Wednesday, June 30, 2010

なに? Sakamoto Ryoma Original Soccer Star?

Sakamoto Ryoma has to be one of the most popular figures in Japanese history. He has been the subject of numerous historical dramas, books, films, and internet blogs. I’ve always wanted to write something about Ryoma and until I came across this photo, I could no longer resist. For those of you not familiar with Sakamoto Ryoma, he was an influential Samurai from the powerful Tosa Domain during the late Bakumatsu Period of Japan (1860’s). He is best remembered as Statesmen, Visionary, and Japan’s first JFA Soccer Star. なに? Did I just say Soccer Star? Yup! That's right! You heard it here! Japan's First International Soccer Star was none other than Sakamoto Ryoma!

 なんちゃて! Ok just kidding! Ryoma was not the father of Japan's Soccer League nor did he play for the national team. In fact Futbol Soccer was not even in Japan until quite recently. But in all seriousness, I had come across the Samurai Blue website while looking for photos of Japan's national team and found this curious psuedo monument depiction of Ryoma all decked out in Samurai Blue Adidas gear at Samurai Blue Park. I about spit up my Sapporo when I first saw this photo but loved where they were going with it none the less. Samurai Blue Park is located next to National Stadium in Yoyogi Park Tokyo which was created by the Japan Football Association for the 2010 World Cup. Who knows how long the JFA will keep this open now that Japan has been eliminated from the Round of 16 in the World Cup but If you would like to see more of this park please visit the Samurai Blue’s official website at


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The End of the Line - Japan Loses to Paraguay 5-3

The dramatic end came for the Samurai Blue of Japan after 120 scoreless minutes against Paraguay that concluded with the dreaded penalty shootout in where one missed goal cost them their entry into quarterfinals but not out of World Cup History.

Any way you summarize Japan's performance in this 2010 World Cup, there is absolutely no way anyone can deny that Japan who had been underrated from the start exceeded expectations even from within Japan itself. Take into consideration Japan has only been playing Futbol Soccer for just over a decade; they outperformed many of the top rated European powerhouse teams including some of which that went home in utter disgrace. This speaks volumes for Japan as a Futbol playing nation. They have come a long way in a short amount of time. Japan has absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Top striker Keisuke Honda had been named man of the match more than once and the Samurai Blue had energized Japan into a nation of believers. Japan can hold its head up high and recognize itself as an emerging force to be reckoned with. This will certainly not be the last World Cup for Japan. Instead, the world can expect the Samurai Blue to strike harder and play to win and win they shall!

Despite much initial criticism for Japan's earlier losses in the warmup matches, Coach Takeshi Okada had taken Japan into the round of 16 and within striking range of the quarterfinals. A feat no one expected! Okada is quoted as saying: "I personally don't want to base everything on just one result or just one competition. We need to have a longer-term vision, to estimate and evaluate the level of Japanese football. We need to be aware of the journey and the path which is still ongoing." He went on to add: "This competition is a very good way to measure the level of a national team. This World Cup, for the fact we've been able to get this far, it is not only a credit for myself and my players, but also for the Futbol Soccer community of Japan as a whole. I think objectively we can say with certainty that the overall level of the Japan players now is much higher than in the past. As for how far we can go, we keep challenging and keep going forward - that's all."

To both Coach Okada and the entire Samurai Blue of Japan,
I say to you Domo Arigatou' Gozaimashite for an amazing journey that will continue on!
ぼんざい! ぼんざい! ぼんざい!

Friday, June 25, 2010

凡才!Japan Torpedoes Danish Viking Ship

In a stunning upset, the underrated Blue Samurai of Japan dispatched the favored Danish team in a 3-1 victory. This exciting match saw aggressive plays from the Japanese who were in it to win it. Keisuke Honda has our vote as The Man of The Match for his relentless onslaught on the Danish defense and his two goals scored from two free kicks. But no sooner than people were writing off the Danes, they were given an opportunity with a penalty kick. Goalie Eiji Kaswashima blocked the penalty kick but the ball bounced from his hands forward and into the feet of Daniel Jensen who scored Denmark's only goal of the match. It wouldn't be long before Yasuhito Endo sealed the deal in the second half sealing the Danes fate and onto history.

