February 18, 2004

Sengoku Jidai - Takeda - The Year of the Snake

And it was there in the chashitsu that the warlord sat alone, quietly reflecting upon his predicament. He rested with his eyes cast downward, kneeling, and with a teacup firmly in hand. He brought it up, admired the cup for a few moments, and then drank a portion before setting it down again. He sat in meditation for many hours trying to calm his mind, but every thought that turned to the future was met with a blood-stained blade.

He envisioned his province of Kai with a multitude of gold mines, open ports where trade could flourish, and finally, lush valleys of fertile land that would provide food for his people for many a generation.

The first two goals were met long ago, and only the last remained. The final goal engulfed his mind so completely that it filled even his dreams at night. He could not escape from it. He knew that it was his destiny to take the road, but the destination was unbelievably outside his reach.

“What if I am to die before it is all met?” he thought to himself. "Who shall carry on the legacy of the Clan Takeda? What of my people?”

As he stood, his legs shook with uncertainty. He pulled forth a satchel from within the folds of his kimono, and retrieved a tiny object from within. He slid open the door, and let the orange glow of the sunset wash over him. He held up the object in between his index finger and thumb, observing it with abject fascination.

It was an iron bullet; black, smooth, and the symbol of the end of a majestic era.

He touched the bullet to his breast as though to commune with a possible future, but after a moment, he fell to the ground on one knee, and threw it away in disgust. Or perhaps, horror. After a moment, he stood and stepped out onto the rock garden beyond, enveloped in his own depression, and muttering a singular phrase to himself over and over again.

An old monk was carefully shaping the sand into sweeping patterns around a solitary rock that sat in the middle of the garden. Inscribed beautifully onto the rock was the warlord’s name: Katsuchiyo. As he looked, he stopped uttering the phrase he had so long grown accustomed to. And with a symbolic wave, he threw his phrase away.

“There will be a day when I shall say it again. But that day is not today. Today, Takeda shall rise victorious!”

Immediately, the warlord was filled with strength, and his determination shone through his eyes. He ran across the garden and towards the temple beyond, leaving footprints indented into the sand. With a patient smile, the monk swept up after the daimyo had left, and formed a new shape within the garden.

This new shape, the monk thought to himself, marks the beginning of an age anew.

Many days later, the warlord re-emerged from the temple wearing his traditional kikou, his kabuto under an arm, katana at his side, and a black banner painted with golden kanji.

On the banner was written:
“Swift as the wind,
Silent as a forest,
Fierce as fire,
Immovable as the mountain.
In heaven and earth alone am I to be revered.”

He turned to the courtyard where thousands of his troops stood in attention, awaiting his words. Words discarded by history, yet echoes eternally on regardless.

And with but a single word, they marched on for a fourth time onto the Kawanakajima plains, forever to be burned into the books of history.

“It is largely left to her own natural bodily perfection, and she has no special need to resort to artificial coloring and powdering to look beautiful.”
- Last words of a dying warlord, on life.