OMG Samurai Truths 第一

John Wayne.  Clint Eastwood.  Kirk Douglas.

All familiar names to us with a common thread – they helped create the lore of the rough and tough cowboy.

Killing eight bad guys with their Colt .45 six-shooters.  Without reloading.  Bullets would glance off them as if they were slickered with the world’s supply of Vaseline.

Make that a non-stick coating.

With that, let’s get into the lore – and the truths – of the samurai.

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Toshiro Mifune portraying Lord Toranaga in "Shogun"
Toshiro Mifune portraying Lord Toranaga in “Shogun”

Yes, Japan had their John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Kirk Douglas creating the samurai lore.  Not to bore you with the names of key Japanese actors portraying samurai, but Toshiro Mifune is their John Wayne.  You may have seen him playing Lord Toranaga in the 1980 TV mini-series “Shogun” opposite Richard Chamberlain.

Let’s give you a taste of the movie “lore” created in Japan.  This compilation is of “Zatoichi” (座頭一), a blind swordsman of all things.  He is portrayed by Katsu Shintaro, another famous actor.  Think of him as Sean Connery in a series of films; instead of James Bond, it is Zatoichi.

His character is a very entertaining combination of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Jackie Chan, all rolled into one fantasy character.  The lore.  No need to watch the entire thing, of course; its intent is to expose you to the samurai lore.

In these fictional fight sequences (What am I saying?  It’s a movie!), Zatoichi slays up to 40 bad guys with his one sword, i.e., eight guys with a six shooter.

Incorrect.  More like 20 bad guys with a six-shooter.

Yes, Zatoichi is smothered in Japan’s supply of Vaseline…and there is no guard (tsuba 鍔) on the sword to protect his pinky.

Anyways, I’m sure you have a flavor of the samurai lore by now.

Did any of you watch the entire clip?  Better than the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (which really didn’t happen in the O.K. Corral, by the way)?

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Let’s begin the first OMG Samurai Truth with a simple question based on Western culture:

When Colt made a six shooter, how did they test its accuracy?  After all, no cowboy would want to aim at a bad guy and have it miss by a couple of feet when it counted.  Only Bob Hope.

Colt pistol, 1851
Colt pistol, 1851

They test fired the pistol, of course.  Likely at a target with a bulls-eye.

And its resulting level of accuracy also made for higher selling prices.  They would be prized possessions.

Well, second question: how did the samurai know his samurai sword, or “katana” (刀) was sharp?

Jabbing a bulls-eye would be unthinkable.  Where’s the fun?

They would test the katana out on an executed criminal.

Testing out a new katana (From "Secrets of the Samurai", 1973)
Testing out a new katana (From “Secrets of the Samurai”, 1973)

Cut off a limb.  Perhaps an arm or a leg.

Well, that’s mostly true.

If a samurai was of high enough ranking (perhaps one of my samurai ancestors), he can pay……for a live one.

While the “lore” varies, there is one documented story – but who knows?  The story is a criminal was being taken to his execution when he spied a high ranking samurai with a vassal carrying his brand-spanking new katana.

The criminal asked, “Are you going to try out your new katana on me?” to which the samurai replied in the affirmative.  The samurai said he would try a slashing diagonal cut on him from the shoulder down.

The soon-to-be executed criminal then replied something to the effect of, “Well, I wish I would have known beforehand as I would have swallowed some stones to dull your blade.”

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A grisly first “OMG Samurai Truth”, perhaps, but truth nonetheless. Not lore.

But one thing is for certain: the consequence of execution did not defray criminals from doing their dastardly deeds even in the 1600’s.  And they did indeed carry out the sentences.  No ACLU.

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Stay tuned for more OMG Samurai Truths.  More to come.

45 thoughts on “OMG Samurai Truths 第一”

    1. “Zatoichi” had a HUGE following in Japan; my favorites were the B&W ones. The actor, who passed away in 1997, had perfected the role; the way he walks, his blind glances… It great entertainment.

  1. Ok, I tried to drink a cup of coffee with this post….. What can I say, It still was a good cup of coffee!!! 🙂 I liked the comparison to western movie stars. Good info with a LOL flavor!!!!! Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

  2. Quick read…

    Remember we got a big snowstorm here yesterday… 18 inches with winds!

