Hey~ We're almost at the Palace now but before we go there let's explore one of the most mysterious areas in the game: Ashina Depths. The artbook has two separate sections on Ashina Depths and Mibu Village but we'll look at them together since I go more by Sculptor's Idols' categories, and there Mibu Village is included into Ashina Depths. As usual, we'll look at environmental and character arts, explore the original names of Sculptor's Idols and try to find as much curious details as we possibly can. Honestly, I've been dreading this part of the project because I still have no clue what went down in Mibu Village and how it's connected to the Fountainhead Palace. We'll try to find out together!
Disclaimer #0 — common sense is still everything. Please do not assume that I have access to some secret true knowledge; I'm just entertained by reading Sekiro in Japanese. My lore theories are just theories so treat them accordingly.
Disclaimer #1 —
trust me, I'm a professional if this fact is somehow important — I am a certified linguist. My major is English and Japanese as foreign languages, my minor is intercultural communication. Fun stuff!
Disclaimer #2 — I am not a professional translator, I have never worked in localization. Yes, I will say that something is translated poorly and something is not, and it will be my personal point of view. People have been complaining that I am picking on minor things or have weird opinions when it comes to "better translations". I want to emphasize that it's okay to have those :) Ultimately, my goal is to give you the information so you can see if the localization was good or not, whether something important was lost or not. My opinion is just that and I choose to share it, however odd it might seem.
Disclaimer #3 — I am not an expert on Buddhism or Shinto, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D I will leave links to the religious terms that we will undoubtedly encounter so you can read more on your own, if you are interested.
This is a popular question in the comment section. In a nutshell, Japanese kanji usually have two types of readings: on-reading and kun-reading, there might be a number of them in each category. On-readings have carried over from Chinese since kanji were borrowed from there, and kun-readings are native to Japanese. When a kanji stands on its own and is used as a single word, it is read with its kun-reading. When a kanji is used as a part of a multi-kanji word, it is read with its on-reading. It is slightly more complicated, but in broad strokes I think it explains it.
As far as I know, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was localized into English by Mugen Creations.
[:] — colon after a vowel means that it's a long sound;
['] — apostrophe after a vowel or before a vowel (or between two [n]) means that these are two different syllables, not a single long one.
The transcriptions I give do not follow all academic rules, and I don't think it's necessary. They are just here to represent the pronunciation.
For this research I mostly used Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Official Artworks, English wiki and a number of dictionaries.
It has become a routine to start a new post with a follow-up to the previous one but I just keep forgetting things. There is yet another part of the Sunken Valley that we haven't looked at, and it is only accessible from the Senpou Temple.
While I was running around talking to people and making sure I have everything to get all the endings, I suddenly realized that the Buddha in the shrine hear Hanbei, where the offering box is, is actually the snake Buddha but without the snake. It's the same one. I don't know why I'm so surprised, Aredera is located in the Ashina outskirts that descends into the Valley at one point, I just never paid attention, I guess.
I Divine Abducted Kotaro and visited him in the Halls where I got a Taro Persimmon from him. Once again I was puzzled by not seeing the miko kids that he was seeing, until I tried slashing the air with my sword and it HIT SOMETHING. That was quite unexpected, you can even see the visual effect like water ripples when the sword bounces off. There is also a little sound like a distant bell striking. So there are actually kids here that we can't see. I popped a Snap Seed — for no reason at all — threw a few Fistfuls of Ash hoping to see the silhouettes, but I saw nothing. Well, this discovery was enough for me.
Since I was already on Mt. Kongo and had the Divine Abduction, I wanted to prove a theory of mine from a long time ago. And I did! You probably know that you can spirit away all the monks — the regular ones and the bomb-throwing ones — if you use Divine Abduction on them, they just disappear. The same is true for all the Taro troop warriors on the mountain, you can spirit all of them away like Kotaro. The rest of the Taro troop warriors outside the mountain do not care much, they just turn around, which could imply that all Taro troopers of the Senpou Temple were abducted when they were kids. No one else can be spirited away, it works only on monks and Taro warriors. Rounin, Senpou shinobi, infested monks, monkeys and wolves just get turned around.
Let's activate the shinobi kite and grapple all the way across. On the first cliff there is a Snap Seed — a sign that this is the realm of the Serpent. As we grapple further, we reach the Sunken Valley Passage, only accessible from the Senpou Temple, the other side of that bridge that the Serpent destroys as we exit Gun Fort. As we emerge from the cave where Badger's son is buried, the White Snake is directly below us. I fooled around for a bit and let it eat me by not pressing the second deathblow — as usual, I ended up in the Snake's den where probably all brides end up, which allowed me to grab the dried viscera and touch Poison Pool Idol.
Anyway, after you get the Fresh Serpent Viscera you land on the other side of the bridge. The most remarkable thing here is a little cave where we find another sokushinbutsu: a monk who undergone self-mummification. There are two items near him, both exceptionally valuable: a Dragon's Blood Droplet, and a Bundled Jizo Statue. Dragon's Blood Droplet is a hardened piece of the Dragon's Heritage, the only other one on Mt. Kongo is in the Main Hall on the statue of the big Kannon. It's truly remarkable to find it here. A Bundled Jizo makes me think that this monk was also haunted by guilt. I just wonder how he got here. Did he somersault his way here like we did? Did he go through the Gun Fort? If so, why was he allowed passage? But now when I think of it, this sokushinbutsu might be hundreds of years old. Who knows what the Gun Fort looked like back then. Who knows how long he's been here. It's one of these tiny Sekiro stories that are fully told through the environment and maybe some items lying nearby, that I love so much. Your interpretation of them depends fully on your overall knowledge of the Sekiro world.
