Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sengoku Jidai Boom!

Apparently there is a Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period) "boom" in Japan right now. I think it's safe to say that Japan is one of the most craze-prone countries on earth; any kind of boom or fad can spring up, spread quickly, and then fade away to be replaced by the next thing. There always seems to be something new on the horizon, and magazines and TV shows are constantly reporting on what's hot.

I was just in the convenience store and saw a magazine for men called Goods Press. It's aimed at young guys with lots of disposable income, and it tries to tell you what you should be buying this month in various categories: electronics, clothes, toys, watches, etc. This month, they had a feature for people who are into the Sengoku Jidai, probably inspired by the current Taiga Drama on NHK. I must admit, most of these toys and things really brought out my inner geek! (People who know me are saying "Inner geek?")

Some of the items featured: knee-length underwear that is patterned like haidate, or the thigh-armour worn by the samurai. I really want a pair of these!

Also available: mobile-phone straps that look like little bits of armour. Cool!

They mentioned a Sengoku Jidai theme restaurant in Shinjuku. I want to go! Some women from my office who are into Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen went there last year, but didn't invite me (sob).

They also have super-detailed figures of samurai in armour, based on historical personages. Here's Ii Naomasa, and here's Oda Nobunaga. I had this exact idea a few years ago! (I also imagined a Miyamoto Musashi figure ... hope somebody puts that out.) How fun would it be to start a business making action figures? I wish I had had a hundred thousand dollars of start-up capitol, some graphic artists working for me, and even the vaguest idea of how to run a business...

They did an in-depth profile of Marutake, a company that makes Japanese armour. They even did graphs for each suit of armour, ranking them on things like "ease of movement" and "prestige factor".

They had a page about Yagyu Shingan Ryu (see my last post!) on fighting in armour, and went so far as to select some "Choice Techniques".

Finally, they went to Ginza Choshuya, a prominent sword-dealer in Ginza, and looked at some of their real and replica swords.

Part of me gets annoyed at how modern Japanese people seem to think the Sengoku Jidai was such a cool, romantic period, while ignoring how utterly horrible it must have been. They seem to like it just because of how dramatic and spectacular it all was ... but then I think, I'm no different! I originally started iaido because I saw pictures of samurai in books when I was a kid, and was fascinated by how cool they looked. Later, I saw iaido and was drawn in by the aesthetic, while knowing nothing about the deeper side of it. And as you can see, part of me still gets excited when I see samurai-themed toys or restaurants or accessories. I guess it's okay not to look too deeply into things all the time, right?


Blogger ted said...

Hi Jeff,

Yesterday, I went out to Yagyu to do some hiking. At the bus stop in Nara, I found around 50 people all queued up for the bus out there. It turns out that some boy band was filming something out at the temple behind the Yagyu dojo, and these poor (pathetic?) folks were going to have a look.

Didn't realize that the Sengoku Jidai was so popular now. I recommend the films Ugetsu or Onibaba as an antidote.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Ikigai said...

Yes I know I started Iai for similar, not-so-deep reasons. Part of it was because I wanted to learn how to wear a hakama!

Ohh well, live and learn. haha.

11:52 AM  
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