#131 – Powers Of The Crown, Time Life BOOK REVIEW

December 28, 2018
krauserpua

Powers of the crown

Contrary to popular opinion, my initial interest in Japan grew not from its porn or video games but actually from ninjas. Yes, those shadow-skulking, shuriken-shuffling assassins for hire. I first saw them in the 1980s movie Enter The Ninja, hired from my local Jet Garage gas station’s small video rental booth. That was followed up by Revenge Of The Ninja and god knows how many others until I finally discovered the king of all ninja movies: Mafia vs Ninja.

At my school it soon became accepted as established fact that martial arts superstar Bruce Lee did not die of a brain aneurysm, but had actually been assassinated by a gang of seven ninjas who were upset that he was too fucking hard for them [1]. Indeed. You need to be careful who you piss off in life, and I’ll tell you now there wasn’t a single kid in my junior school who’d have risked pissing off the ninja. We’d rather risk the wrath of the Eagle’s Claw school of kung fu than the ninja [2].

My love affair with ninja continued throughout the 1980s, including my frequent visits to the South Shields seaside amusement arcades where I’d play games such as Yie Ar Kung Fu and Ninja Warriors. When playing Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja I was firmly on the side of the latter, and then when I discovered the original Eastman and Laird Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books in my local Timeslip comic store, I was all over them.

The 1990s were a blur of university, work, and not enough ninjas. I did try my hand at the university Ninjutsu club, being a regular student for all three years though I realise now I was wasting my time. The ninja mythos was so strong that all kinds of charlatans got involved. I still suspect that Grandmaster Hatsumi Masaaki is a bullshitter. Talented martial artist in the traditional sense yes, but more like the leader of a historical reenactment society than a legit ninja [3]. Then of course, there was Ashida Kim. I did get in a bit of ninja gaming though, such as with From Software’s [4] Tenchu: Stealth Assassins game.

Finally in 1998 I visited Japan for the first time, spending a week in Tokyo then a week in Osaka and Nagoya. My bird at the time told me there was a ninja museum within day-trip distance of Nagoya, in the Iga province (their old base). So, off we went. We visited a beautifully reconstructed Tokugawa-era mountain village just like you’d see in a Zatoichi or Kozure Okami movie, and then found a big wooden house deep in the forest that housed the museum itself. A purple-clad kunoichi [5] showed us around and I bought a souvenir coffee mug that I own to this day. A great day out.

Where on earth am I going with all this? Frankly, I don’t know. I just like to talk about ninja. They were a secret society of assassins hired by rival feudal leaders to infiltrate castles and murder VIPs. They also never actually dressed in those black suits – that’s a coincidental artefact from the custom of Japanese plays to dress stage hands head-to-toe in black so the audience ignores them.

Oh wait! I remember. Yes.

In Powers Of The Crown, the theme of which is that AD 1600-1700 saw consolidation of royal power in most civilisations bar England, the first chapter covers Tokugawa Japan – the time of the first shogunate. It’s the period covered by James Clavell’s classic novel Shogun, which itself was made into a TV series with The Count Of Monte Cristo himself Richard Chamberlain. I read that in 2015 and was surprised that the book ends on the eve of the fateful Battle of Sekigahara. Fateful why? Well, that’s the battle where Tokugawa Ieyasu of the Eastern Kanto region crushed his rival of the West, Ishida Mitsunari, and became undisputed military dictator of all Japan.

Incidentally, it’s also the battle the aftermath of which begins Eiji Yoshikawa’s classic Musashi saga, as the teenage tearaway Miyamoto Musashi wakes up injured on the morning after the battle, having been knocked unconscious while fighting for Ishida’s losing side. I’m pretty sure the battle also features plenty in Japanese video games from the warring kingdoms period, such as Kessen and Nobunaga’s Ambition [6]. Look, the important thing is that the battle was ace, some 140,000 warriors laying into each other with pike, spear, and sword. I wish I’d seen it (from a safe distance).

220px-Kessen_II_Coverart

Loved it

Anyway, that’s chapter one. Powers Of The Crown also explains the Manchu invasion and occupation of China, the Great Shah of Persia, the rise of William of Orange and the Dutch Republic, and then the settlement of the USA by the English. The only break from the theme is the Civil War in England leading to Charles I getting his head lopped off and Oliver Cromwell establishing a reign of terror. To take Powers Of The Crown at face value it rather seems like Charles I was asking for it, making the dumbest and most arrogant of moves when he could’ve easily held onto his throne with Roundhead consent if he’d been reasonable.