Ashina Depths is a unique area because there are two Sculptor's Idols in the same room. If you jump down from the Bottomless Hole Idol, grapple a couple of times and drop down from the cave, your Idol will be 葦名の底 [ashina no soko] — Ashina bottom, or Ashina Depths. If you come here from the White Serpent's Den, you'll drop down onto the Poison Pool Idol, 毒だまり [dokudamari], the localization is absolutely correct. I cannot tell you how much I hated this place when I first came here; I died here more than I did on all endgame bosses :D
Here you can see the patches of red all over the floor and the walls of the cave: I think, it's indicative of iron. The statues around the Poison Pool are all identical, in the artbook they are just marked as 菩薩像 [bosatsuzo:] — bodhisattva statues. The one with a prayer bead on top of his head is holding something in his left hand. There aren't many items a Buddha or Bodhisattva statue can hold: a bowl of herbs, an alms bowl, a lotus flower or a wealth ball that is sometimes interpreted as a peach. I think, the ball-peach thing is the closest to the onion-shaped item this Bodhisattva holds, and although it's usually an item of the Laughing Buddha Hotei who looks very different to the ones we have in the Poison Pool, this explanation is the only one that I have. The ball is supposed to bring wealth and prosperity. I hope at some point it did.
Interestingly, you can't just sneak past Shirahagi and be on your way, she seems to be guarding the only path to Hidden Forest and Mibu Village, which is curious. Her original name is 蛇の目シラハギ [ja no me shirahagi] — snake eye Shirahagi. Her name is also written in katakana, just like Shirafuji's name, but it can also be written in kanji like this: 白萩 [shirahagi] — white bush clover, quite a beautiful flower.
Shirahagi is my nemesis. I spent so much time trying to beat her, partly because for the longest time I couldn't see past my own stubbornness and just admit that Sabimaru does not work on her. She just doesn't care. Despite being an Okami descendant, she was able to overcome blue rust vulnerability by moving into a pool of poison and living there for who knows how long, accumulating immunity. It's quite an interesting fact if you think about it: the hereditary weakness of the Okami clan can be overcome.
The giant cave just before the Hidden Forest where we face Headless Ape is called 獅子猿のねぐら [shishizaru no negura] — Lion Ape's nest, or sleeping place. If Watering Place where the Lotus grew was his garden, this is his home where he lived with his partner. Her bones in a heap of brown fur can be found above the arena where the smaller monkey brought her some Monkey Booze as a treat or as an offering. I've been here several times but suddenly this scene seemed so sad to me. Guardian Ape is called shishizaru — lion tamarin monkey, he used to be small in size, maybe even smaller than the other brown-furred monkeys that look like Japanese macaques. Maybe some monkeys still remember the way he used to be, or maybe his brown-furred partner used to look more like all the other monkeys, that is why her remains are being offered monkey booze from one of her kin.
On our way to the nest we meet Sunken Valley gunman who tells us about a giant headless ape that just passed here. I have mentioned the inaccuracy of his dialogue several times already so we won't discuss it here.
After defeating the Ape and grappling up to the Hidden Forest, we yet again meet Jinzaemon. He tells us that he saw the shamisen player in the mist — it is his first sighting of O'Rin. He also mentions something very curious: his father knew about the village in the misty woods and warned him against ever going there. This piece of dialogue makes me more confident in my theory that I shared when we discussed Jinzaemon's Bundled Jizo — his father is likely lord Sakuza, or Sakuzaemon, and his mother is likely O'Rin. Jinzaemon is completely taken by the music and alas, the next time we talk to him will be the last.
After you defeat the Headless Ape, Valley Apparitions Memo will become available for purchase from Fujioka. Its original name is 落ち谷の怨霊の覚書 [ochidani no onryo: no oboegaki] — sunken valley vengeful spirits memo. If you look closely at the item picture, you'll see a tiny Shichimen Warrior and a soul he summoned. A neat drawing!
Interestingly, the memo calls Guardian Ape's Burrow 古いねぐら [furui negura] — old den, likely because he used to live there all the time with his partner but when she passed away, he abandoned it. Then the original description tells us what a Shichimen Warrior is: 「いくつもの顔を持つ、怨霊だ。」 — "a vengeful spirit bearing many faces".
The distant voice that seems like a woman crying in the Ape's den is supposed to be Kingfisher, and this thought never actually occurred to me. After defeating this Shichimen Warrior, we find Malcontent — her whistling ring, which points at the fact that Shichimen Warrior consumed her restless spirit. She most likely died here, in the Ape's den, and not in his garden. I wonder how she found herself here.
