisoned 20,000 people.  If we assume that would have continued he would have a death toll of closer to 100,000 people in the same amount of time Castro was in power.

So let’s talk a bit about Batista.  Donald Trump, our future president came out cheering on social media over Castro’s death.  This id kind of interesting considering Batista was first elected president of Cuba in 1940 as a Democratic Socialist.  He was pro-union, pro-labor law, and anti-Fascist and an accomplished military veteran (everything Trump isn’t and everything he hates).  He won around 56% of the vote, in the 1940 election.

Y’know, the look of this guy reminds me of someone Maybe I’ll think of it as we continue?

Batista’s regime lasted only 4 years and the man he groomed to replace him lost in the 1944 election.  It is believed that Batista embezzled almost the entirety of Cuba’s treasury and fled to the U.S. before the next President could be sworn in.  Batista spent the next few years living a life of luxury in the U.S. where he ran for re-election as a Cuban Senator in absentia (this means he won the position, despite not even being in Cuba).  With this new position as Senator secured he returned to Cuba and ran for President in 1952.

It was a triple-threat race with the popular vote heading starkly toward Cuba’s Partido Orthodoxo party with a respectable second being the Cuban Partido Autentico party.  Running a distant third was Batista’s party.  So a few months before the election with almost no hope of actually winning, he secured his old military contacts and staged a military revolution.  He declared himself President, cancel the elections, and exiled then-president Carlos Prio Socarras from the country.  Well okay to be fair, Socarras was a bit of a dupe and apparently didn’t believe that Batista would actually stage a coup, so he did nothing to respond to the attacks when they occurred.  Once Batista took control and named himself President, Socarras quietly ceded defeat and fled the country.

Ah! There it is; that's who he reminds me of!

Ah! There it is; that’s who he reminds me of!

This is where the fun part occurs!  The U.S. government recognized Batista’s as the legitimate government and remained allies with Cuba, under Batista.  Now to be fair, sections of Cuba did continue to prosper under Batista – he wasn’t a complete idiot when it came to administration.  He was actually a pretty good government administrator.  But at this point he began a new direction where he desired more personal wealth, more power, and more respect – particularly from those of the upper echelons of Cuban society.

Batista got in deep with organized crime and American business.  In one instance Batista allowed an American phone company to raise their service rates to Cuban by an astronomical rate (he, naturally, received kickbacks from them).

And the number one form of aid from the U.S. to Cuba during Batista’s reign?  Weapons.  The U.S. supplied Batista’s police forces and his military with the munitions they needed to ensure someone didn’t pull a Batista and raise their own military revolution.  U.S. government officials even referred to him as a ‘despot’, but he was anti-communist by this point (remember that he got elected on a pro-Communist ticket in the 1940 election) and so that made him pro-America in the 1950s.

JFK was anti-Batista and actually, at least secretly, approved of Castro’s revolution when it began.

Yup, I can definitely see it. *Disclaimer: Artificial Colorization

Yup, I can definitely see it.
*Disclaimer: Artificial Colorization

You see Fidel Castro was a young lawyer, a rising star in the political spectrum of Cuba.  Right up until Batista canceled the elections that were supposed to bring Castro to the forefront.

Batista held fraudulent elections in 1954 and the man who had once defeated his protégé was the major runner-up against him.  Batista used brutal intimidation tactics to keep people from voting for anyone but him, or for voting for anyone at all.  Batista convinced the opposing parties in the election to abstain from voting if they opposed him.  This would be the equivalent of saying, “Well I support Hillary Clinton, so I just won’t vote that way I can’t vote for Donald Trump.”  In the election that Batista legitimately won over 75% of the country voted…in this one only 45% of the country voted.  Batista’s opposition dropped out of the election out of fear for their supporters.  The funny thing is…the guy still won almost 7% of the vote after dropping out of the race.

Batista began a campaign of brutality against his own people including killing University Students because his regime deemed all unemployed youth to be potential revolutionaries.  He shut down the universities and recalled a military officer who was popular to help support him.

Sadly for him, said officer led a military revolution.  It was found out though and Batista won the fight.  Eventually Castro would gain enough support from the people to overthrow Batista and force him to flee to Europe.

So as we remember Castro upon his recent death at the age of 90.  Remember that the U.S. of the 1950s created the Castro regime.  We created it by keeping such a vile piece of brutality in power as Batista.  Castro may not have been the perfect president, but I believe he was better than the alternative.

At least the good news is the U.S, doesn’t stand beside brutal dictators that turn the military on their own people any longer.  Right?

syrian-deathtolls

Oh…yeah…I forgot we don’t learn from our mistakes.  Damn it.

~RCS

The Hamilton-Pence Affair

I put this up on my Facebook account about a week ago.  Figured there are some people who check the site, but don’t follow us on Social Media.  So here’s the Pence/Hamilton post I’d done:
On the subject of the Hamilton cast singling out VP-elect Pence, particularly regarding Van Zandts’ recent comments about how the people on stage shouldn’t single out people in the audience I have only one thing to say and in 4 points:
1. Think back to a few years ago when Hugh Jackman was on stage for a play and a guy’s cell phone rang in the audience.  We all laughed and cheered when Jackman singled him out and chided him.
2. I assume that Trump and his Trumpsters (my personal colloquialism for his most fervent supporters) would also agree that no other stage should be turned into a forum for political speech; not just a broadway play that is literally about political, right?  Something like…a Ted Nugent concert, or the Ramones getting inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame, or a Megadeath frontman claiming that Barack Obama staged the Aurora Theater massacre and the nutjob who shot up that Sihk temple.
3. I can only assume that all the people claiming that the Hamilton cast was out of line to address Pence that way would be just as upset if the cast had endorsed Pence, right?  I mean after all the argument isn’t that they denounced Pence – especially since they technically didn’t, they asked him to be true to his and his leader’s word and run the country for the betterment of everyone in the country, not just a select few – but that the issue is that they used the stage to single out a politician and address him, openly, period.  So if Pence went to see a showing of Other People’s Money and they singled him out, thanked him for watching the show, and then applauded his efforts as Governor and future VP that you would all be just as upset by them politicizing a theater stage.  Yes?
4. And finally…the fact the media and Trump made a bigger deal out of it than Pence.  Pence, dirt-bag that he is, actually said in an interview that he wasn’t that upset about it and then said that the Hamilton show was great and the cast, talented.
 