But no, he was rather Cavalier about it.

I think he envied Louis XIV across the channel, who’d established an absolutist government. All this is great backstory to fill in the Alexandre Dumas novels I’ve been reading. Dumas was an avowed Royalist, so he gives it all a rather different slant [7].

Anyway, after 168 pages of world history painstakingly assembled for this volume by Professors Geoffrey Park (Illinois), Christopher Bayly (Cambridge), I.J. McMullen (Oxford), Denis Twitchett (Princeton), David Morgan (SOAS), Nicholas Tyacke (UCL), Jonathan I. Israel (UCL) and G.V. Scammell (Cambridge) we can all agree on the major learning point: Ninjas are awesome.

If you’d like to see some real stealth attraction, stealth comfort, and stealth seduction from a masterful daygaming ninja then do consider my own textbooks Daygame Mastery, Daygame Infinite, and the video series Daygame Overkill. Check them out here.

Daygame_Overkill_Double_Bill_Poster

[1] I consider it far more likely he was poisoned to keep him quiet after he considered exposing all the paedophilia and child sex trafficking that went on with Hollywood producers during the location filming of Enter The Dragon.
[2] Because Jackie Chan had already proven that while the Eagle Claw is invincible against Snake’s Fist, it is highly vulnerable to the Cat’s Claw style. Nobody had yet figured out the style to beat ninjutsu.
[3] Unless he was actually involved in the Bruce Lee assassination and his role as kindly old instructor is a deep cover.
[4] Yes, that From Software
[5] That’s female ninja to you, lad. And no, you’re not allowed to shag them.
[6] Okay, I think Oda Nobunaga came a bit earlier, now I think about it.
[7] Not that type of slant, you racist!

3 Comments

  1. I want to fuck a kunoichi and do all the nasty things to her. Her body must be so deliciously flexible, and her stamina would get her to take it, and take it, and take it without tapping out.

    It will be my Ninja flag 😉

  2. Osprey Pubishing in general publishes a lot of great historical books on various militaries of the ages.There’s a PDF archive floating around on your favorite tracker if you wish to sample a bit.

    In particular they also have a great one on the famed shinobi, check it out here: https://ospreypublishing.com/ninja-ad-1460-1650

    Second result on Google for “osprey ninja” is a PDF.

    This one is a good read too: https://www.amazon.com/Iga-Koka-Ninja-Skills-Chikamatsu/dp/075095664X/

    Of course, the real challenge is in INTJ-grokking the stuff on a deeper level so you get cross-utility from it in all domains.

  3. Perhaps a bit off topic, but I’ve been doing bujinkan for several years. Where I live it’s marketed as ‘Japanese Jujutsu’ and and that seemed to keep away a lot of the weridos. Most people who train there are interested in functional self-defence and learning to fight, and we’re apparently one of the few places that does ‘randori’ (although it leads to a high number of injuries, way more than I saw when I was doing judo). I probably won’t convince you of it’s functionality, but we’ve got police and security guards training with us who would vouch for the effectiveness of the style. To be fair, the very best students also tend to cross-train in another fighting ‘sport’, particularly BJJ.

    Regarding Hatsumi, from what I’ve heard from those who’ve trained with him or closely tracked his career, he’s legit; however, he’s also very old. From what I’m told, in his younger years he was a complete and utter beast. Nowadays he tends to concentrate on extremely intricate and impractical techniques performed on compliant training partners, like most ageing martial artists I suppose.

    In another sense though, you’re probably right in that he wasn’t a ninja in the true sense. The majority of the bujinkan syllabus is more pertinent to the samurai for a start. And technically, ninjutsu isn’t so much about the art of armed and unarmed combat, but about stealth and deception and all the peculiar non-fighting aspects. Once you strip those out there’s little to distinguish it from the various forms of Japanese jujutsu. I suppose one could still learn how to make potions and smoke bombs, divine the weather and conduct psy-ops against an enemy, but a lot of the techniques are probably dated or of little interest to people today.

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