It suddenly made me think about the other Shichimen Warrior we met near the Bottomless Hole, I feel like I didn't study him well enough. I think his whole arena used to be underwater, and there might have been a river flowing through those torii gates on the cliff before the chasm at some point. That is why we loot Ceremonial Tanto from that Shichimen Warrior — an item used for worshipping the Dragon, where people would cut katashiro out of their life force and send them along the river. Maybe there actually was a river there. That Shichimen Warrior must be hundreds of years old then.
Hidden Forest Idol is really straightforward: 隠し森 [kakushimori] — hidden forest. Let's explore it a little bit before going to the monk and Mist Noble. There is a bunch of ghosts in the mist and since I was invisible to them, I got a chance to observe them in their unalerted state. They're just minding their own business, really: some of them guard loot, others dig soil for something, one of them just sits on the ground drinking sake, living his best apparition life. They grunt and yawn and generally look and behave like regular soldiers that we meet all over Ashina.
We'll skip the Gachiin Headless because we have already talked about him in the very first post and move straight to the Buddhist monk. There is so much to discuss!
He is sitting on the ground in front of a bonfire with a whole bunch of Buddhist items: we can see burning sutras, effigies that might represent Buddhas of bodhisattvas, like our Homeward Buddha, and a bunch of sotoba. 卒塔婆 [sotoba] in Japanese has a meaning of pagoda, and it is a wooden tablet shaped like a five-storey pagoda; if you look closely you can see the five levels defined by indentations. A sotoba is usually set up by the tomb with phrases from Buddhist sutras written on it for the repose of the soul and the name of the deceased. The five storeys symbolize the five universal elements of earth, water, fire, wind and sky.
While we are here, let's discuss something called 五輪塔 [gorinto:], which is essentially the same thing, a type of pagoda representing the five elements but made of stone, also serving funerary purposes. As a structure, it was first adopted by Japanese Mikkyou buddhists, Shingon and Tendai sects in the mid Heian period (794-1185). We've seen these stone pagodas all over Ashina, they are everywhere.
Back to the monk now! The big golden statue behind him is undoubtedly Kannon, a bodhisattva that we already met in the Sunken Valley as Jibo Kannon and in Senpou Temple. Here it's likely to be Sho Kannon, as she has one face, two arms and lotus buds in her left hand. But as I am looking at her gracefully holding this suihei in her left hand, a small water vessel where the lotuses are, something turns inside me.
It has always bugged me that I don't know who the Buddha in the Dilapidated Temple is. You know, the Buddha carved by a true busshi, the kind Buddha, the one keeping the Sculptor company and the one sending us to the past. And now I know. Somehow it never occurred to me but the buddha in the Dilapidated Temple is Juichimen Kannon — Eleven-faced Kannon. She is missing a lotus flower from the suihei but otherwise it's undoubtedly her. Why is she here? Eleven-faced Kannon offers salvation and enlightenment to the living beings in the Ashura realm. It all makes sense. I knew that one day I'll know who this Buddha is, and now I do — and you do too!
Now that we have sorted out all Kannon representations, let's talk to the monk. He is asking us to take on a 仏敵 [butteki], no less, an enemy of Buddhism. He says the enemy is hiding in 廃寺 [haiji] — ruined temple, a Buddhist temple, which is important. He claims that the enemy of Buddha closed the entrance to the village by illusory fog to まやかす [mayakasu] — to deceive the villagers.
Now, this monk looks like a Senpou monk: he is missing his yellow garments but otherwise his emaciated body and patches of decaying skin suggest that he is, in fact, a Senpou monk. Interestingly enough, all the other dead monks that we'll see throughout the Hidden Forest, don't seem to be Senpou monks: they have different garments and their prayer necklaces are much shorter. So maybe there is a different Buddhist branch here in Mibu village and it seems like this Senpou monk just came here to investigate.
As we go to the Ruined Temple, we can see many dead Buddhist monks, and not just dead but hideously murdered, with their hands tied behind their backs. Some of them are hanged on tree branches above the greenish lamps — the same ones that the Memorial Mob have.
Before we can reach the temple, we need to fight another sumou wrestler, this time it is Tokujiro the Glutton. His original name is 牛飲の徳次郎 [gyu:in no tokujiro], where 牛飲 [gyu:in] is a part of a four-kanji word 牛飲馬食 [gyu:inbashoku] — heavy eating and drinking, literally "drinking like a cow and eating like a horse". Tokujiro got the "drinking like a cow" part and as we can see, he is as addicted to sake as Juzou. He also has blood-soaked sack strapped to his waist. Why am I thinking about severed heads?..
Tokujiro is often considered a completely random miniboss just being here without any rhyme or reason but I don't think it's true. I think, he was meant to reach the Mibu Village but got lost in the fog. The Sunken Valley monkeys keeping him company seem to be a part of his little group. As for who else might be a part of the group... we'll circle back to it a little later.
I find the Ruined Temple to be incredibly hard to explore during a playthrough because you enter it, Mist Noble turns around, you kill him almost instantly and then the illusion is dispelled and you've lost the opportunity to look at it.
There are ten sokushinbutsu sitting on the floor, and one Mist Noble in red playing his flute, which, as I imagine, is the thing that conjures up the fog. The deity of the temple is unmistakably Jizo with his staff and red clothing. Interestingly, there are two folding screens depicting Sakura Dragon.
