Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, August 12, 2022

Three Crows

Over at Kenshi 24/7 was a post about three famous kendoka who were the best from their dojo; the "three crows."

An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.


Late afternoon summer 1930, Hongo-shinmasago-saka (in modern day Bunkyo-ku). A tallish slender young man, about 19 years old, walked up to the entrance of Yushinkan, the dojo of Nakayama Hakudo. Dangling on the shinai bag that was resting heavily on his right shoulder was another bag with his bogu in it. In his left hand he carried a further bag, filled with clothes and other sundry possessions. Putting his bags down, he slid open the door and called out “gomen kudasai.” After a few moments a young man appeared. 

“My name is Nakakura Kiyoshi. I’ve come up from Kyushu to join the dojo.”

“Come in, sensei has been expecting you.”

As the time for keiko got nearer, more and more people started appearing at the dojo. Nakakura dropped his stuff off in his allocated space in a room on the second floor. He changed into his keikogi and took his bogu down to the dojo. Being new there he didn’t know anybody, nor the routine. 

A young man who looked to be a little bit older than Nakakura approached him:

“My name is Nakajima Gorozo. I teach kendo at keishicho and before that I lived in this dojo and studied under Nakayama sensei for years.  And who might you be?”

“Oh really? How about a match then?”

Nakajima had been a live-in student (uchideshi) at Yushinkan for six years before – at Nakayama’s recommendation – being employed at keishicho. An “old timer” if you like (despite being only 22), Nakajima was incensed at the impertinence of the newcomer. He might have been tall (for people at the time) but what he had in height he lacked in manners. His thick regional accent probably meant he was from the middle of nowhere, meaning his kendo would almost certainly be terrible. Even though it was his first day in the dojo, he needed to be taught a lesson:

“Wait here.”

He motioned over to his good friend Haga Junichi, who was eyeing the encounter from a distance. Haga had joined Yushinkan four years earlier and, being the same age, he and Nakajima had become good friends. Haga was currently teaching at the Imperial Guards and was notorious both for his rough, even violent, keiko as well as his gruff manner. Nakajima spoke:

“This guy needs a lesson in manners.”

Haga nodded. 

“New guy, put your men on.”

What followed was not as Nakajima had imagined. Yes, Haga was full on – vicious tsuki, strong katate-han-men, full on taiatari – but Nakakura was mostly coping with it, and even striking back. In the midst of it one threw the other and they were both lying on the dojo floor grappling. The battle was going on forever, and neither looked like they would concede defeat. After a while Nakajima stepped in and stopped it.

Taking his men off Haga turned to Nakajima and said:

“Well, he seems like an interesting guy.”

This article will very briefly talk about the “sanba-karasu” or “three crows” of Yushinkan: Nakajima Gorozo, Haga Junichi, and Nakakura Kiyoshi. “Three crows” was a sort of nickname given to the three strongest individuals in a field, and in this case it was the three best (young) kenshi in Yushinkan. They not only sparred and competed together, but they formed a close and long lasting friendship. 

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