And that’s my thoughts on the Hamilton matter.
~RCS

Veteran’s Day 2016

What?  Did you think I’d forgotten about Veteran Day this year?  Of course not…but just like real service members, I also had to work on Veteran’s Day.  And so I didn’t meet my deadline to get this post finished before 8:00am.

The wife and I decided to make a couple comics instead just the usual photo post of military memes.  We hope you enjoy them.  Also happy 241st to my USMC brethren.

v-day_001

v-day_002I hope everyone, particularly my soldierly fellows, enjoyed Veteran’s Day this year.

~RCS

Samurai Gaiden: Yamada Nagamasa

 

Okay, so you might have noticed we’ve made some changes to our format. A little crisper, a little cleaner perhaps? Well maybe we should try a new topic as well? Maybe something Heian? No, no, we’ve done Heian for the past several months. Nara period? Well, we had Yorozu. What’s something we haven’t done, yet?

Oh, I’ve got it! Let’s do something in the Edo period, how about that? And not just any samurai from the Edo period, but let’s actually leave Japan for it. Let’s talk about…Yamada Nizaemon Nagamasa.

Yamada Nizaemon Nagamasa (1590-1630)

Yamada Nagamasa (1590-1630)

Yamada was born in the year 1590, the son of a knife-maker in the Tokugawa-controlled Sunpu domain. At the age of sixteen he got a job as a palanquin bearer for the Okubo clan of nearby Numazu domain. It seems that he held this position for about seven years before the daimyo of Numazu, Okubo Tadasuke, died without an heir.

The Tokugawa Shogunate took control of Numazu and Yamada was forced to return to his homeland, now unemployed. Yamada’s father had died when he was a small boy and when he returned home he discovered that his mother had died while he was in Numazu and that his relatives sold their property and moved away without telling him. I suppose if your mother can die without you knowing, you’re probably not the kind of relative anyone would want to leave a forwarding address with.

Regardless of the Yamada’s dysfunctional family situation, this left him unemployed and homeless. Yamada is said to have made his way to the port city of Sakai and taken up a position as a dockworker. At some point, apparently before the year 1612, he hopped aboard a ship and sailed to Thailand, at that point still known as the Kingdom of Siam.

Japan and Siam had been allies and trading partners for many years at this point and had a thriving Japanese community in Ayutthaya. The head of the community was named Kiya Kyuzaemon and he took a liking to Yamada, taking the young man under his wing. Under Kiya’s tutelage Yamada learned Siamese and an unknown European language. He became involved in the lucrative deerskin trade of the region and it was around this time he changed his name to Yamada Nagamasa.

kakezu_302

Ayutthaya was economically prosperous, in part because King Songtham traded freely with the European trading companies of the Dutch, English, Spanish, and Portuguese as well as the Chinese, Malay, Vietnamese, and of course…the Japanese.

Part of the reason why the Japanese were so well tolerated within Ayutthaya were that King Songtham utilized them as a major component of his royal bodyguards. You see, many of the Japanese who moved to Siam were ronin. Samurai who had backed the wrong horse at Sekigahara, fired samurai who were unable to be rehired because of strict Tokugawa regulations on ronin, and retainers of confiscated domains – like Yamada.

Yamada volunteered to fight alongside the Siamese troops in the north against a Burmese incursion. During the battle Yamada engaged the general of the Burmese army, defeating and killing the enemy commander. For this deed he was invited to the royal palace and granted a title of nobility. He eventually became commander of King Songtham’s Royal Guards and was permitted to control a monopoly on the deerskin trade and eventually even owned his own trade ship.

When Kiya decided to leave Siam and return to Japan, he named Yamada as his successor. This happened sometime between 1619 and 1621, although it is unclear exactly when this occurred or exactly what happened to Kiya after his departure.

yamada-nagamasu2

It’s never really mentioned whether he converted to Christianity or not in the sources I read. So he either didn’t, or it wasn’t considered particularly important.

Now as the head of Songtham’s royal guards and the head of the Japanese colony within Ayutthaya he sent word to the Tokugawa Shoguns several times in advance of formal Siamese embassies being sent. The Shogunate, curious who this man was, had him and his background investigated, and so he is recorded in formal Shogunate documentation at this point in history for the first time. Yamada was the Siamese royal court’s official representative to Japan, after all.

Between 1624 and 1629 Yamada sent several trade missions to Nagasaki, loaded with Siamese deerskin. He had wanted to receive a red seal for his ship, allowing him to trade with the Japanese, however it took over a year to get the ship approved. In this time he sent another load of deerskin on a Dutch ship and apparently made quite a profit.