With Mist Noble's death not only the fog enveloping the forest is dispelled but the illusion of the temple as well: we can see now that it is a collapsed building destroyed by fire. There are monk corpses inside. Interestingly, Sakura Dragon's folding screens are intact, I wonder why.
Just before the temple there is a grave filled with more effigies, sotoba and sutras, just like the fire near the monk. Jizo statues around the grave are beheaded. When we come back to the monk, he says that he is terribly old but he would like to once more return Buddha to the temple. Now, this seems like a quest but if it is, I have to clue how to complete it. There is no way for us to drag Kannon back into the temple; I even got excited for a moment there and used a Bundled Jizo Statue in the temple since there was Jizo in there at some point, but to no avail. The monk doesn't really have any more lines past that one, according to his script, so even if it was a quest, it didn't make it into the game. I believe you can spirit him away with Divine Abduction but that doesn't really lead anywhere either.
So, what happened in the Hidden Forest? There was a Buddhist temple but one of the Mibu Priests seized control of it, threw away the statue of Kannon, burned all items of buddhism and murdered all buddhist monks. The monks, in turn, consider him to be the enemy of Buddha who wants to deceive the villagers. Why such hostility?
Well, last time we talked about 神仏習合 [shimbutsu shu:go:] — syncretism of kami and buddhas, the assimilation of Buddhism in Japan, its merging with the native religion. It wasn't all that smooth, especially at the start, when Buddhism just arrived in Japan.
Buddhism made its way to China and Korea through the Silk Road and then travelled through these counties to Japan. Thus, early Japanese Buddhism was heavily influenced by Chinese Buddhism and Korean Buddhism. Thanks to invaluable Nihon Shoki, the Chronicles of Japan, we even have a date — year 552, but there are several theories as to when exactly the official introduction happened; we can reliably say it was around that time. The king of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, sent a mission to Emperor Kinmei, the 29th Emperor of Japan; the mission included an image of the Buddha, buddhist sutras and other religious items. By that time the Buddhism in Baekje had already developed because it was introduced through China in the late 4th century. When Emperor Kinmei received the gifts and the image of Buddha, he asked his advisors if this new foreign god should be worshipped in Japan. As you can probably imagine, the opinions differed and drastically so: Soga no Imame, the leader of the powerful Soga clan who was basically the head of government, supported Buddhism, while Monotobe no Okoshi, the chief of the Monotobe clan and a political rival of Soga no Imame, was strongly against it. The Emperor gave the gifts to the Soga clan and allowed them to worship Buddha to sort of test it out. The tension, however, grew, and it did for generations: each side gathered support for their cause, for example, Soga side was supported by immigrant clans like Hata clan who are said to have come to Japan from China, and Monotobe clan was supported by Ootomo clan, a highly influential family. The opponents of Buddhism burned the temples and threw Buddha images into canals or so some records say. Their main point was that the native gods would become angry with people for worshipping a foreign deity, and when an epidemic broke out soon after, it was taken as proof of the native gods indeed being angry. You know, the story of a foreign god arriving, ousting the native gods, people worshipping it and later facing an epidemic. During the reign of Emperor Bidatsu, Emperor Kinmei's second son, yet another epidemic broke out, triggering one of the earliest and possibly even the first instance of 廃仏毀釈 [haibutsu kishaku] — a movement to abolish Buddhism from Japan. Emperor Bidatsu died in that epidemic and it's known that the disease afflicted him with sores so it might have been smallpox. The most famous instance of abolishing Buddhism is 神仏分離 [shimbutsu bunri] — separation of Shinto and Buddhism during Meiji Restoration, I briefly mentioned it in the last post.
This is basically what's happening in Mibu Village: abolishing of Buddhism. It's interesting why they chose to abolish it now; later in Mibu Village we'll see a great number of Jizo statues and Buddhist gravestones, showing that for a very long time Shinto and Buddhism were equally practiced.
Finally, we have reached one of the most confusing and straight up bizzare areas in the game — Mibu village. Its original name is 水生村 [mibumura], and as many people who have studied any amount of Japanese pointed out, the reading "Mibu" is weird. And it is! 村 [mura] means "village" so we'll get it out of the way. 水生 [mibu] should be read as 水生 [suisei] — aquatic life, which is a legit word that you can find in a dictionary. However, here it's 水生 [mibu]. When we encounter a Japanese word with a weird reading, there might be a few reasons to it, and one of the most frequent ones is that it is a name. Mibu is a name of a clan. It can also be written like this 壬生 [mibu]. Initially the word "mibu" referred to places with aquatic life and many water sources and then came to denote families from this region.
You might not realize but you actually know already what their clan sigil looks like. Yep, it's hidari mitsudomoe, three comma-like swirls going clockwise. We see this symbol in the Fountainhead Palace and also on the wooden case of the Red Mortal Blade.
We'll briefly touch on the history of the real Mibu clan because some details are fascinating in the context of Sekiro. Mibu clan was a family of court officials, they were in charge of various records, not unlike the historical Hirata family. In Medieval Japan all court nobles were allowed to enter Imperial Palace regardless of their family rank. In the middle of the Heian period, however, a system was implemented that divided court nobles into Jigeke (地下家) and To:sho:ke (堂上家), so the former were not allowed to enter the Imperial Palace, and the latter could enter it freely. I think you've guessed by now: Mibu were one of the Jigeke (地下家) — Jige families, meaning that they were court nobles prohibited from the Imperial Palace. Despite the fact that in Sekiro Fountainhead Palace has no Emperor, I think the parallel is pretty clear.