I was absolutely ecstatic but I don't think there was anyone happier than Coach Takeshi Okada to watch the Japanese team come out and give it their all. Throughout the tournament, Okada appeared glum in his stiff grey suits and it reflected the then pessimistic attitudes back in Japan. But for this match we saw a much different Okada who ditched his glum grey suits for team gear and appeared heavily engaged motivating his team like he should had been doing from day one. A shift in attitude and tactics made all the difference. This newfound engagement was reflected in the team’s spectacular performance and the incredible support of the Japanese fans that came out in vast numbers. From the outset, The Blue Samurai were truly exceeding expectations particularly among people in Japan who could not foresee Japan's longevity within Group E much less the Round of 16. This 2010 FIFA world Cup has been full of surprises with many of the big European teams going home in defeat while underrated teams like that of the United States and Japan have prevailed. Japan now joins South Korea to be the second Asian team to enter the Round of Sixteen outside of their native soil. If this world cup has proved anything it is to not count Japan out yet! The Blue Samurai have found their Budodamashi and will fight hard to make Japan and the rest of their fans around the world proud.
 "Our team has a strength that others don't have. We are truly united. We wanted to demonstrate that football is a team sport. This was our first objective (to reach the second round) so I am relieved. The players kept going until the end without losing their focus. I am proud to be with such a great bunch of players," - Takeshi Okada, Japan coach

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

君が代 Kimigayo – Understanding Japan’s National Anthem

For an outsider, Japan’s national anthem can be easily distinguished apart from anthems of other nations in both it’s origins an overall tone. If you are unfamiliar with the Kimigayo and are likely hearing it for the first time while watching the World Cup. The first thing you will notice is both its shortness and almost melancholy sound. When compared to say the proud or upbeat anthems of United States or Germany, The Japanese national anthem seems to be in another league all to its own. But this is just a first impression and not a lasting one. As I watch the Japanese National Team the Samurai Blue, I am reminded of when I stood next to a Japanese woman in San Francisco who sang the Kimigayo as it was played to honor the crew of the Kaiwo Maru last May. Up until that time I had never heard it sung before. It was sung with such emotion I was rather moved by its rendition which left me wanting to know its meaning.

So I sought ought to understand the Kimigayo’s haunting melody and in the process became drawn to its meaning. But to do this you must first understand its origin and history. The Kimigayo was based on a waka poem from the Heian period of Japan (794-1185). It became Japan’s national anthem during Emperor Meji’s reign in 1868 and used until 1945. This period from Meji to the catastrophic defeat in WWII was known as the Imperial Period. Despite calls of post-war connotations to Japanese Imperialism, it remained Japan’s national anthem. The word Kimi in Kimigayo is said to have referred to the nation’s former sovereign that being the emperor. But this has changed since the induction of what can be called the democratic period where the emperor is merely a symbol of the unity of Japan hence the Kimigayo is no longer the sole domain of it’s former sovereign, but rather it is part of it’s overall national identity of Japan itself.

The Kimigayo translated reads like this:
きみがよは              Kimigayo wa               May your reign

ちよにやちよに      Chiyo ni yachiyo ni      Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,

さざれいしの          Sazare-ishi no             Until the pebbles

いわおとなりて      Iwao to narite             Grow into boulders

こけのむすまで      Koke no musu made    Lush with moss.

There are other variations as to the translation of the Kimigayo but I like this translation the most. Understanding this, I no longer hear the words of a defeated people or sadness I once misunderstood. Instead, I now feel a deep sense of pride of a most ancient honorable people who have come a long way since this was first sung in Meji’s day. Of course there will always be detractors out there who will dismiss all of this so they can argue about the Second World War. I say to them that is another argument best left out of modern sporting events and when the Rising Sun waves in the breeze. The Showa Era is over and Japan has made significant strides forward while retaining the Kimigayo. Its beauty and nobility can not be denied nor should it ever be discarded. It should continue on as the national anthem. The Kimigayo is indeed the oldest and shortest anthems in the world but for those who understand it, one of the proudest anthems that reflect both a people and a nation that will continue to flourish under the Rising Sun.

Aya Matsuura Singing The Kimigayo for the Samurai Blue

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blue Samurai Hopes Not Blues

So far it's been a tough run for the Blue Samurai in this year's 2010 FIFA World Cup. Japan's national team led by coach Takeshi Okada will be taking on the Cameroon in the next Group E match this June 14th that will hopefully keep the underdog team in the tournament. So far. it has not been going so well but don't count them out just yet. Inspired by South Korea's recent 2-0 win over Greece, coach Okada is hoping to use South Korea's strategy of rapid passing as a blueprint for success in thier next upcoming matches. We would like to wish Shunsuke Nakamura , Keisuke Honda, Makoto Hasebe, and Brazillian born Marcus Tulio Tanaka and the rest of the Blue Samurai much success.  がんばて ください!

Friday, June 4, 2010

音楽ビデオ - Friday Video and Just Because!

Konnichi-wa! ハッピー6月!It's a Friday here in the City of Angeles and I am in a rare good mood. I am happy to see more people are reading American Mishima. We hope more and more people will continue to follow our work. It's what keeps us writing! So please have a great weekend and enjoy this little video from Nomiya Maki and the Pizzicato Five! I know it makes me want to board the next ANA flight out of here and fly straight for Narita. Enjoy!