After he received the red seal of approval from the Japanese government he committed to a few more trade missions with Nagasaki. However he fell into a bit of an issue in 1627 when the Dutch fleet captured his ship and held it. However when the Dutch realized who the ship belonged to the local governor for the Dutch East India Company released the ship and awarded Yamada a trading license for the Dutch properties within Batavia. Yamada began a very profitable trade with the Dutch East India Company after this.

King Songtham fell ill in the year 1628 and named his younger son, Chettha as his heir. Since Chettha was so young he also named his maternal cousin, Prasat Thom, and Yamada as regents for the boy. With Songtham’s death a power struggle ensued between the Prasat and Yamada backed Chettha and Songtham’s older son, Phra Srisin. Phra fled and took up the priesthood to escape being killed off. Prasat convinced Phra to return in his princely vestments and used it as an excuse to murder the man. Phra was arrested and thrown into a well to starve to death, however his supporters threw a corpse into the well and helped Phra escape.

Yamada is supposed to be the guy on the right. Although Yamada died before he would have reached the age of that actor.

Yamada is supposed to be the guy on the right. Although Yamada died before he would have reached the age of that actor.

Phra started a rebellion and Yamada, as head of the Royal Guards, was sent to put down the rebellion. Phra was captured and executed as a result. Within a relatively short while Chettha was on Prasat’s hit list as well. Prasat had become annoyed with the young king’s activities; for instance when Chettha’s mother died he held a state funeral for her. Prasat was annoyed that all of the government officials had gone to the funeral for the king’s mother and he wasn’t able to hold council and get any work done.

This came to a head in 1629 when Prasat’s father died and he gave the man a state funeral of his own, going so far as to have his father’s remains cremated twice…a ritual normally reserved for kings. Chettha is said to have become enraged at this affront to his royal line and wanted to punish Prasat for his indolence, but one of Prasat’s allies calmed the king down.

And so it was a complete surprise when Prasat’s soldiers entered the palace and began killing the king’s supporters. King Chettha fled the palace but was captured and executed. With the king now dead, Prasat put the late king’s brother on the throne.

Yamada and another minister of the kingdom voiced concerns over this treasonous act. Prasat accused the minister of treason and had him arrested and executed, but Yamada was popular and commanded the veteran elite Japanese forces of the royal guard. Prasat figured there was a better way to get rid of his ally-turned-nemesis: Promote him.

Prasat was suffering from a rebellion in the southern province of Ligor and told Yamada that if his forces could put down the rebellion, Yamada would be named governor of the entire province. Prasat probably figured that it was a win-win for him. Yamada would either go south and fail, taking heavy casualties, at which point he would be easier to deal with by assassination…or he’d succeed and be given a prominent post far away from the capital.

Well regardless of Prasat’s plan, Yamada marched his men south and put down the rebellion, taking control of Ligor. Yamada married a member of the royal family after taking control of Ligor and set about governing his new province. Yamada had suffered a leg wound in the fighting and was content to relax, govern, and heal with his new wife and his adult son, Oin. He was forty years old now, it was time to start settling down.

It wasn’t long, however, before Prasat became even more ambitious. He murdered the king he had just put on the throne a few months earlier and declared himself the new king. Yamada is said to have voiced opposition to Prasat’s claim to the kingship and his repeated acts of regicide.

Yamada would never get the opportunity to stage his own rebellion, however, because his new wife was an agent of Prasat’s. While tending to his wound, Yamada’s wife wrapped a poisonous cast around his leg and he died shortly thereafter.

At least he got this cool statue built in his honor, right?

At least he got this cool statue built in his honor, right?

His son, Oin, took over as governor of Ligor and is said to have possibly raised a rebellion in his late father’s name. Prasat sent his army south and took control of Ligor forcing Oin and many of his Japanese compatriots out of Siam.

Shortly thereafter Yamada’s red seal ship returned from a successful trading mission in Nagasaki and Prasat attempted to seize it for himself. The Japanese inhabitants of Ligor refused to turn it over and so Prasat burnt down the Japanese colony there, killing many of the Japanese inhabitants and forcing many more to flee. Oin and his men joined the Cambodian army and eventually led an invasion of Siam…where they were slaughtered in a marine operation.

Yamada Nagamasa fell into the mists of obscurity at that point. Well at least until World War II when he became a prominent figure in Japan, being billed as an adventurous patriotic pioneer who made great contributions to ‘southern nations’ in the name of Japan. His role within Siamese society and government and his military capabilities were used to justify Japan’s involvement and expansionism in those regions during the war.

Not a bad run for a knife-maker’s son? Second most powerful man in the kingdom of Siam and leader of an elite 700-man strong force of Japanese warriors.

~RCS

SAG-AFTRA Strike: Performance Matters

Starting today, in about 2 hours, many of our favorite Voice Actors – Crispin Freeman, Jennifer Hale, Steve Blum – are going on strike against Game Development companies. You might be wondering what this means and why. I can’t do the cause justice like the ones actually involved in the strike are doing, but I’ll try to summarize some of the points they are striking for.

I think that I’m in a unique position to comment on this because of my involvement with the indie game company Nic3Ntertainment; as well as the other Indie studios I have worked as a freelancer for. One of the major aspects of Nic3’s games are voice acting. We might not be making Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, or Dynasty Warriors – that’s for sure, but we make the extra effort to include voice work in many of our games. Why? Because in this modern day and age even indie games seem lacking if they don’t at least have narration. Having good, high quality voice work can make a good game great, or even a not-so-great game seem kinda okay.

At the same time having no voice work or arguably worse – poor voice work in an otherwise beautiful game diminishes the whole property. That’s why as someone who has worked on both sides of the mic – as a voice actor and as a producer – I’m with the striking actors, because #PerformanceMatters.