Just to the right of the Mibu Village Idol we encounter an Interior Ministry agent: I think, he is a part of Tokujiro's group, only he didn't get lost in the fog. I wonder why the Ministry sent them here; maybe they wanted to investigate the waters of the Ashina lands? Not far from him we find a Treasure Carp scale that was washed downstream.
There is a Memorial Mob nearby, a charming fella who adds a little twist to the usual line of all Memorial Mob:
「死者があるところ、また供養衆あり。死ねぬ者でも、おかまいなしじゃ」 — 'There are Memorial Mob where the dead are; or even the undead, it doesn't matter'.
From him we gain our first piece of the Mibu village lore: the villagers are undead. Moreover, there is a chance that this merry Memorial Mob is undead as well, just retains more consciousness than others. If he catches Dragonrot, his unique line is about how little sake he has and how it's not enough. Also, this Memorial Mob says the following when afflicted with Dragonrot:
「皆の衆、済まなんだ…」 — "Memorial Mob, I am sorry..."
Here he apologizes to the other people of his group, to other representatives of the Memorial Mob. Why though? In an earlier post about Dragonrot and the Memorial Mob we established that these people are travelling Buddhist monks, performing memorial services for the dead in accordance with the Buddhist religious practices. But Mibu Village stands against Buddhism and the head priest is turning the villagers into the undead, breaking the natural order of things. Despite all this, this Memorial Mob did not leave immediately but chose to remain and engage in this uncontrollable drinking. That's why he is sorry, he abandoned his purpose and his religious practices but retained enough consciousness to realize what he's done. When you heal this Mob's Dragonrot, he says:
「…あんたのお蔭で、酷い渇きは消えたようじゃ」 — "Thanks to you, my horrible thirst disappeared".
「ありがたや。これで、供養の任を続けられる」 — "I appreciate it. Now I can continue my duty of [holding] memorial services for the dead".
「…死ねぬ者でも、おかまいなし。供養供養で、酒びたりじゃ」 — "Doesn't matter if you are undead. Memorial services and continuous drinking".
Isn't it incredible how because of the amount of context we amassed over all this research, these few phrases from one of the most utilitarian NPCs in the game unravel into a story of abandoning one's duty and falling into temptation?..
Mibu villagers are generally minding their own business when not alerted; some of them are digging along the river banks, and I think they might be after Treasure Carp scales. One of the scales seemed to escape the villagers and float past the Ministry agent. Or maybe they are collecting the slugs for the carp bait. Otherwise they are mostly farmers, carrying appropriate tools. Their character models are identical to those of the zombies in the Abandoned Dungeon which comes as no surprise, really. Some of them carry lanterns which are essentially cages with fireflies, others have several jugs strapped to their back. There are also women carrying dead or undead children on their backs, which is probably the most unsettling type of villager you can meet. In Japanese the villagers are called ** .
Just at the village entrance we can see a rope above with various things and other ropes tied to it, including pieces of White Serpent's shed skin. There is also a weird wreath with a piece of maybe crystal (??) fixed in the centre, and I have no clue what that might be and for what. It's depicted in the artbook as well. Maybe it's just something to mark the entrance to the village, or maybe it has some other significance.
Around the corner we can find a Lump of Fat Wax on the ground, these things form rarely in a human body and are a sign of a disease, which fits very well with the undead villagers.
Jizo statues that are peppered here and there throughout the village are all beheaded, just like the ones before the Mist Noble temple.
The artbook gives an overview of the village marked as 水生村集落 [mibumura shu:raku] — Mibu Village settlement. A very grim sight, honestly. The artbook also depicts several house interiors.
Interestingly enough, the house where we find Shousuke hiding in his basket, is marked specifically as 機織家 [hataori ie] — weaver's house. You can even see the loom inside the house just near Shousuke. Red fabric stretched out on wooden boards or hanging from poles is 血染め布干し [chizome nunohoshi] — drying bloodstained cloth. Apparently, that's why these slugs are all over it, they must be fond of the blood. Further into the village we'll see moths eating through the fabric. As to why they would even make this fabric: later we'll see that it is used to dress small wayside shrines that lead to the Wedding Cave, and it is also draped around an improvised torii gate and inside the Shinto shrine where the head priest is.
The grappling points on the roofs are wrapped in snake skin, which I think is an indication that Serpent might have passed somewhere near Mibu village. I don't think the villagers have any qualms about the White Serpect because it is a nushi — a god of the land, much like their beloved Carp. Maybe they worship the Serpent too.