Notice at the end they are drinking Sapporo! =) Kampai!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Samurai Sword Attack" in Los Angeles? なに?

It’s happened again here in the City of Angeles. Another man has made headlines for using a Samurai Sword in an act of senseless violence. A 34 year old African-American man by the name of Steven Hill has been accused of attacking three of his coworkers at Ultima DVD with what the news has repeatedly called a “Samurai” styled sword and fatally killing one of them. I about cringed when I saw the graphic on the morning news displaying a Japanese Katana with the bold headline reading “Sword Attack!” ‘Oh please don’t let it be a Samurai sword!’ I exclaimed. Seriously how do they know it was a Samurai Sword? ばか! But to no avail, the news had spread all over the local networks of the disgruntled porno actor / photographer who on the verge of being fired from the Van Nuys porno company for acting inappropriately with his subjects reached for a bladed prop weapon and lunged at his coworkers before escaping. The media had instantly jumped to conclusions. Ok, so it wasn’t a crazy white guy with a katana but still why couldn’t he used a baseball bat, broadsword, claymore, fencing foil, or a even a freaking flyswatter? Oh but no! Not here! It just gets worse as details rolled in.

It’s been a little over two years since former Scientologist Mario Majorksi pulled up to the Hollywood Scientology Celebrity Center (two blocks from where I live) and rushed security guards with two Samurai Swords resulting in his own fatal shooting and more bad press for those who are respectfully on the path of the sword, namely Bushido where the Japanese Samurai sword is revered. The media always describes them as crazed swordsmen. Men who commit these acts are not real swordsmen or martial artists. The people who commit these crimes may just angry who for whatever reason chose the katana as their weapon of choice. But are they really using katana? The LAPD in both instances failed to disclose any photographs of the alleged Japanese Swords. Convenient or is there something else going on here? According to the Huffington Post the weapon was a machete-type prop weapon not a Samurai Sword.

I was happy to see how the Huffington Post went into detailed coverage specificly identifying the alleged weapon as a machete-type prop used for porn production instead of a katana. But five minutes later just as I was in the process of giving the Huffington Post praise they posted this picture seen here to the right reinforcing this image of a mad man weilding a Samurai Sword. Come on guys! A Machete bears no resemblance to a Samurai Katana. You can do better! Seriously!

Bad press like this is never good particularly in the knee-jerk reactionary culture we live in. This just leads to more trouble for those of us who train with swords responsibly. I can personally attest to this experience when my attorney had to argue over the non-lethal properties of my own Iaito sword that was briefly confiscated by the LAPD then later returned. I do have certificates certifying my skill as a swordsman by a world-renown instructor and that I do attend a licensed Shinkage hence I know what I am talking about. More so than mister baldheaded steroid pumping man with the shiny badge pointing a taser gun at me for possessing non-lethal practice weapons but because of bad press like this, this is what it has come down to.

The local news can’t seem to agree if this was a machete attack or a sword attack thus illustrating the high level of ignorance when it comes to swords and those who use them. This is still an on going situation so the jury is still out as to what the final conclusions will be. In the days of the Samurai one could become a hero or a villain. But in this day and age, ignorance will sadly rule supreme. My main concern is that there will once again be calls to enact legislation to make ownership of swords illegal. I hope it never comes to that. In Japan, one needs a permit to carry a sword that is issued to you if you are a collector, historical re-enactor, or a Shinkage Student. I wouldn’t be opposed to having something like that here for it would keep the crazies from using katana in violent incidents or seriously decrease such. Ah but of course that probably wouldn’t work here given the lack of education that exists in the City of Angeles. It would be a total disaster if someone assumed such authority that did not come from a Martial Arts background. So there you go.

I personally deplore violence especially when one uses a sword as his weapon against unarmed victims. My years of hard training in the safe handling and responsibility takes personal offense to it. It just shows the perpetrator as having neither respect for the sword or for himself. It's sad that a person was killed in this manner and just has bad that there were people injured. But just the same goes for the damaged reputation of the Samurai Sword and for those who properly use them. I hope in future such instances a distinction is made between those who train and respect the sword from those who recklessly abuse it. The media should report these incidents with a level of responsibility that we expect of them to provide. The Samurai once served the people it protected. Today those who train in their arts treat these instruments with reverence and high respect. To own Samurai swords in a country that does not have a sword wielding cultural identity is not an indication that you are crazy or in danger of committing violent acts. But until people act responsibly, one can expect the reactionary backlash in the media and things will sadly remain the same. This is just one swordsman's view.

See! Even with the newly added  surveillance video it still looks like he is carrying a machete!