26. Kosho-an Introduction

Dear Karate-ka,

You have not received any e-mail from me in about a week. I wish to explain to you. Pat Molnar from Central Dojo asked me if I would tell her more about women in Japanese martial arts. Here is the question she sent me:

“Could you talk a bit about women and their place, historically, in martial arts? On the women’s gasshuku, Ceci and Barbara mentioned two women martial artists (who’s names I would like to hear again) but said there aren’t many details known about them.”

Well the names are Matsumura Yonamine whose husband was Matsumura Sokon, and Minamoto Masaka the regent of Japan in 1200AD. I hope to write about them more in the future but not in this series of essays.

Then Sensei Neville Billimoria wrote me stating his belief that a story, like the one about Takahara, is very much to his liking and hoped I would write another (unfortunately I have misplaced his exact statement but it went something like the above).

With the requests of these two students in mind I remembered an event in Japanese martial tradition which would lend itself into a good and true story. The difficulty I faced was I could tell the story in a couple of paragraphs. So I decided to write a bit about the culture of the time of the story, about the martial arts training process, about the engagement and marriage rituals, about child raising and about religious ceremonies. This took some research. My main source for this part of the essay was my notes and a book “Daily Life in Japan at the time of the Samurai, 1185-1603” by Louis Frederic and translated by Eileen M. Lowe.

The techniques of stealth that the main character, Kosho, uses in her daring endeavor were actual techniques which were taught by her Sensei in Katori Shinto Ryu. Modern variations of the climbing techniques I seductively teach in my Winter Mountaineering Courses. However, I did not create the techniques used in the story, they were (and are?) a part of the Katori Shinto Ryu curriculum.

So what part of the story is true and what part is fictional? Almost all of the story is true. The character names are even real. Yamana and Hosokawa were the causes of the Onin War. Hatakeyama family was a strong contender for the Kenrei position. The family did split in 1450. Yamana was atrocious towards the Hatakeyama family and, tradition has it, did the heinous deeds mentioned in the story. The only fictional parts are the parts of discussions where I bring in an explanation of the culture. These probably didn’t occur as I have written them, but they could have. Suffice it to say this story is true and is one of the most daring in the annals of Japanese martial arts.

And if it were not for these two quick thinking and dedicated women, the men would have bungled the situation. The bungling would have led to a battle and thousands would have been killed. It is arguable that the women did not prevent this carnage only postpone it. In 1467 the Onin War broke out anyway. This war was a bloody battle between Yamana and Hosokawa in Kyoto where much of the city was ruined and thousands of men and women died. Kosho and Ichi’s daring feat may have only postponed the Onin war from 1451 to 1467, but still, we should not degrade their efforts and their accomplishments just because Yamana wanted the war desperately. Kosho and Ichi are shining examples of the woman warrior spirit and dedication, and knowledge, and performance. They did what no one else would try.

So why is it that these feats and the feats of other women in the Ashikaga and Muromachi periods have been forgotten? In 1603 the warring states periods came to an end. The Tokugawa Regime took over the Bafuku (military power). There wasn’t much work for samurai. They were mostly just retainers prowling around looking for individual battles to wage and, in later times, drinking sake while ravaging the people. The roads in martial arts split wider and wider. There was the ruinous immoral self-seeking section who made life hard on everyone; there was the proud loyal-to-the-end section who just did what their orders were, took their koku of rice and raised families; and there was the “little squeaks” section who sought refinement of body and soul giving up the cares of the world for a life of spiritual zenith (note Miyamoto Musashi).

There really wasn’t much room for women in the martial arts of the Tokugawa regime. Women trained in martial arts but were relegated to non-paying positions as wives, or paying positions as concubines. The glory of the woman warrior in earlier periods was expunged from the record by the need to keep men in the spotlight and employed. The samurai took on the sword as his soul in the Tokugawa period and relegated the naginata (the far superior weapon physically but far inferior spiritually) to the women. Although women remained in the buke families and were responsible to the point of death, they were ignored in most cases. Even the stories of the great feats of women in the past were forgotten. And this is how and why it is so difficult to find information about Kosho, Ichi, Jojo. It was expedient to draw attention to the men to keep them employed in the Tokugawa period and relegate the women to the house. It boils down to economy and suppression.

But Kosho, Ichi, Jojo did exist. They weren’t always known by these names but the people did exist. Kosho’s “real” name (by our standards) was Hatakeyama Eiko (Hatakeyama = bamboo-mountain). Her family was Hatakeyama. She must have been an awesome woman warrior with extremely high standards of conduct. If there is failure in getting this point across to you it is totally my fault as a writer, not her as a warrior.

For your sake I have included the following list of characters. I personally find it easier to have a list like this as I get started in a story. It keeps my view clear. I hope it helps you. I suggest that you not read it now but use it as a reference as names appear in the text.

Hatakeyama Shigetada = chief retainer of the Daimyo at Etchu (modern Toyama)

• Masako = wife
    • Eiko = Kosho = Seisho = first child of Shigetada and Masako
        • Kimura Kosaku—Kosho’s husband
        • Kimura Masaka (married name Murashige Masaka)
            • Kosho’s and Kosaku first child
    • Masashige = Masako’s and Shigetada’s first son

Kihara Sensei = Kosho’s 1st martial arts instructor

Jojo Sensei = Kosho’s bushi training instructor (Jojo means Blowing of the Wind)

• Ichi = Jojo Sensei’s chief student

This paragraphs quote is all false: I put it in as an example of how Eiko would have been introduced to the dojo in those days. I could not find her family linage name-by-name so I just invented them: “Hatakeyama Shigetada, son of Tomoyose, son of Anzo, son of Shigeru, son of Biwan, son of Hidetaka, son of Norikage, son of Yuri, son of Yoritsune, son of the great Toshitsuna who served under Minamoto Yoritomo”

Hatakeyama Yoshinari = one faction in the family split in 1450

Hatakeyama Masanaga = the other faction in the family split in 1450

    • Yoshina = wife
    • Naniko = daughter of Masanaga and Yoshina

Yamana Sozen = the evil self-centered father-in-law of Hosokawa and the real force behind the beginning of the Onin War of 1467.

Hosokawa Katsumoto = the intelligent but sometimes ruthless adversary of Yamana in the Onin War of 1467

Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa = the weak shogun of the time of this story and the Onin War.

• Tomi-ko = Yoshimasa’s wife
• Yoshimi = Yoshimasa’s brother who Yoshimasa supported for his replacement
• Yoshihisa = first born son of Yoshimasa and Tomi-ko (Tomi-ko supported for Yoshimasa’s replacement)

Lizasa Choisai Ienao = creator of Katori Shinto Ryu in around 1420 AD.