Let's visit Shousuke. The poor guy is scared out of his mind but he is still a source of valuable information. When Wolf addressed him, he asks Wolf if he is "an honorable person" — まともな人 [matomona hito]. まとも [matomo] means "honest, proper, sensible" and the like, and I think Shousuke uses this adjective to set Wolf apart from the zombie villagers. He tells us that the villagers going insane is quite a recent occurrence and he didn't notice how the village fell into ruin, which is quite surprising. He explains that he was able to snap out of it when he threw up. According to Shousuke, the head priest of the village treats the villagers to sake that makes them thirsty; they have no choice but to drink from the rivers and ponds, which makes them even thirstier, and then they lose their mind and start fearing fire. It's difficult to say if the sake itself causes the zombification or if it is given just to provoke thirst; then again, I think the sake is made from the same water. Shousuke claims that the priest treats them to sake in order for them to become ミヤコビト [myakobito], written in katakana in the original script but this word also has kanji: 京人 [miyakobito] — residents of the Imperial capital, or, in this case, of the Imperial (read: Fountainhead) Palace. However, Shousuke is not really sure what it means.
Another interesting bit he tells us is about Inuhiko the hunter who lives on the outskirts of the village and burns resin to scare the villagers away. Shousuke's voice acting is incredible in this part of the dialogue, the disdain with which he speaks about Inuhiko's fire reveals that he is already too far gone, and foreshadows his fate. There is a line that might be considered weirdly specific:
「犬彦は、村の鼻つまみ者だ獣の肉など、食いやがる。だから、神主さまも、あいつにはお酒をあげないのさ」 — "Inuhiko is the village outcast; he eats wild meat and the like. That is why the head priest doesn't give him any sake."
In 675 Emperor Tenmu banned consumption of beef, horse, chicken and other meats during the farming season, but as time went on this ban transformed into a year-round taboo against consumption of all meat. This ban was prompted by the Buddhist religion: since you can be reincarnated into other living beings, you run a risk of consuming your own ancestors if you consume meat, especially mammals. Moreover, Buddhist principles of compassion and respect for all life also shaped this ban. However, Mibu village is not really fond of Buddhism, as we have already seen, so what's with the consumption of meat in Shinto?
About the same. Even before the introduction of Buddhism meat wasn't a staple in Japanese diets. In Shinto meat eating was considered to be unclean, so historically people relied more on seafood. Moreover, animals were often considered to be kami's messengers. Thus, it's no wonder that Inuhiko eating meat doesn't really inspire friendship between him and the head priest of the village. It's honestly a pity that we never get to meet Inuhiko. Maybe he left the village, maybe the villagers got to him. We'll never know. But thanks for the resin!
Throughout the village, even before diving into the river, we can see these bodies planted into the ground upside down. If you remember, there is a zillion of them on the bottom of the river. They do not make much sense lore-wise: initially I thought they had something to do with the Mibu breathing technique but firstly, why would you bury yourself in the mud if you can breathe underwater, secondly, all those given the technique were supposed to ascend and not drown themselves, and thirdly, these bodies being on land do not make sense at all. So I take it to be a reference to Inugami-ke no Ichizoku (犬神家の一族), The Inugami Family, a very influential Japanese film released in 1976, remade in 2006. Weirdly, I am pretty satisfied with this conclusion, probably because in the unused parts of the script Mibu Village is referred to as "Innsmouth", so what's one more reference.
As we go further, we arrive at the graveyard. The view is called 土葬の卒塔婆 [doso: no sotoba] — burial sotoba. There are some buddhist sotoba here still, other graves are marked just with stones tied up with bamboo, which I am guessing is Mibu's non-Buddhist way of burial. We can also see ancient 石灯籠 [ishido:ro:] — stone lanterns with flickering flames in them. You know, it's much nicer to walk around the village without undead villagers trying to grab your ankles all the time.
Let's talk about the sakura tree! In the artbook it's called 蛸桜 [takozakura], literally "octopus sakura". There are several legit plant names in Japanese that include the word 蛸 [tako] — octopus, and as far as I can tell, they were all named so because some of their parts looked like some parts of an octopus, so it's purely a visual metaphor. This sakura is flowering out of season, like the ones from the Fountainhead Palace, but I think this one is an undead sakura. It feeds on the same waters the villagers drink so it is sort of a zombie sakura. It's all covered in mushrooms, and its "belly" is all bulged up which reminds me of the Curse-Rotted Greatwood from DS3. The villagers obviously worship it, they bring gifts, light candles and pray. Undead villagers praying to an undead sakura.
After a healthy hike up the rice fields that the zombie villagers still try their best to maintain, we come up to a little Shinto shrine with an offering in front of it: Ashina Sake. As we go up the hill, we come across one more shrine where the offerings are a Mibu Balloon of Soul and a bunch of slugs. That's what the slugs are called in the artbook: お供え物 [osonaemono] — offering to the gods. Before the Water Mill there are super aggressive blue-robed guys that are prospective Blue Nobles, the animation of them stabbing Wolf with the knife and Nobles stabbing him with the flute after robbing him of his youth are identical. Another curious detail: the village is full of persimmon trees, and the villagers even collect persimmons in baskets to dry them.
Water Mill Idol is called 水車小屋 [suishagoya] — water mill, nothing special here. Let's visit Inuhiko's house, shall we?
Around this part of the village we can see several bodies hanged on the trees. Unlike the buddhist monks we saw in the Hidden Forest, these are most certainly Mibu villagers. If you look closely, you'll see that they are holding something in their hands: looks like a buddhist effigy, not unlike those we saw in a big bonfire in the Hidden Forest and not unlike the Homeward Buddha that Wolf has. I think, these are the villagers who refused to give up Buddhism and continued practicing it: secretly or otherwise. Their houses nearby had been burned to the ground, just like the temple.
