Hey! Took me a while to wrap my head around the way we're going to proceed with the environments. I can't say I came up with an exceptionally elegant solution but we'll manage. Today we'll talk about Ashina Outskirts and what interesting bits we can find there, along with some of the remaining items. We'll also explore a tiny bit of character arts. We'll also go through all the Sculptor's Idols' names and see how they were localized.
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 Shintoism, 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.
A mysterious woman drops a letter into the well. What does it say? Well, first of all let's see what it's called. Ornamental Letter is 花菖蒲の文 [hanasho:bu no fumi] - a letter with a Japanese iris. This name makes me exceptionally happy because I always thought that Ashina clan sigil was a Japanese iris but the game never says it explicitly. Turns out that it does, right at the start of the game. There is also a red sigil on the letter itself that you can see as it is falling, hinting that it is of Ashina origin, but the original name just tells you straight up that it is.
"A letter thrown into a well by someone", the English localization skipped Emma's role in delivering the letter. The next part is indented to convey the contents. Unfortunately, the English localization fails to capture some of the nuances of the text solely because of how different English and Japanese are. The original starts with 九郎殿の狼殿へ - "to master Kuro's master Wolf", it uses the respectful suffix -dono (殿) after both names: Kuro and Wolf.
You can instantly see that this letter was written by a man because for "you" the author uses the pronoun 貴殿 [kiden] - a respectful pronoun used by men in letters to their equals or superiors. From just this word you can derive that this letter was written by a man, and this man has respect for Wolf.
The rest of the translation is not as accurate as it could be. The localization repeats the moon-view tower twice and adds "Stay silent. Stay vigilant." part that gives this letter an overall patronizing tone that does not reflect the original. The localized version doesn't say where the tower is, despite the fact that the original text gives directions.
「貴殿の宿命、今は月見櫓にあり｜井戸底を脱し向かわれたし」- "Your fate is now at the Moon-view tower. Escape the well and your will face it."
There is only one path and as you move across the gap, the tower will be right in front of you.
「刃が無くとも、貴殿ならば｜忍び行けば辿り着けましょう」- "Even though you don't have a blade, you (emphatic) will be able to find your way, if you go stealthily."
I know, I said that we'll go around Ashina Outskirts first and the Reservoir is a part of Ashina Castle. Well, the well is here and we need to reach the Tower, so there's nothing I can do :D Ashina Reservoir area is called 葦名城・水手曲輪 [ashinajo:・suishukuruwa]. First of all, all areas pertaining to Ashina Castle have the same naming pattern in Japanese: Ashina Castle (葦名城) + the name of the area. In English it's just the name of the area because they were most likely limited in symbols. 水手曲輪 [suishukuruwa] can be translated as "sailors' quarters" but kuruwa is more of an architectural term that refers to the walls of a Japanese castle and areas surrounded by those walls. It is a defensive territory that accommodates soldiers and additional castle facilities.
Let's follow the artbook picture by picture.
The place where Wolf wakes up after Emma drops the letter is 井戸底 [idozoko] - bottom of the well. The secret passage to the right of the well where you'll eventually lead Kuro, is marked as 抜け穴 [nukeana] - secret or underground passage. As you climb out of the well, you can see Ashina Castle towering over you on the other side of the Reservoir, this view is called 天守外観 [tenshu gaikan] - exterior appearance of the tenshu. Tenshu is a central tower or a main keep of a Japanese castle. It was first defined during the late Sengoku period, actually. Of course, castles that were built previously also had some sort of defensible main part, but Sengoku period is considered to be the time when tenshu gained architectural definition.
Since the artbook contains early concept art, on the picture you can see that there was supposed to be some sort of structure near the well, but it didn't make it into the game.
There is a little bit of inconsistency between the game and the artbook, although nothing too extreme. In the game the Moon-View Tower is called 月見櫓 [tsukimiyagura], where 月見 [tsukimi] is "moon-viewing", and 櫓 [yagura] means "watchtower". In the artbook it is called 月見楼 [tsukimiro:], where 楼 [ro:] also means "watchtower" or "lookout" so I think only the reading is different, both kanji mean the same thing. Anyway, it's quite a beautiful name for a defensive structure.
Then we can see the interior of the Moon-view tower with Kuro quietly reading a book inside. This is probably one of my most favorite spreads in the whole artbook. While we're here, let's talk about Kuro!
