I mentioned in the previous entry that I practice the naginata. This is not just for fun in the martial arts hall–I have to protect Lord Horio!

As you can see, the job of a CIR can cover a wide range of activities. Well, not that this was for work, but being placed in Matsue means that I get to take part in things like the annual Warrior Parade which reenacts the moving of Lord Horio and his troops into the new domain of Matsue in 1611. There were several different roles and groups, and I was placed among the lady warriors, meaning I got to look menancing in peach and wield a prop naginata (though dancing with one is different from training with one, both methods are quite fun!). Directors from across the country came together to help train a couple hundred budding samurai for the event, and we started practicing a couple months ago.

The parade was set to take place on Saturday, April 6, during the height of cherry blossom season–especially around Matsue Castle, the finale spot. The weather on Friday was perfect–warm, sunny, not much wind.

But that perfect weather was the problem. Due to the warmth, there was plenty of moisture in the air, and there was a very foreboding weather forecast. We knew ahead of time that there was a strong likelihood of rain on our parade–and not just rain, down pour. On the final practice the night before the parade, the resourceful directors announced the back-up to do it in indoors.

Indoors!? I thought. We can’t spread out across the streets and march across the city? That does not fit my mental image of this event!! I wished really, really hard for sunshine, as I’m sure many of the others did, too.

On the day of the parade, the rain started as soon as I stepped outside in the morning. We all gathered several hours before the parade so we would have time for getting into costume and taking pictures (a huge thanks to all the volunteers who got everyone dressed!), and everyone was still in high, hopeful spirits. With everyone stopping each other for pictures, it felt like everyone got together for a samurai convention or something.

Lord Horio’s wife and daughters had really impressive, detailed wigs, but I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture of them personally. These ladies danced with cherry blossoms branches.

Our group leader and sub-leader looked even cooler than the rest of us! We shall proudly follow them into battle!

Last minute practice sessions–and last minute routine changes!

However, the weather was getting worse and worse.

Late in the morning, they called the outdoor parade off and decided to hold it inside the rotunda instead, though our one practice of the cramped rotunda version the night before had been far less than graceful.

A whole parade in this space? No!! I was so disappointed I wanted to cry.

Crying, however, would not have been a fitting reaction for a warrior, so we all pulled together for more flexible strategy. It took adjusting our the movements we had been practicing for months so as to not injure the crowded audience (or each other!), and even in the moments before we took our turn performing, our group leader whispered new instructions to everyone that we had never brought up before. Samurai must think on their feet, and obey with loyalty! Our performance mostly went well, I think.

These pictures will kind of give you idea about the naginata routine.

Thanks, Jin-san!

Thanks, Jin-san!

Of course, I stopped taking pictures once it was time to go on, but the amazing Jin-san has a gallery here. Watch the video he put together, too:

At the end of the performance, the directors (all grown men) were all crying because they were so moved–at least, I hope that was the case!

Good job, everyone! Let’s do our best next year and be prepared for sunshine!

Matsue CIRs double as ninja and as samurai.