Samurai Gaiden: Valentine’s Day in Japan (incl. Tanabata Story)

Aaah, the sweet smell of a rose. Well, okay actually this one is made from brass and the perfume that was on it when I bought it has since faded. But February is still the month of love, with Valentine’s Day coming in about a week and a half.

Oh, don’t give me that look…yeah it was kind of a cheap trick to do the story of Tadaoki and Garasha last year, but this time I’m going to do a legit Valentine’s day episode. And I figure…what better Valentine’s topic than…Valentine’s Day in Japan.


Japanese Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day made its way to Japan in the late 1930s and it was actually marketed to Foreigners living in Japan. It wasn’t until the 1960s that an actual ‘tradition’ began to develop within the modern Japanese culture.

Valentine’s Day in Japan is a little bit different than here in America. Instead of men going out and buying their wives chocolate, cards, stuffed animals, and taking the ladies out on a fancy dates…in Japan it is the women who give chocolate to the men in their lives. And not just their spouses.

First of all it is basically just chocolate, the cards, stuffed animals and the like aren’t nearly as prominent in Japan. After the Christmas holiday has ended stores will start displaying raw chocolate and chocolate making kits – the idea being that the ladies are supposed to make their own chocolate, rather than just buy store-bought candy.

Secondly the chocolate is doled out to the people in the lady’s life in one of three styles: Giri-choco, honmei-choco, or the less popular tomo-choco.

Giri-Choco means Obligation Chocolate. It is given by women to their male peers – coworkers, fellow students, etc.

Honmei-choco is the True Feeling Chocolate or Favorite Chocolate. It is given by women to their spouses, boyfriends, or perhaps to a crush to show that they like him.

Finally, Tomo-Choco is Friendly Chocolate. It is supposed to be given from one girl to another to express a deep friendship and appreciation between the two ladies.

Now here is where we start to get really fun. Just like the over commercialized American version of Valentine’s Day, the Japanese candy makers came up with a great idea – “Let’s convince men to do Valentine’s Day, too!”

I’ve read that there was an attempt to get men to buy Marshmallows for the ladies who gave them chocolates, but it didn’t become very popular. In the 1980s the Japanese started to celebrate White Day, where men were supposed to return the favor by giving gifts to the ladies who gave them chocolate – Giri or Honmei – and on top of that it is considered unseemly to give a gift less than double the value of the chocolate.

Generally the men will either buy or make a chocolate dish for the women, usually out of white chocolate, hence the name of the day where men return the favor is called White Day. It is also acceptable for men to buy the ladies small gifts such as flowers, other types or candy, or just something neat…probably jewelry.

In America, as I said before, Valentine’s Day is often a day for big, fancy dates. But that is actually usually a part of the Christmas celebrations in Japan and Valentine’s Day is usually just an exchange of chocolate.

Now a similar day occurs in July during the Tanabata festival, which is based on an old Chinese festival called the Qixi Jie or Festival of the Two Sevens. Tanabata is just the Japanese pronunciation for Qixi, of course.

In the Heian period Empress Kokken adopted part of the Qixi Festival’s idea and created the Kikkoden or Festival to Plead for Skills. Although interestingly enough you can apparently translate that in a more literal fashion to wind up with Festival of the Begging Craftsman.

Anyway, the idea was that you would write little wishes on a piece of paper and offer them up to the Shinto deities – the idea being to ask for help or luck in improving your skills. Generally ladies asked for improvement in sewing or cooking and men asked for improvement in the manliest of skills…penmanship.

Which creates an interest paradox. If your penmanship is so bad the deities can’t read it…will they still help you or not?

Not quite this Orihime.

Not quite this Orihime.

Regardless, the story behind the celebration is of the Star-crossed lovers the

He's only a swordsman in Age of Ishtaria.

He’s only a swordsman in Age of Ishtaria.

Weaver and the Herdsman, Orihime and Hikoboshi. In the story the Weaver is the daughter of the sky king and was tasked with creating heavenly fabric every day of her life, on the banks of the Amanogawa – the Heavenly River. Amanogawa is, of course, a euphemism for the Milky Way.


The Sky King realizes that his daughter is sad and she explains that because all she does is work on the river’s edge, she can never find anyone to fall in love with and marry. The Sky King introduces her to the herdsman, Hikoboshi, who kept his herd on the other side of the river.

Orihime and Hikoboshi fall in love at first meeting and get married. Shortly thereafter the Sky King realizes that Orihime is spending all her time with Hikoboshi and has stopped producing the heavenly fabric. At the same time, Hikoboshi’s herd is left to wander all over heaven on their own with no herdsman to command them.