Unfortunately, I am completely useless when it comes to Japanese period clothes so I feel like I'm skipping half the context just because I don't have enough knowledge on this subject. However, there are things even I can understand and describe, so that will have to do. Kuro wears a type of hakama (trousers) that is blue in color, with something that might be a variation of the Hirata clan sigil. He also wears a vest with detachable large sleeves, and on both his sleeves you can see a five-petal golden flower (or maybe a lef?), that has been present since early concept arts. Overtop he wears what I figured to be a dōfuku garment, by far the most interesting piece of his clothes and not because it looks beautiful and has faint flower motifs, but because on the back it has a bold black Dragon Heir sigil that gets me incredibly excited whenever I see it. Kuro's clothes are fascinating to look at, there is a lot going on. If you choose the ending where he becomes human and leaves Ashina lands, you'll see him in his travel attire, and the artbook also has a picture of it. He looks almost the same minus the dōfuku but it's hard not to notice that he now has no identification. His hakama has no pattern, the dōfuku with the Dragon Heir mark is gone, he still has long white sleeves but they are both empty. He wears an inrō case - a case for holding small objects - on his neck, prepared for travel.
Moon-view tower has a couple of partitioning screens called 衝立 [tsuitate] that depict cranes, mandarin ducks and phoenixes - all period-appropriate. For some reason, I always assumed that they took those from the Hirata estate and brought here so Kuro had familiar objects around, like his books. I have no proof of that, obviously, so don't take my word for it.
Then you exit the tower and go through what is essentially a tutorial, culminating with a mini-boss, 組頭・山内重則 [kumigashira・yamauchi shigenori] - Group Leader・Shigenori Yamauchi. He is not a Samurai General, just a leader of a group of soldiers guarding the perimeter of Ashina Reservoir. I wonder if he is related to Tenzen Yamauchi, we'll meet him later.
As Wolf and Kuro escape through 抜け穴 [nukeana] - secret passage, they find themselves on a すすき野 [susukino] a field of silver grass. すすき [susuki] denotes Chinese silver grass, a type of perennial tall grass native to China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea. But of course, Genichiro is waiting for them, and even if Wolf manages to defeat him, a Nightjar shinobi attacks him with the heavy shuriken which gives Genichiro the opportunity to sever his arm and take Kuro away. We'll talk more about Genichiro when we meet him in Ashina Castle.
I love the Silver Grass battles because there is so much wordless stuff going on. As Wolf draws the katana you can see that his movements are imprecise, it is not a smooth draw that you'd expect. Years at the bottom of the well took a toll on him and he is not as agile or as strong as he used to be, that is why he loses. However, at the end of the game, as you stand against Genichiro one more time on this field, that katana draw is smoother than breath and even Kuro's body falling into the grass behind him cannot break Wolf's concentration. Love it.
And that's how we get to Ashina Outskirts proper. In Japanese it's called 葦名城・城下 [ashinajo:・jo:ka] - Ashina Castle・Castle Town. The word 城下 [jo:ka] refers to the land near a castle or castle town that developed around the castle of a feudal lord.
Wolf wakes up in 荒れ寺 [aredera] - dilapidated temple or temple ruins. There he meets 仏師 [busshi] - a sculptor specializing in Biddha statues. Of course, we know that it is Orangutang, former shinobi turned Shura whose arm was severed by Kensei Isshin's Ashina Cross many years ago. He carves Buddhas not to be consumed by the flames of hatred but all the Buddhas that he carves are Demonic Buddhas - 鬼仏 [kibutsu]. The temple is filled with them. If you look closely at the Sculptor, you'll see that he wears an inrō case around his neck. I wonder what he keeps there.
The outside of the temple is plastered with 御札 [ofuda] talismans. Ofuda can be made of various materials - even though they are often depicted in their paper form, they can also be made of wood, metal or even cloth. They can be found in both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, imbued with the power of kami or a buddha or a bodhisattva respectively. Some ofuda talismans have a specific purpose and can be kept at home; omamori amulets that we've already discussed can be considered a type of ofuda. In Aredera, though, the number of ofuda and their chaotic placement feels kind of unsettling. Maybe it was the Sculptor who placed them in such numbers on the outside of the temple - to help him battle the flames of hatred. On closer inspection you can see that some talismans have burnt edges.
In the temple you can also see a 厨子 [zushi] - a small shrine with double doors used to store important Buddhist items such as sutras. Aredera's zushi is open and empty and there are red markings as if of dried blood or something like that. I wonder what was kept inside. No severed arms, I hope...