Now before I go any further, let me just give the caveat that I am not a member of the SAG-AFTRA union, I am not striking, and I do not work on union contracted jobs. That being said, it doesn’t preclude me from being an ally of these union workers fighting to get the same recognition that workers in incredibly similar fields receive such as a safe working environment and fair compensation.

Essentially the voice actors want 3 major things, near as I understand it:

  1. Safety Protections – They want to be able limit high intensity studio sessions to 2 hours, instead of the usual 4 hour sessions, but still get paid a normal daily wage. You see the way being a professional union voice actor works, generally, is you do a 4 hour recording session and you are paid for the session. The standard rate of pay is about $825. Not bad for 4 hours of work, I’ll admit – but remember that most of these studios are also in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Houston, etc. so $825 doesn’t go nearly as far as it might where I’m at. So they want to be able to limit strenuous voice work – such as screaming like a Dragon Ball Z power up, doing fighting kiais, and the likes. I’ve worked with an actor who had to turn down a part in one of our games because they did a big screamy project and lost their voice for two weeks. I’ve also worked with an actress who had to have throat polyps surgically removed – thankfully she was able to continue working after that. Another safety aspect they’re demanding is having stunt coordinators in place on performance capture jobs. Performance capture is where they actually have the voice actor doing the motion capture for either the character’s actual movement or at least their facial expressions. A lot of times they are actually doing the stunts in the scenes of your favorite games while in a mo-cap suit…and apparently without a stunt coordinator. This a good way to get yourself hurt or even permanently maimed.
  2. Secondary Compensation – The second part they’re fighting for is secondary compensation, this is basically getting a bonus if the project you worked on performed well. And they have a cap on it that basically means if they do voice work on a game and it sells 8 million copies they get paid a $30,000 bonus. Let me just tell you that EA’s CEO got a million and a half dollar bonus…and he’s probably making a lot more than $825 a day.
  3. Transparency – Imagine walking into your job and being given a list of parts to assemble, but not being told what you’re assembling them for. You’ve got a half dozen parts you’re supposed to weld together and it might be a car, it might be a boat, or it might be a nuclear bomb. That’s what a lot of these folks are dealing with, one of the actors interviewed said he was a main character for Fallout 4…and didn’t know it until the game was released. Knowing your part and how your character is involved in the complex chemistry of the game’s world makes it much easier to play your role more efficiently and make the character more believable and relatable. Imagine you were a voice actor and you were being brought in to play a character for what you thought was just a regular AAA gaming title called Project Repo. But once the project is released you find out the game is hardcore political propaganda for a position or political party you were vehemently opposed to. The actors just want transparency – they’ve been forced to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements anyway, so they’re not allowed to reveal any information about the project anyway. Imagine if Sir Patrick Stewart showed up the set of the X-Men and everything was just green-screened and there were no other actors on set and he was given just Professor X’s lines and told to act out the movie for 4 straight hours. Also he’d need to be there for the next ten days to complete his role. Because this is another aspect of transparency: Many of these actors are forced to either accept or turn down a role without knowing how many sessions would be necessary to complete the role. They don’t know if they’re a side character who will be done in a single 4-hour session, or if they’re playing the main character and will need to do thirty sessions to complete role.

With those points in mind, I bring up something that one of the industry defenders brought up in one of the articles I link to. He stated that it doesn’t make sense to put all this effort and money into the voice actors on these games, because they make up less than one tenth of one percent of the overall work on the game.

Having done voice work myself I know that its a little more than one tenth of a single percent. But regardless of whether it’s one tenth of a percent, one percent, or one hundred percent…they have a right to a safe and prosperous work environment to further their career in.

Now imagine, since the industry seems to believe that voice acting is only one tenth of a single percent of a game’s worth. So let’s imagine what some modern games would be like without voice actors.

I don’t know about you…but I’d rather see talented voice actors performing those roles. Because I strongly believe that #PerformanceMatters.

For more information, check out these sites and stories:

http://www.gameactorsforall.com/

http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/10/22/498954253/voice-actors-strike-against-video-game-companies

SAG-AFTRA Members Authorize Strike Against Video Game Industry

https://www.sagaftra.org/interactive

Samurai Gaiden: Tachibana Muneshige (Full)

Some of you may be familiar with the latest KOEI-Tecmo game to come out with a beta demo…Nioh. Now, Nioh has been in development hell for literally a decade, so I’m excited to see how it turns out once it gets a full release. It was originally supposed to be based on an unfinished script by Kurosawa Akira, and finished by his son Hisao – being made as a tie-in to a movie version that Hisao was going to direct.

Things have changed a bit since then, judging from what I saw in the demo, now you will play as William Adams. Adams is the guy that the main character in James Clavell’s novel, Shogun – John Blackthorne – is based off of.

Now an acquaintance online had put up a blog post remarking on how difficult of a fight the final boss in the demo was. And the boss in question was named Tachibana Muneshige; a lightning elemental boss. So I figured we could talk about the man behind the name from Nioh…Tachibana Muneshige.

Tachibana Muneshige (1567-1642)

Tachibana Muneshige (1567-1642)

Muneshige was actually born a son of Takahashi Shoun, also known as Takahashi Shigetane. Shoun was one of the chief retainers of the Otomo clan and ruled Iwaya castle. In the 1570s there was a period of serious warfare between the Otomo and the other clans of Kyushu: Shimazu, Akizuki, and the Ryuzoji…whom we’ve spoken of before.