    I will read it more intensely later on after some intense shoveling sessions.

    I am just a tad curious though… What’s the meaning of No ACLU?
    I know what is UCLA, but ACLU…

    About Toshiro Mifune… He portrayed Yamamoto in Tora, Tora, Tora,
    Great long movie.

      1. Yes… 43 cm in Montreal… 18 inches in ONE DAY!
        Biggest snowstorm since people keep track of them.

  3. That was great!!! 🙂 Jason has a terrible habit of counting how many shots were fired before a gun is reloaded on a movie. He also watches to see if all horse equipment is historically accurate or not. I will have to share this fact with him later! 🙂

  4. Ah, don’t forget Sylvester Stallone… I once counted over 40 guys he took out in one of his action flicks. Even as a kid I was amused by how many bad guys my western heros could take out with a six shooter. Once or twice I even caught them reloading. (grin) Thanks for the comparison.

      1. Yep… we’re back. Actually we are in Nashville celebrating the Holidays with our daughter and family. It’s a joy not to spend the $.75 per minute for the Internet that we paid on the Crown Princess cruise ship! We will return to Oregon in a few days. Happy New Year Koji.

      1. My pleasure!
        As to me, fine!! Doing lots of organic cooking, rabbit grooming, and sewing/crocheting while it rains cats and dogs.
        Amadeus has had a few good days, and today, has taken another bad turn. I haven’t lost hope yet.

  5. Fun, interesting and just good reading. Looking forward to future installments. The gunfight at the OK Corral wasn’t factual? What’s next…..no Easter Bunny? LOL

    1. As you must know, Gar, the shootout took place outside of the actual OK Corral and in a confined space out on a street. It was some more lore caused by…. Hollywood! I think it took only about half a minute, from the first shot to the last moan.

  6. One guy. Forty well armed men surround him. Why, oh why do they insist on attacking him one at a time? Come to America to see some beat down crowd – or cop – style! But that’s how it always goes in the movies – bad guys can’t shoot straight, and they come at you one at a time. (Did you catch the guys behind him, ‘waiting’ instead of yelling “attack!”.) One guy deliberately pauses in a stream so our hero has time to finish another one off – just to be killed himself.

    Got a wonderful laugh at the underwater scene! Whatta sport! Makes water polo look safe.

    But true to it’s nature, each culture and civilization that has a history has their “epics” and “heros” to go with them. Just look at Hercules in the old days (tho’ the samari and Chinese civilization stretch back much further. Like us, they make movies based on *their* legends, heros, and whatnot. And kudos to them for doing that!

    Shogun was one of my favorite novels. Read it three times (quite unusual for me). And there was another – not the movie series – that had samari for heros. And every culture has (or has had) it’s inhumanities, cruelties. Just comes with ‘man’, I reckon. Humankind and all that. (wryly shrugging). After all, I should know. I’m one of them, LOL’ing!

    But lets give it up to those film theater heroes. They go on to inspire us to be sometime more sometimes when we’re in a bit of a pinch – or even more heroic, when saving someone else. (reach out and touch somebody. in a kind way, that is!).

    Until later – just dropped in. (They’re dancing in a show storm now – still watching that samari flick. It’s good.) Quite the art – and the society and culture were (and still are) very interesting.

  7. Cool … great subject and look forward to more Samurai Truths … and Lore. I watched 8 minutes and 7 seconds … lol … Watching but also very intrigued by much of the background music used in putting together the clips which created the same mood and emotion that any American Western might.

    The Shogun series was the very first movie I ever taped/recorded on my VHS … and I still have the tapes. If I tried to play them they might just disintegrate.

    I have to say I completely enjoyed Jeffssong’s observation about action-type movies, be they Western or Samurai or Crime or Outer Space themes…. the hero or heroes overcome outrageous odds and I annoy my husband by constantly commenting “Oh, I’m sure.” … or … “Give me a break.” … or … “Yeah, like I’d really believe that.” ……………… 🙂

  8. Grisly – yes, but also amazing. I just don’t think I could slice a person. I just… I don’t think I could. But my son, he would LOVE a genuine Japanese sword. omg, he’d love it.

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