There is also a secret shinobi path to be found in the bamboo thicket, in the artbook it is called 忍び抜け道 [shinobi nukemichi] - shinobi's secret path or shinobi's shortcut. Unfortunately, the artbook doesn't have a more detailed depiction of the markings on the floor before the shinobi door so I can't read what the kanji say, if they are meant to be discernible at all.
Aredera gives shelter to all kinds of weird folks and to the left of the temple you can find 死なず半兵衛 [shinazu hambei] - Hanbei the Undying. The place itself is called 死なずの修練 [shinazu no shu:ren] - the Undying's training.
There is one more person that can be found in the Dilapidated Temple, and of course it's 薬師エマ [kusushi ema] - doctor Ema. In Japanese she has only one "m" in her name, I suppose the localization chose to write it as "Emma" so that western players would find it more familiar. And apparently to make me correct myself every single time I type "Ema" in my posts!
From the artbook it is clear that more people apart from Wolf were supposed to have the immortality, or at least the white mark because Ema has it on some concept arts. There is an early concept art of her with her eyes covered with bandages, hair extremely long and half-white, held by a period-appropriate pink paper hairtie; she is tending to someone lying on the ground and you can see that her right arm is also bandaged. Interestingly enough, there is an art with Ema as she is in the game, meaning an art done later into the development, but still with the white oathbound mark on the left side of her face.
Ema's garments are exceptionally beautiful: she wears a white under-robe, then a robe in a purple shade that has a crane embroidery on it, and what I figured to be a mobakama (裳袴), a pleated wrapped skirt tied with a blue string. It is ankle length for easy travel, Ema is not really a court lady standing around all day, she is a buzy woman of a noble trade. There is a small detail that makes me wonder: in the early concept art she has something like a thread or a thin string tied around both her wrists in a bowtie. In later arts she has the same string tied around her right wrist. I'm not sure what it is or what significance it holds. She doesn't have it in the game though so it's just my curiosity.
As we leave the Dilapidated Temple, we come across a broken bridge and a narrow pathway to the left, which is called 崖道 [gakemichi] - path along the cliff. Aparrently, somewhere around here there was supposed to be a ご神木 [goshimboku] - a sacred tree, but either it didn't make it into the game or I can't see it. The first Demonic Buddha that we touch is called just Ashina Outskirts, in Japanese 葦名城・城下 [ashinajo:・jo:ka] - Ashina Castle・Castle Town, as we've already discussed. The enemies in the Outskirts aren't anything exceptional: just some dogs and 葦名雑兵 [ashina zo:hyo:] - Ashina common soldiers.
The next Idol is called Outskirts Wall - Gate Path, in Japanese it is 城下外郭・城門路 [jo:kagaikaku・jo:monmichi] - Castle Town Outer Wall・Path to the Castle Gate, which is way too long. Here we can enter our first (of many) 櫓門 [yaguramon] - a tower above the gates. You'll see this type of construction countless times throughout the game: usually it's a gate nestled between cliffs, and then a tower-like construction above it. Here we find out first Prosthetic Tool - the small but mighty Shuriken Wheel.
The next place where we encounter our first official mini-boss is called 城下の狼煙場 [jo:ka no noroshijo:] - Castle Town Smoke Signal Lookout. Smoke signals are one of the oldest means of long-distance communication and apparently, this is the very place that was to send a smoke signal if there was an invasion, to warn the inner castle. This is why our friend Naomori Kawarada is stationed here, guarding the smoke signal base, responsible for warning everyone if something goes wrong. There is also a whole bunch of wood here, for this very purpose, I assume. It's kind of ironic that this place is later burned to the ground by the Demon of Hatred. A warning of sorts, as intended.
His original name is 侍大将・河原田直盛 [samurai taisho:・kawarada naomori] - samurai general Naomori Kawarada. It's worth noting that reading Japanese names and surnames is quite challenging, so for example 河原田 can be read as "Kawada", "Kawarada" and EVEN "Kawarahada" so I won't really nitpick (except in two cases).
In the Outskirts there are plenty of Hirata banners and you can even see the colored variety of the sigil with golden buds.
It is also here that for the first time we see the famed banners with giant kanji on them. They are present here, also on the battlefield where you fight Gyoubu and in some other places. Many people wondered what's written on them and I'm here with my bit of research.