This guy, remember?

This guy, remember?

Shoun was known for his usage of guerrilla tactics to beat enemies when the odds were stacked against him. One of his favorite tactics was to engage an opponent who was more numerous, then feign retreat and withdraw to a position to set up an ambush. When the ‘victorious’ enemy would come into range in pursuit formation – that is to say lacking a disciplined formation – Shoun would launch a surprise attack and ambush them.

The Takahashi and Tachibana clans worked in unison to protect Chikuzen province from a three-sided invasion. The lords of both clans were known for their resolve, bravery, and tactical genius and were able to hold off all three invading clans throughout the years.

Now here’s an interesting story about Muneshige, getting back on topic. I don’t know how true it is and to be honest, it probably isn’t; but it’s a funny story nonetheless.

Apparently when Muneshige was a child, supposedly around 1575, Shoun and the Tachibana lord, Dosetsu, were watching some sort of show. I’m not real sure what kind of show he was at, but it turned into a brawl apparently and one of the performers was killed in the fight. The story goes that the audience panicked and made a break for the exits, but Muneshige calmly stood there and watched the brawl go on. It wasn’t until he was physically dragged away from the debacle did he leave – and even then he is said to have teased the others for panicking.

Muneshige was known to be smart and brave, a good warrior and leader, and also a very well-educated mane: Skilled in art, poetry, and the tea ceremony. Because of this, Dosetsu is said to have asked to adopt Muneshige as a son since he had none of his own. At least none that survived.

Now Dosetsu’s daughter, Ginchiyo, was a bit of a tomboy and is said to have been a skilled warrior in her own right. Doetsu was never one to shy away from pushing boundaries, so he declared his daughter to be his heir. Many of the Tachibana higher retainers didn’t like the idea of a woman running the show, though; but for the short-game Dosetsu’s daughter was his heir.

Let us know in the coments if you'd like a video dedicated to Ginchiyo in the future.

Let us know in the comments if you’d like a video dedicated to Ginchiyo in the future.

Finally a deal a was struck: Muneshige would marry Dosetsu’s daughter, be adopted into the Tachibana clan, and he and Ginchiyo would rule the clan together. Shoun is said to have refused the deal for many years, since Muneshige was his eldest son and was actually slated to be his own heir. Some sources even suggest that the long friendship between Dosetsu and Shoun was even strained by Dosetsu’s insistence on adopting the boy; at this point still called Takahashi Munetora.

Muneshige was finally adopted into Dosetsu’s family as Dosetsu’s son and became known as Tachibana Muneshige. Although things didn’t go quite as planned as the marriage between Muneshige and Ginchiyo didn’t occur as early as anticipated…and I’ll get back to that later. Muneshige is said to have participated in his first battle under Dosetsu’s command in 1581 at Honami against the Akizuki clan.

Muneshige is said to have fired an arrow, striking the Akizuki samurai Horie Bizen in the arm. As one might expect, Horie wasn’t really amused by this. He plucked the arrow from his arm and charged at Muneshige – who was only fourteen years old, mind you – and intended to engage the young man in close combat.

For those who have played Nioh, I'll bet you'd agree with Horie.

For those who have played Nioh, I’ll bet you’d agree with Horie.

Horie attacked the youth and was greatly surprised when Muneshige overpowered him at first. They grappled for a short time before a fellow Otomo samurai gave aid to Muneshige, breaking the stalemate, and killed Horie.

His next major campaign occurred when the Tachibana and Takahashi clans were tasked by Otomo Sorin with recapturing land in Chikugo province that had been lost to the Akizuki. Muneshige was fighting under the Tachibana banner, but fighting alongside his biological father’s army as well.

Muneshige was left behind to defend Tachibana castle while Dosetsu and Shoun pursued the Akizuki. During this time Akizuki Tanezane prepared to besiege Muneshige’s castle sitting high atop Mt. Tachibana. Muneshige sallied forth from the castle in the night and set the Akizuki army on fire, raiding their camp in the night. Tanezane was forced to withdraw and give up on his siege.

When the combined Tachibana-Takahashi army returned a banquet was held to honor Muneshige’s accomplishments. It is said that during this banquet Muneshige committed a political gaffe by referring to Shoun as his father – which was technically true, since Shoun was his biological father.

Shoun, ever the party-pooper, openly rebuked his biological son and totally disowned him, stating that Muneshige was and always has been a Tachibana. One theory is that Shoun was still sore about losing his highly talented eldest son, and heir, to Dosetsu and was now seeing just how much he had lost. In his rage he berated his son in front of everyone else at the party. You know, the party being held in Muneshige’s honor?

Now we get to the year 1585, about a year after Shoun put the smack-down on his no-longer-son, and Muneshige’s adopted father dies of illness while on campaign. Now Ginchiyo was official leader of the Tachibana clan. Some records suggest that Ginchiyo and Muneshige were married as soon as Muneshige was adopted into the Tachibana; others, however, suggest that it was after Dosetsu’s death that the marriage was to occur.

Popular legends suggest that Ginchiyo refused to marry Muneshige for various reasons. My favorite, unlikely as it is to be true, is that Ginchiyo challenged Muneshige to a duel – if he won she would marry him. They met in the courtyard of the clan’s capital, Yanagawa castle, and they fought each other with Ginchiyo winning the duel, so she banished Muneshige to their other castle at Tachibanayama. It’s a wonderful story and would make a great scene in a movie…but highly unlikely to be even remotely true.

Some other stories are that Ginchiyo didn’t trust Muneshige’s loyalty to the Tachibana – having been a Takahashi, that she didn’t respect his merits or abilities, or that she just simply didn’t like him.

