Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Twilight Samurai

Each year there is an annual general hue and cry on the part of the Chinese and Koreans as the Japanese leaders make their yearly pilgrimage to honour their fallen war veterans at the Yasukuni Shrine. Among the revered souls enshrined there are war criminals from World War II charged with "murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees ... forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions ... plundering public and private property, wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity; (perpetrating) mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture, and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries."

Even reading the heated words of the tribunal makes my skin crawl. With the relentless culling done during their bloodthirsty occupation in World War II - and the seeming whitewashing of said events by the Japanese, it's no wonder the Chinese and Koreans are utterly unforgiving. 

But when it comes to mindless razing, brutal pillaging and savage mass executions, I wouldn't be surprised if the stoic Japanese didn't even blink an eye - since honestly they weren't all that merciful on themselves either. Just a brief display at Osaka Castle of the Sengoku period brilliantly showcases just how ruthlessly destructive these vicious warlords could be. Perfectly enacted dioramas depict the protracted lifetime of Toyotomi Hideyoshi - the preeminent daimyo who constructed the castle - and there seemed to be endless bloody conflict throughout.

Talk about tiresome!

I only came to have dinner! You mean we've gotta draw swords over this!?

In the exhibitis, there's even a horrific tale drawn out on a paper scroll that details the legend of an entire samurai clan ending their lives in drowning - only to subsequently be reborn as the Heikegani crab. Though worry not about biting into them in some random sushi since these crabs are generally thrown back into the sea by the highly superstitious fishermen. 

If I were a daimyo back then, I would hastily decamp as far as possible to the northern reaches of Hokkaido, preferably surrounded by insurmountable mountain ranges - along with stone walls if that isn't enough to deter them, just to avoid all the senseless bloodshed.

Back in those days, peace and zen... not so much. 

But they sure as hell built some mighty impressive fortresses. One of which was Osaka Castle - which itself suffered several debilitating conflicts, conflagrations and calamities - hence the recently refurbished one on sight. Definitely would recommend a visit, though the uphill hike through the entire 15-acre park to reach the main tower itself was quite intentionally arduous. No doubt one of the many intricate defense strategies created to frustrate their enemies!

1 comment:

Kenny Mah said...

I'm gonna be reeeaaalll careful before biting into my next crab tempura... :P