Downtown Shibuya, Tõkyõ.
Downtown Shibuya, Tõkyõ.
Climbing the stairs to Muga sozan Ōfuna Kannonji, Õfuna, Kanagawa.
Ancillary shrine. Atsugi shrine, Atsugi, Kanagawa.
A traditional old mill.
A wandering salesman selling wind chimes #Photography
1,656 survivors have died from stress and other illnesses from the Fukushima disaster in the Fukushima region. 1,607 people were killed during the tsunami itself in Fukushima and over 18,000 people were killed in total across Japan.
Almost three years after that terrible day when an earthquake triggered tsunami slammed into Fukushima, many survivors are still displaced. Some are unable to return home because the area where their homes are is still considered unsafe, and some because rebuilding along the coast has been slow. Many building contractors are concentrating efforts around Tokyo for the Olympics.
As well as those survivors who died during the first weeks following the disaster through lack of medical supplies, a growing number of survivors are dying from the physical and mental stress of staying in government built shelters.
A growing number of survivors have taken their own lives, including my wife’s uncle, because there is simply very little support. My wife’s family has nowhere to go, they lost everything, it was all washed out to sea. Yet, the government wants them to continue living in cramped, flimsy, shelters that are fast rotting from the ground up.
Families who have lost loved ones through suicide have attempted to take legal action, holding TEPCO accountable. Last year survivor Hisashi Tarukawa hanged himself at one shelter when authorities banned the shipment of farm produce from Fukushima. His family won a settlement with TEPCO out-of-court. But why should families have to go through legal channels to get action and support from the government and TEPCO? Why does the government not provide the medical assistance that is so needed? Why is there no mental counselling?
The flimsy pre-fabricated shelters that were hastily built by the government are full of mould, dirty, and falling apart in many cases, yet the government is doing almost nothing to rectify the problem. Depression is setting in among many, and the situation is only going to get worse.
The people who live in these shelters are there with other families, living away from the comfort of their own homes and villages. They are forced to share facilities that are stretched to the limit. According to research, 90% of those dying in the shelters are over 66 years of age.
All this while TEPCO claims profits and the government is concentrating on the Olympics. Money is far more important than people in Japan.
Rows of greenhouses. Hiratsuka, Kanagawa prefecture.
A vegetable stall by the side of the road. There are many of these unattended vegetable stalls in rural areas. You simply take the veggies you need and pay by leaving your money in a little box.
Farms of Hiratsuka, Kanagawa prefecture.
Lake Chuzenji, Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture.
Kokoen at Himeji, Hyōgo prefecture.
The literal translation of the kanji for kamae (構) is “structure.” Kamae are therefore considered the “structure” around which techniques are formed. They are best described as “combative engagement postures.”
Kamae aren’t fixed positions or poses, they are momentary, loose, flexible. One must be able to flow, to move from one position to the next as an encounter unfolds, in a natural and efficient manner. The choice of kamae is determined by the relationship with an opponent. Kamae must adapt to the opponents position to take advantage of his movements.Kamae reflect the fluidity of water, flexible and elusive. Each kamae is linked to another in a seamless flowing movement. It goes without saying that a rigid unmoving kamae will end in defeat.
In essence, the kamae are the physical embodiment of one’s mental attitude. Assumed with the entire body, whether armed or unarmed, kamae encompass one’s mental attitude as well as physical attitude (posture). The mental and physical aspects of a technique may be referred to singly as the posture of the mind – kokoro-gamae (心構) and the posture of the body – mi-gamae (身構).
Mastering kamae is considered essential to the combatant’s psycho-physical dominance over an opponent. At the beginning of a combative encounter, a series of postures may be adopted to dominate an opponent, not physically but psychologically. The controlling of an opponent through adopting a kamae which may be hard to read, i.e.; hiding a weapon from view, or disguising a follow-up movement, is considered the pinnacle of martial practice. A considerable number of postures found in kenjutsu schools use postures that disguise a swordsman’s possible strikes, these are termed postures of yamiuchi “unperceived strikes.” Also, various kamae were developed by schools with the sole intention of taking advantage of body language – through posture, eye contact, slight movements etc. It should be pointed out also that the various kamae are distinctive to the different schools, they are in a way “signatures” that are readily recognisable by those who practice kobudõ. Some schools have a vast number of kamae, most added over time in the Tokugawa period (1600 – 1868), a time of relative peace and urbanisation. Other schools contain just a few tried and true kamae that they consider to be all that is necessary.