Either way they eventually were married, although there seems to be no good will between the two of them.

Perhaps their marriage was not quite as romantic as modern media makes it appear?

Perhaps their marriage was not quite as romantic as modern media makes it appear?

Some stories suggest that very shortly after their marriage, Muneshige usurped Ginchiyo’s authority and divorced her…stealing control of the Tachibana clan and exiling her to a convent south of Yanagawa castle. Another suggests that Muneshige and Ginchiyo couldn’t stand to be in the same room so they lived in different castles during their time as husband and wife.

These could be true, or it could simply be an anachronistic explanation for why Ginchiyo never bore the couple any children. Some sources suggest that Muneshige may also have been infertile or just unlucky; claiming that after divorcing Ginchiyo and stealing rulership of the clan – he remarried and still didn’t get any kids out of the deal.

Either way, by 1586 the Otomo clan was weakened by the deaths of several prominent generals…not the least of which included Tachibana Dosetsu. The Ryuzoji had been defeated and the two major factions of the island of Kyushu were the Shimazu and the Otomo…the former of which were gaining strength quickly. The Shimazu invaded the Otomo lands and quickly besieged Iwaya castle.

Iwaya castle? That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Hmm…oh right, that’s Takahashi Shoun’s castle. The Shimazu army number between twenty and fifty thousand men…Shoun has an equally sizable force of…well okay he’s only got about 700 troops to his name right now.

Shoun decides to barricade his castle and try to hold out against the Shimazu forces. And surprisingly enough…this works. For about three weeks Shoun holds off the Shimazu forces. Part of this was said to be caused by the Shimazu’s respect for Shoun’s loyalty and reputation. But by after a week or so of continually pushing Shoun to either surrender or abandon the castle, the Shimazu had begun trying to capture the fortification by force.

Shoun was no pushover and some accounts state that the moat of the castle ran red with Shimazu blood by the third week and that the courtyard was so blood-covered that it couldn’t dry or soak into the soil before the next wave of fighting would occur.

Needless to say, the whole thing was basically just a waiting game. It seems apparent that Shoun knew no reinforcements were coming and it is likely that he was acting as interference while his lord went to Osaka and begged for Toyotomi Hideyoshi to come rescue the Otomo.

Hideyoshi did just that, by sending a messenger to broker peace. The Shimazu refused. And after roughly twenty-seven days of besieging Iwaya castle the Shimazu commanders, Shimazu Tadanaga and Ijuin Tadamune decided to put the full brunt of their overwhelming army against the castle.

The records state the army numbered fifty thousand and that Ijuin led twenty-thousand into the castle to kill whatever still remained of Shoun’s seven-hundred some-odd men. And they did just that.

Now both of Muneshige’s fathers are dead, but there’s an even bigger issue: Tachibana castle, his home, is the next castle in the Shimazu path. Shoun bought the Otomo time…but not enough for Toyotomi to get his army all the way to Kyushu to aid his new allies – the Otomo.

The Shimazu army still numbered in the tens of thousands, and now led by the indomitable Shimazu Yoshihisa, himself surrounded Tachibanayama. In a situation like this his two fathers, Tachibana Dosetsu and Takahashi Shoun, would have engaged in a vicious campaign of guerrilla warfare. And Muneshige was a good student. Muneshige gave the Shimazu no rest and constantly engaged in raiding them, night attacks, surprise attacks…all types of desperate defensive strategies.

One report claims that Muneshige personally led a night raid into the Shimazu camp and took several dozen heads before fleeing back into the night and, ultimately, back into Tachibana castle. I imagine those heads were probably either flung over the walls back at their owners’ comrades or hung from the walls.

And then it happened…news reached Kyushu that Toyotomi’s armies were soon to arrive. The Shimazu were bloodied and fatigued, they only had two options: Withdraw from Tachibanayama and reassemble themselves, or push forward and take the castle at all costs.

My understanding from the difference of tone in the various accounts suggests that…the Shimazu adopted the first strategy and Muneshige may have thought they were going to adopt the second. Because the Shimazu broke camp and withdrew from the siege…but about the same time Muneshige declared the fort a lost cause and sallied forth in a desperate attempt to engage the Shimazu.

What he found was…a large Shimazu army that wasn’t expecting a counterattack of that magnitude. Muneshige actually won the battle, chasing the Shimazu from his home.

No god pictures for the battle, so here's a random re-enactor in Muneshige's armor.

No good pictures for the battle, so here’s a random re-enactor in Muneshige’s armor.

I mean…it was a moot point, some of the records suggest that Muneshige barreled his way through and retook Iwaya and other lost territory. More believable accounts suggest that after bloodying the Shimazu, Muneshige withdrew to his other castle at Yanagawa and the Shimazu managed to take Tachibanayama.

Either way, that’s also a moot point, because Muneshige joined Toyotomi’s vassals and allies in the battles against the Shimazu that ultimately resulted in the Shimazu’s defeat and surrender in the year 1587.

For his efforts Muneshige was officially awarded the territory around Yanagawa castle with an income well over 100,000 koku, some records call it 120 thousand, others 130 thousand…either way he had a pretty sizable bit of territory for himself. Of course, Tachibanayama was awarded to the Kobayakawa family after the campaign, but it doesn’t appear to have caused any ill will between the two families. Something about getting a raise of probably a hundred times your current income tends to make you forget little things the house you were named after was given someone else.