On the roof of Inuhiko's house there is Adamantite scrap, and weirdly enough, the villagers get triggered as soon as you loot it. I previously thought that they spawn after you take the Pine Resin because it stops smoldering and keeping them at bay, but turns out, you can just loot scrap to trigger them. After you take the resin, you can go back to Shousuke and discover that he gave into the temptation, drank all the sake and went insane.
There is nothing more to see here so let's go left from the Idol.
There, for the last time, we meet Jinzaemon. He seems to be badly hurt and dying but he is not worried much about his condition: he finally found the shamisen player. We discussed him, lord Sakuza and O'Rin in one of the previous posts, check it out if you haven't.
O'Rin is my favorite mini-boss in the game, her fight is incredibly enjoyable. In the artbook she has a whole page dedicated to her. Her original name is 水生のお凛 [mibu no orin]; the official localization translates it as "O'Rin of the Water" which is weird to me, especially because we have already established that the reading of 水生 is [mibu]. Another option, often found in wikis, is "O'Rin of Mibu", meaning "O'Rin of the Mibu village", which is not bad but I think we can come up with something way cooler than that.
Mibu O'Rin, as in "O'Rin of the Mibu clan". Her name follows the exact same pattern as all the names in medieval Japan where you have name of the clan + no + given name, like Minamoto no Yoshitsune, which means "Yoshitsune of the Minamoto Clan". The use of the "no" particle was decreasing by the start of the 15th century, that is why it's not really used in other Sekiro names and people have names that we're more used to today, like "Genichiro Ashina". But still, this is the only way her name makes sense to me, because if she was "from the village", I feel like the word "village" would be somewhere in there.
She is vulnerable to Sabimaru, this fact betrays her okami heritage. As for her given name, お凛 [orin], the kanji 凛 [rin] is fairly rare and it has many meanings but it can be used to characterize a voice or sound as "clear" or "ringing".
I was always confused about O'Rin's timeline: she appears as an apparition, she looks like a regular human, and because of the decrepit state of the village I always thought that O'Rin was super ancient. But if so, how could she be connected to Jinzaemon who is about Wolf's age? However, some things can help us ground O'Rin in the flow of time, and mainly it's her shamisen. According to the most popular theory, shamisen came to Japan through China around mid-16th century, which is very recently in relation to the events unfolding in Sekiro. Moreover, the village hasn't been in this sorry state for a long time: Shousuke is still in his half-sound mind, Inuhiko is supposed to remain completely human, the Memorial Mob is not completely gone, the head priest is also still human. Jinzaemon's father, possibly lord Sakuza(emon) definitely knew something about the village as he advised his son to never go there. Mibu village was fine until fairly recently, and O'Rin was probably alive not such a long time ago.
O'Rin is quite a confusing character, to be honest, because she has some conflicting characteristics. The basket on her head seems to be a tengai (天蓋) — a type of kasa hat worn by komusō, travelling monks of Zen Buddhism. She wears kimono, waraji sandals and tekou (hand and forearm covers), and while these things separately do not point specifically at a komusō monk (apart from the tengai, that's a komusō-only thing), this is how komusō used to dress. The green thing draping from her sholders seems to be a type of bag for collecting alms; komusō often used boxes for that, but fabric bags were not unheard of. She also has prayer beads going around her wrist.
The timeline sort of fits: even though komusō monks flourished during the Edo period, they had been around since 13th century. However, the thing that doesn't really fit the O'Rin komusō narrative... is her shamisen. Just as a tengai was a sure sign of a komusō monk, so was their shakuhachi flute. They didn't play shamisen. I am inclined to think that O'Rin might be a hybrid character between a komusō monk and a goze-san; goze (瞽女) is a historical term that refers to visually impaired Japanese women who often worked as musicians and travelled the land. If you look under O'Rin's tengai, which is rude but still, you can see that her eyes are kind of milky-whitish, as if she's blind.
Unlike other monks we've seen, she carries a legit weapon. If you circle around her as she's playing, you'll be able to see the blade strapped to the other side of the shamisen's neck.
Maybe O'Rin is a travelling komusō monk from the Mibu Village, otherwise she wouldn't be Mibu no O'Rin. Maybe she started her travels in hopes of finding lord Sakuza (although she is not supposed to engage in any kind of romantic relationships whether a komusō or a goze-san, but what's done is done I guess) but came back home empty handed just when the abolishing of Buddhism started, and she was also murdered for her religious beliefs; she got sort of stuck in this world as an apparition, calling Jinzaemon with her lullaby.
As we cross the bridge, we find ourselves in front of the main shrine. It's locked and the villagers are gathered in front of it with the blue-robed guy trying to get inside. They probably want more sake from the priest.
The shrine, or rather 神主の家 [kan’nushi no ie] — chief Shinto priest’s house, is a sorry sight: the first floor is crowded with empty sake jars, there is also a Buddha statue, which I am pretty sure is Jizo, like the one in the Hidden Forest temple — only beheaded and with both hands missing. In the corner we find a rare item: a Red Lump, "a trace of a person who couldn't become the thing they wanted". I wonder who else was here apart from the head priest.