The Sky King angrily separates the two lovers, sending Hikoboshi back to his own side of the river and forbidding them to see each other any longer. Orihime was despondent at the loss of her love, though, and begged her father to let her see Hikoboshi, again. The Sky King eventually relented and made a caveat – if Orihime produced lots of heavenly fabric for him, then she could meet Hikoboshi once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month, hence Festival of the Two Sevens.

Orihime did as was expected of her, but on the 7th day of the 7th month when she went to the river to meet with Hikoboshi she found that her father had removed the bridge – possibly when he first forbade them from meeting. So she could not cross to Hikoboshi’s side and he could not cross to hers.

Orihime dropped to her knees on the bank of the Heavenly River and cried so hard that a flock of Magpies were moved by her sorrow and rose to the heavens, promising to carry her across the river. They formed a living bridge so that Orihime could walk across the river and meet with Hikoboshi.

So once a year the, literally star-crossed lovers, are able to meet. And the myth goes that…if it rains on Tanabata Day it is because the magpies were unable to form the bridge and it is the lovers’ tears at being forced to wait another year to meet.


Well…that was, only slightly less depressing than Tadaoki and Garasha’s story. At least no one died in it. Although I’ve gotta say I would be a might bit tempted to throw the Sky King in the river and drown him if I was Orihime. But alas, Tanabata is certainly a more touching story to found your own version of Valentine’s Day rather than the modern interpretation of the holiday which is…basically to keep candy companies in business.


DJ Comic: Valentine’s Day


Rich really doesn’t need a special day or silly holiday to offer me his dick in a box, he tries to offer it to me every day.  Every.  Single.  Day.

We honestly don’t really do anything for Valentine’s day, or most holidays for that matter.  We don’t do gifts to each other unless there is something we want or need, and once again don’t really need a holiday for that.  And we try to stay home, too; because everyone else goes out and everything is usually super crowded. Everything from restaurants to the grocery store can be ridiculously packed.  So we just try to spend time together, but that’s the norm for us anyway, so it works out well.


Samurai Gaiden: Hosokawa Tadaoki and Akechi Garasha


Aaah, February; the month of love and romance. Valentine’s Day is in just a little over a week. In the spirit of Valetine’s Day we’re going to talk about a love story. The love story of Hosokawa Tadaoki and Akechi Tamako, also known as…Garasha.

Hosokawa Tadaoki (1564-1645) Akechi Tamako (1563-1600)

Hosokawa Tadaoki was the eldest son of Hosokawa Fujitaka, also known as Hosokawa Yusai. Fujitaka had been a courtier of Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the Kengo Shogun we’ve mentioned…numerous times because we’re huge fans of his story. When Yoshiteru was killed Fujitaka was one of the primary forces in the push to bring Ashikaga Yoshiaki to power and he was one of the men who brought Yoshiaki to Oda Nobunaga.

When Nobunaga and Yoshiaki had a falling out, Fujitaka actually stayed in Nobunaga’s service. This is where Tadaoki comes in. At the age of fifteen Fujitaka’s boy fought in his first battle on the Oda side. For the Hosokawa’s loyalty and good service they were made the lords of Tango, worth some 110 thousand koku.

It was around this time that a certain associate of Fujitaka came calling, another lord in Oda Nobunaga’s service: Akechi Mitsuhide. You see, Mitsuhide had a daughter, Tamako, that he felt would be a perfect wife for young Tadaoki.

They were the same age, she was well-educated and poetic, and their fathers were close friends. The perfect arrangement! So Tadaoki and Tamako were married and began a happy life that eventually resulted in the births of several children.

You wouldn't believe, but this girl popped out 6 kids by the time she was 37!

You wouldn’t believe, but she popped out six kids by the time she was 37!

However, just as every rose has its thorns, every marriage, too, has its own set of hurdles to pass over. The incredibly romantic marriage of the Hosokawa boy and the Akechi girl, for political gain on both sides, was no different.

You see, just a few years after they were married  in case you haven’t been following along the last few months’ worth of videos) Tamako’s father betrayed Nobunaga and killed him at Honnoji. Mitsuhide quickly went about getting support from his political allies, such as the Hosokawa.

Fujitaka and Tadaoki decided…not to support the Akechi and sided with his enemy, Toyotomi. This makes perfect sense since Toyotomi would almost have to go through their lands to get to his battle with Mitsuhide so that made them fodder in the political arrangement.

Tadaoki had Tamako locked up and planned to send her back to her father. However this didn’t come to fruition because Mitsuhide lost at the battle of Yamazaki, as we mentioned before, and Tamako was left in a bit of limbo. She was the daughter of the most notorious traitor in the country, at least at that particular moment in time.

An unexpected savior came in the form of…Toyotomi Hideyoshi himself. Hideyoshi pardoned Tamako and convinced Tadaoki to take her back and keep her as a wife.