Above: Midare chudan no kamae 乱中之段
The kamae that an opponent adopts during a duel can be used to judge both his ability and his mental attitude. The famous swordsman Itto Ittosai creator of the Itto ryũ had the following to say regarding kamae:
Fatsumomisaka no koto – “If your opponent takes the seigan no kamae (middle combative posture) or gedan no kamae(lower combative posture), then look at his grip, foot position and his entire body. Mistakes in any of these will tell much about the opponent’s abilities and experience.
If the opponent takes the jõdan no kamae (upper combative posture), then check the distance of his sword edge to determine distancing, the grip of his right hand, and the position of his elbows followed by his foot placement and body angle.
If the opponent takes waki no kamae (sword back at the side combative posture), then check the grip of his front hand, his foot placement and his lead shoulder.
The point of all this is that you must be able to judge an opponent’s actions based on the kamae he adopts. If the opponent moves to the right, check his left; if he moves to the left, then check his right. Always check the opposite side to which an opponent is moving. If you cannot read an opponent’s mind through his adoption of kamae, then he has already won. You must then check the edge of his sword [to determine it’s trajectory]. If you cannot read his kamae, then you must use your sword point to scare him into adjusting his kamae.
The kamae of upper, middle, lower, right and left deserve the most study.”
Ittosai further adds:
Chika no koto – “There are many conditions of the environment that you must be aware of. Sometimes you will meet an opponent on flat ground and sometimes on hilly ground and sometimes on muddy slippery ground. In addition to these conditions, there are those of indoors or within a tight space. One must always learn to make the best use of the conditions. Choosing a strong kamae which is suited to the conditions relies on knowing how to stand and move on different terrain.”
Regarding the use of kamae in combat strategy, Ryũisai Onoue Naojiro of the Takenouchi Hangan ryũ stated the following:
Nobashi no heihõ - the strategy of drawing in your opponent with Zenkutsu no kamae.
“In adopting a kamae at the outset of an encounter it is best to place yourself just outside of the opponent’s reach. Adopt zenkutsu no kamae – “forward leaning posture” to stretch out your enemy. When you adopt Zenkutsu no kamae it seems to your opponent that you are much closer than you actually are. By making it seem as if you are closer your opponent will be drawn in to attack and be overextended. Your opponent’s overextended strike will enable you to strike him down with little effort. Zenkutsu no kamae is a lure to cause your opponent to step within reach. If you adopt an aggressive attitude your opponent will be drawn in, as your intensity will make you appear physically closer to him.”
Many of the techniques of iai (fast sword drawing) in Takenouchi Hangan ryũ and quite a few other schools begin from the low crouching kamae of iaigoshi. These techniques were devised as a defence against night attacks. The practitioner remains low and out of sight of the attacker, springing up at the last moment, simultaneously drawing and cutting down the opponent. These techniques cover attacks from the front, rear, and side as well as multiple attacks and attacks in confined spaces.
Above: Iaigoshi 居合腰
Iaigoshi allowed a samurai to lurk in the shadows, under obstacles, or behind screens etc. The advantage is immediately apparent. During a night attack a samurai could quickly extinguish a lantern and drop into iaigoshi, removing his silhouette and making it hard to discern his location. From this lower position it was easy to make out the outlines of attackers while remaining crouched low under eye level. It was simply a matter of then waiting for the attacker to come within range and then jump up while simultaneously cutting down the attacker and then sinking back into iaigoshi to disappear into the shadows again.
(note: the Shinkage ryũ uses the term kurai in place of kamae. Kurai denoted a rank within the old imperial court. The literal translation of the kanji means “a rank, place, or position” which corresponds with the idea that ones rank was ones position within the imperial court. Some schools also use the term shisei in place of kamae. Shisei means posture.)
Ueda clan samurai at rest, circa 1865. Ueda castle, Ueda, Nagano.