Now, about him. His dialogue is not incredibly diverse, he just gulps sake and complains about how it doesn't "melt completely" inside of him. At one point he mentions "Water of the Palace" by the exact name of the item, so he knows it exists. I am not sure why he thinks he can get it here when the item description says that this water is offered to those who ascended with the wedding procession. He wants to be allowed to join the lowest ranks (of servants) — 末座 [matsuza]. In the original "citizens of the palace" that he mentions are 京人 [miyakobito], exactly as Shousuke told us before.
On the second floor, or the attic (屋根裏 [yaneura]) we can see an untouched shinto shrine with a very interesting item enshrined there: a sakura branch.
It's been a long time since we have looked at the Corrupted Monk, hasn't it? Allow me to remind you the most important lore bits that we discovered back when we talked about bosses and remnants. The original name of this boss is 破戒僧 [hakaiso:] — a monk who committed offence against buddhist commandments. She is a fully ordained Buddhist nun, her real name is Yao Bhikkuni, which is most likely a reference to the ningyo legend. She is possessed by a centipede, the remnant of this version (which is an illusion that can be harmed by Snap Seeds) mentions that she guards the Wedding Cave door, however the reason for it is unknown. She wears a Hannya Yaksha mask associated with jealousy and obsession, and she drops a Mibu Breathing Technique, which should, according to its description, belong to the founder of the village who passes this technique in secret to those chosen for the bridal procession so they can meet the Dragon. Wow, that's a lot of interesting information :D
I was always struggling with putting the Monk into the whole picture of Mibu and Fountainhead. What is she doing and what does she want? I believe that the Mibu conflict is centered around their lost ability to ascend to the Palace. They used to be able to, as proven by the description of the Mibu Breathing Technique and the nobles up at the Fountainhead, but they can't anymore. As we can see, the head priest blamed Buddhism for that: he either thought that the gods — Carp and Dragon — are refusing them passage because they practiced another religion, or it happened because Corrupted Monk, who is a former buddhist practitioner, just sealed the door and grabbed the secret technique.
From the sheer number of Jizo statues around the village and two temples with buddhas we can see that Buddhism had been practiced in Mibu for a very long time on par with Shinto, until something happened and the priest ordered to behead all Jizo images, burn the buddhist temple and hang those who continued the practice. I wonder what triggered it...
Since we have the secret breathing technique now, we can explore the bottom of the river. There are some evil carps inhabiting the waters, a couple of regular treasure carps and a red-eyed treasure carp for Doujun's quest. An incomplete creature that will never be dressed in brocade... I feel like it is the same type of carp the Pot Nobles turn into if you give one of the baits to the Carp, only not really sentient.
Apart from carps, the bottom of the river is littered with bodies planted upside down and just mounds upon mounds of horned slugs who feed on them, and I suppose that's the main way of breeding them for carp baits; they feed on blood and flesh.
Another interesting place we can now visit is the pond on Temple Grounds, where we can find Holy Chapter: Infested if not received earlier, another statue of Kannon with many arms, like the one in the Main Hall, and also several statues of guardian deities.
This Idol is called 輿入れの岩戸 [koshiire no iwato] — a stone door of the procession. It opens with a really awesome sound when you kill the Corrupted Monk. The artbook depicts stone stelas (石碑 [sekihi]) that are on the both sides of the door.
When we talked about the Corrupted Monk back in Remnants, we discussed all the words and names that pertained to the procession and this "wedding ceremony".
Throughout the game we find two palanquins: one in the Sunken Valley for marrying the Serpent, and another one here for ascending to the Fountainhead Palace. This one is different; it has suzu — shinto bells — attached to it. The ringing of suzu is supposed to call the kami, to attract their attention. It's not the first time we've seen suzu though; in Ashina Castle there is an image of the Dragon before Ashina doujou and a suzu just below it. When praying, people ring the bell, believing that with this sound they called the attention of their kami.
It's quite tricky to establish any kind of timeline here and which palanquin came first, but at this time I am inclined to think that the "bridal procession" is possibly the most ancient form of worship in Ashina lands reserved previously only for the god of the land, White Serpent. I still think that when the Dragon arrived, people extrapolated their way of worshipping to him and built another palanquin for marrying the Dragon. On the other hand, maybe it was already there for marrying the Carp, because I have a feeling that the Carp has been around the Fountainhead longer than the Dragon has, and the Mibu people obviously have a lot of tender love towards the giant fish.
I think, it is safe to assume that whenever Tomoe's clan constructed the aroma of the Palace and ascended, they did it from here. Mibu village must have been a beautiful and lively place in the past. Then something happened, the water went all bad — which is wasn't because Mibu Balloons were made aplenty and with various miraculous effects — and the passage to the Palace was closed.
Well, this concludes our Mibu Village research. I hope you learned something new! I know that after you get the Shelter Stone, the first Ashina Invasion starts but we'll deal with both invasions after the Fountainhead Palace. So next time we'll ascend and try to make as much sense as possible of the Okami, Nobles, Dragon and everything else. We'll also try to somehow untangle the Fountainhead Palace VS Divine Realm conundrum, which has been my headache for the last few years.
Oh, and please excuse the lack of coherence that plagues this post; there are so many loose threads to tie up because we're almost done so I am jumping all over the place, trying my best not to forget anything.
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.