Here’s a bit of humor for you: Otomo Sorin, ostensibly Muneshige’s liege lord, praised Muneshige as a peerless warrior when speaking to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Muneshige, not one to shy away from ambition, was made an independent daimyo outside of the Otomo’s own 370 thousand koku authority in Bungo and Buzen.

Muneshige’s next operation was in aiding the lord of nearby Higo, Sassa Narimasa, in putting down a rebellion. Narimasa, many argue, had been set up for failure by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to give the latter an excuse to disinherit and execute him. In the end it worked, Narimasa committed suicide as did his sons once the rebellion was put down.

Muneshige is said to have become friends with Kobayakawa Hidekane during this time and Muneshige would go on to serve under Hidekane’s adoptive father, Kobayakawa Takakage during his time in the First Korean Invasion.

Aaah, look...he's all grown up now!

Aaah, look…he’s all grown up now!

During said invasion Muneshige was leading somewhat of a rearguard operation against the Chinese army by trying to barricade the roads in Muju county while Takakage repositioned his troops in Hanseong. Muneshige’s own troops were also on the move and unprepared for the sudden arrival of the Chinese army and he was forced to withdraw from his waylaying operations.

Later in the war Muneshige’s unit was acting in conjunction with Konishi Yukinaga’s forces after the capture of Pyongyang and Muneshige acted in the Japanese vanguard during the battle of Byeokje. Muneshige, along with his younger brother who had taken over as head of the Takahashi clan after Shoun’s death, led a valiant surprise attack against the Chinese army, pushing it back. Kobayakawa Takakage came to assist them and they dealt a defeat to the powerful Chinese army.

Of course, we know that in the end the Chinese and Korean armies were victorious…mostly thanks to the Korean navy’s withering operations. When the Japanese returned to Korea a few years later Muneshgie operated in mainly a defensive capability – guarding various Korean castles and fortifications after they had been captured. Muneshige’s only real major engagement was in the end of the war when he acted alongside the Shimazu, his old enemies, to help the forces of Konishi Yukinaga to escape the pursuing Chinese-Korean allied army.

Now we get to the real fun part of Muneshige’s life: The Sekigahara campaign. Muneshige disliked Ishida Mitsunari, the de facto leader of the Western Army, i.e. the Toyotomi loyalist forces. Tokugawa Ieyasu is said to have offered Muneshige large amounts of rewards upon Tokugawa’s victory. Muneshige flatly refused the rewards and joined the Western Army. He took a force of a few thousand men to participate in the siege of Otsu castle. He utilized a gunnery formation that was devised by Tachibana Dosetsu against the forces of Kyogoku Takatsugu and ultimately Otsu fell to the western army.

However before they could move on to participate in the rest of the war…Tokugawa beat their allies at Sekigahara. Muneshige and his cohorts immediately abandoned Otsu and started the desperate trek back to their home provinces. Muneshige moved to Osaka castle and declared his intention to help defend the mighty castle, however it is said that Mori Terumoto – the actual commander, in title, of the Western Army – convinced him that he’d be better off defending his own home, since Tokugawa was on his way and would most likely be attacking Osaka in force soon.

An interesting story I read, which may well be more folklore, is that on the docks at Osaka’s port Muneshige came upon Shimazu Yoshihiro, the man who commanded the overall operation that resulted in Takahashi Shoun’s death. Yoshihiro either offered to let Muneshige take his head or it was suggested that Muneshige could take Yoshihiro’s head by force. Muneshige, after all, had troops who were fresher and with higher morale than Yoshihiro’s. The story goes that either Yoshihiro or someone nearby stated told Muneshige, “This is the only chance you’ll get to avenge your real father.”

Muneshige is said to have not only refused to kill Yoshihiro, stating that killing a defeated warrior is not an honorable action.

Eh? Eh? Killing me wouldn't be honorable, right?

Eh? Eh? Killing me wouldn’t be honorable, right?

In the end Muneshige and Yoshihiro actually worked together to flee Osaka and get back to their home territories in Kyushu. It wasn’t long, however, before an army of 40,000 men were knocking on Yanagawa castle’s doorstep. Muneshige was up against the likes of Kato Kiyomasa, Nabeshima Naoshige, and Kuroda Josui and to top things off, the highest numbers I’ve seen for Muneshige’s forces was 32,000; so he was outnumbered as well.

But this is the kind of thing Muneshige excelled at. He didn’t just hole up in his castle and await defeat like so many others. No! He sallied forth and engaged in his usual brand of guerrilla fighting and managed a pretty respectable defense of his lands.

Muneshige, however, was low on supplies and each engagement against the likes of Kato, Kuroda, and Nabeshima ended with him taking irreplaceable casualties. Muneshige had lost several prominent Tachibana commanders and high numbers of troops. After one final ambush he figured he had enough space between himself and the opposing forces to return to Yanagawa and try to hold out against a siege.

Unfortunately for Muneshige, the Tokugawa allies were hot on his trail. Until they came upon a Buddhist temple south of Yanagawa. They were surprised to find the nuns of the convent had apparently donned armor and marched out to act as Muneshige’s rear guard. Led by a young nun named Tachibana Ginchiyo.

Muneshige either thanks or requests Ginchiyio for her help in guarding his retreat.

Muneshige either thanks Ginchiyio for her help in guarding his retreat.

Muneshige had been wounded in the fighting and had to be carried to his horse. In the end cooler head prevailed, eventually, and Kuroda and Kato who had fought alongside Muneshige in the Korean invasions, convinced him to surrender.

Interestingly enough, apparently Shimazu Yoshihiro had sent troops to reinforce Muneshige, but they arrived three days after he surrendered and simply went back home.