So the romance was allowed to blossom, once more.

Fast forward about fifteen years to when Tadaoki was fighting for Toyotomi during the Invasions of Korea which occurred in 1592 and 1597, each for about a year’s time. During this time a fellow we’ve discussed recently, Takayama Ukon Shigetomo, introduced Tamako to a thing called Christianity. Although some records suggest that she had already been introduced to it by a handmaid who had converted years earlier.

Either way Shigetomo helped her get baptized, taking the name Gracia, which is where we get her more common name: Garasha, the Japanese pronunciation of Gracia. When Tadaoki returned from Korea to find out that his wife had converted to Christianity he was overjoyed.

Sorry, did I say overjoyed? I meant to say infuriated. He had her locked in a tower where she remained for about a year. Some sources say he demanded she recant her conversion and she refused. Either way she spent some time locked up.

Strange...he looks like such a level-headed fellow.

Strange…he looks like such a level-headed fellow.

It seems that after a year Tadaoki softened up some and released her from her confinement. She seems to have spent much of her time housed in the Hosokawa mansion in Toyotomi-held Osaka, even as Tadaoki got his own castle at Nakatsu in Buzen province.

Finally we come to 1600, Toyotomi Hideyoshi is dead, his young son Hideyori is the nominal leader of Japan and Tokugawa Ieyasu is about to wage a war against the rest of the country to take that position away from Hideyori.

Tadaoki is on the fence about who to side with. On the one hand, he’s a Toyotomi loyalist, on the other hand…Tokugawa Ieyasu gave him a bunch of money to pay off Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s brother-in-law, Hidetsugu. Hidetsugu was a pretty cruel guy and being in his debt was probably not a good thing, especially when he annoyed Hideyoshi and got killed taking numerous associates down with him.

The leader of the pro-Toyotomi forces, Ishida Mitsunari, decided that he needed an extra few cards in his deck and he tried to kidnap all of the daimyos’ families staying in Osaka. One of those families was the Hosokawa.

Tamako saw that the Ishida forces were intent on taking her captive and, as legend has it, she called upon a faithful retainer to murder her because she knew that Christians were forbidden to take their own lives. The retainer killed her to prevent her from being used as a political pawn against her beloved husband.

Lord? I know I prayed for it to warm up this Autumn, but this was not what I meant!

“Lord? I know I prayed for it to warm up this Autumn, but this was not what I meant!”

In reality…European sources of the time suggests that every time Tadaoki left his wife he had standing orders for them to kill her if she might come to danger of dishonoring the family name.

This is also pretty believable because some old writings suggest that Tadaoki had a thing for murdering handmaidens. When he or his wife’s maids made him angry, he was not above simply drawing his sword and cutting them down where they stood, apparently.

All right, so maybe the romance of Tadaoki and Tamako is just a revisionist legend and the truth was that Tadaoki was a brutal, psychotic man who married an unlucky chick.

In the game Kannou Mukashibanashi, Tadaoki is a loving, devoted husband...and this is how they portray him.

In the game Kannou Mukashibanashi, Tadaoki is a loving, devoted husband…and this is still how they portray him.

To further this point in James Clavell’s novel, Shogun, which is a fanciful tale based on the period around Sekigahara, several of the characters are based on the Hosokawa household. The love interest of the main character, John Blackthorne, is named Toda Mariko; she is loosely based on Tamako. Likewise her husband, the violent and scary Buntaro, is based on Tadaoki, and “Iron Fist” Hiromatsu is supposed to be based on his father, Fujitaka.

Even so, Tadaoki and Tamako’s relationship is often shown as one of the most romantic tragedies in Japanese lore; even though in reality there was very little love between the two of them.



I saw a report that parent watchdog groups are upset about the Teleflora ad because the woman in it (Adrianna Lima) is wearing a low-cut, sexy dress and stockings.  The same kind of outfit that many women wear out on a Friday night, and less skimpy than many teenage girls wear to school every day.

Now, people are right to hate that commercial.  But it has nothing to with her outfit.  It’s the commercial’s message, which says: “Men; if you give a woman flowers, she will have sex with you.”

Happy Valentines, ladies…teleflora just obligated to put out for a $30 bouquet.  As long as he’s got flowers he doesn’t even have to buy you dinner, just walk up to a stranger’s door, hand her some flowers, and she’ll spread her legs.

Behold the power of flowers!

Didn’t see the commercial?  Don’t believe me?  Here you go…

Teleflora?  They might as well just call their company

Sidenote: is not a real site, thankfully.

Nothing like putting women back a few hundred years just so you can get a nice bouquet that will die two days after Valentine’s Day.

My fiance always yells at me when I bring home flowers, she prefers for me to bring home potted plants.  At least that way they survive the week (although admittedly not much longer, just between us).