Muneshige had been a thorn in Tokugawa’s side during Sekigahara and had openly refused to join Tokugawa’s side. He was labeled a rebel and stripped of his lands and titles. Now a powerless ronin he received offers of employment from the likes of Maeda Toshiie’s son, Toshinaga – you may remember he offered a similar deal to Takayama Ukon, and Kato Kiyomasa. It is said that Kato himself petitioned Tokugawa to reinstate Muneshige as a daimyo. Three years later Tokugawa finally relented and gave Muneshige a small fief in the far north – hard to find a place further away from his ancestral homelands.

Muneshige was eventually forced to take part in the Siege of Osaka on Tokugawa’s side, fighting against his old allies on the frontlines. He served in Tokugawa Hidetada’s division and fought against Mori Katsunaga.

For his efforts and loyalty to the Tokugawa cause, in the end, he was eventually restored to his family’s ancestral lands at Yanagawa, although the domain had been reduced from ~130 thousand koku to a mere 100 thousand koku.

Muneshige was one of the men charged with educating Tokugawa Hidetada’s son, Iemitsu. His last hoorah came in 1637 when he participated, as a Kyushu daimyo, in the pacification of the Shimabara rebellion.

Muneshige is important enough to get front cover treatment with the likes of Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura on this game.

Muneshige is important enough to get front cover treatment with the likes of Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura on this game.

His brother had abandoned the Takahashi name after being defeated during the Sekigahara campaign and had become a Tachibana as well. As I may have mentioned earlier Muneshige didn’t have any children of his own, so he adopted his younger brother’s son as his heir and retired after Shimabara. He died in 1643 at the age of 76 years old. He was a man adept at both war and art. He worked his way up from a minor retainer to one of the most powerful men in the country. A true example of what a samurai was supposed to be.

~RCS

Samurai Gaiden: Tachibana Muneshige Part 2

Update: Whoops, messed up the link and nothing actually posted properly; just the word [Video].  Well it is fixed now.

Here’s the video for Part 2 of Tachibana Muneshige’s video.  Tomorrow I’ll post up the textual form, so you can read along as you watch, if you like.

~RCS

Ohhh Romney-sama!

During the last election cycle, presidential at least, there were two fellows running on the conservative side of things. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. I’ve made a few comments about the Romney-Ryan ticket back when that was a thing. Aaand that’s about as political as this post’s going to get.

What I brought it up for is because during the election there was a funny picture that the wife found. Being anime fans we found this picture very amusing:

548969_562539277095751_1259642845_n

The wife is into Yaoi, very…very into Yaoi, so she found it in a porn-search. She didn’t like it sexually, it actually made her feel weird that she enjoyed the picture. But a while ago Paul Ryan was in the news again, being a replacement for John Boehner and speaking at the Republican Convention.

So we were reminded of that picture and decided to look at it, but we couldn’t remember which computer we had saved it on (was it the desktop, the laptop, maybe my flash drive or hers, or possibly even the external hard drive?).

So we jumped on the ever-faithful…Google. She felt we probably wouldn’t be able to find the picture, I said, “Why not? How many possible pictures like that could be out there?”

matrix_morpheus_meme_by_vincentthecrow-d5h3fx7

So, I searched for “Romney-sama” on Google images. And I was very surprised by the results…here are some of the better ones (all pictures link to their original locations).

tumblr_ngy41mpzoj1qcj5s7o6_1280

Oh my…so firm.

obama-daisukiI have learned in my studies of Japan that Daisuki is the common way of saying “I love you.”  From what I understand it literally translates to “I kinda  like you.”, because Japanese people are apparently adorable.

avablaarghgarghrolledarandomimagepostedincomment1684652at_b8175e486143fba8d13fd9aff81b3c14Adorable…and weird. O_0

They don’t stop at Obama and Romney or Romney and Ryan, either…

This one's just disturbing.

That one’s just disturbing.

After that last one, how about a nice calm, soothing Obama weeabo meme?

moshiobama

Okay, now that everyone feels littler safer in the world…

obamalookmeintheyes

I love the look on Obama’s face in that picture.

And finally, a reminder that the wife’s hunt for Yaoi is what got us on this topic.

http://funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/4162675/Romney+sama#1c368a_4162231

~RCS

Bonus!:

tumblr_ma54mmrc6b1rfmqsoo1_500

Samurai Gaiden: Tachibana Muneshige Part 1

So in my research of Tachibana Muneshige’s life…I found that his video was waaay too long.  So it got split into two parts.  The write-up is going to be contained in a single post once the second part is up on the 21st.

But here’s the video of Part 1:

~RCS

No Priced Books?

So last weekend Rich and I were out and about in Robinson and decided to stop at Half Priced Books. Why, you ask? Well, that’s a silly question, it’s easy, you can never have too many books!

 

tn-books01

 

So we made our way to Half Priced Books, giddy and excited about the possibility of finding new tomes filled with enlightenment. And maybe some yaoi manga, too.

 

Who doesn't dance at the thought of new yaoi.... I mean new books. Yeah, totally was gonna say new books.

Who doesn’t dance at the thought of new yaoi books. Yeah, totally was gonna say new books.

 

So you can imagine our despair when we noticed that the big Half Priced Books sign had been removed from the building. When we parked and got out, we saw that there was a note on the door stating that they had closed on September 3rd. Everything inside was packed up in boxes.  It was a sad, sad day.

 

rsz_sad_ross

We didn’t think it was possible to be sadder than a sad Ross.

 

Ͼ-Mimi

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