Turns out, this is a quote from the Wuzi, a classic Chinese work of military strategies and one of China's 7 military classics. I can't really give you a short word for word translation but I can attempt to convey the general idea behind this quote. "If you die, you'll die with honor so fight without fear. However, don't throw away your life since there is no shame in survival". Something along those lines. Kind of encouraging, if you think about it: there is so much talk about dying with honor that people need to be reminded that survivng the battle is not dishonorable.
After successfully defeating General Kawarada, we get our very first Prayer Bead! Its original name is 数珠玉 [juzudama], and... it is a plant.
There is a tall tropical plant called Tear Grass or adlay, and one of its varieties bears fruits with a pearly-white shell that is so hard that they were used as beads to make rosaries and necklaces. 数珠玉 [juzudama] can denote both the plant itself and a rosary bead.
「ちぎれた数珠の玉」- "A bead from a torn prayer necklace".
Interesting that the English localization just says "will increase maximum Vitality and Posture" - which is very true, but the Japanese version says 「身体力が成長し、」- "the power of your body will grow", and as such you'll increase your max posture and HP.
Moving on from General Kawarada we have the first encounter with a giant representative of the 太郎兵 [taro:hei] - Taro troop. They can wield a mallet or a giant bell, both version are called the same. Further down the path there is an old lady ringing a little omamori bell, in the artbook she is called 野上のおばば [nogami no obaba] - old Nogami woman, Nogami being the surname. Not far from her there is a wounded man, her son 野上伊之助 [nogami inosuke] - Inosuke Nogami. He is a Hirata clan samurai, as we can clearly see because of the Hirata clan sigil all over his garments.
The Stairway Idol is called 城下外郭・虎口階段 [jo:kagaikaku・koko:kaidan] - Castle Town Outer Wall・Stairway to Tiger's Den. 虎口 [koko:] is an idiomatic expression that denotes a very dangerous place, jaws of death, tiger's den. We'll see what it's referring to in a moment.
A little before being smashed or thrown off a cliff by the Ogre, we make a pleasant aquainatance with 物売りの穴山 [monouri no anayama] - Anayama the Peddler.
Then we encounter our first Chained Ogre, in the original they are all called 赤鬼 [akaoni] - red demon. Kinda hard not to notice that not only are they much bigger than regular humans, but they also have blond hair.
There is an item that can tell us more about the Red-Eyed Ogres, and it's the Second Prayer Necklace. All necklaces have the same naming pattern, it's just number + "necklace", this one is 二の念珠 [ni no nenju] - second prayer necklace. They also share the first two paragraphs that we'll discuss here just once.
「ちぎれた数珠の玉を、鬼仏に供えて束ねた念珠」- "A prayer necklace from tied up loose prayer beads, offered to a Demonic Buddha."
The next line repeats the one from a prayer bead's description - if you manage to get your hands on such a necklace, the power of your body will grow, increasing your max HP and Posture.
I love the "A prayer bead necklace befits the strong" localization but it reflects the last part of the paragraph. The first parts translates to "It's only appropriate to carry prayer beads that comprise a Nenju prayer necklace".
So, a prayer necklace is a religious item, in this particular case - and item of Buddhism. In Japanese there are two words for prayer necklaces: 念珠 [nenju] and 数珠 [juzu]. What's the difference? Prayer necklaces are used as counters for prayer repetitions. As one repeats a prayer, they advance the necklace by one bead. This is done so the person can focus on the words and on the process rather than trying to keep track of how many times they repeated a prayer or a chant. This kind of prayer necklace is refered to as 数珠 [juzu]. However, a prayer necklace can also be used for a silent prayer to Buddha, and in this case it will be called 念珠 [nenju]. In Sekiro all prayer necklaces are 念珠 [nenju] necklaces.
Let's see what this necklace says about Ogres. From the original it is not clear whether it tells a story of one Ogre or multiple Ogres; the localization assumes it's one, but we meet several of them during the game and we even meet a Mibu Ogre turned Noble who is not aggressive - the Carp Attendant. However, this necklace probably tells the story of this particular ogre.
「葦名には、赤鬼と呼ばれる大男がいる」- "There are giant men in Ashina, called Red Demons".
「赤目となり、暴れ狂うは何ゆえか」- "Why did he become Red-Eyes and ran amok?"
「長く捨て牢に囚われていたというが。。。」- "They say he was held in the Abandoned Dungeon for a long time..."
As you can see, the localization has it all backwards: the Ogre had gone red-eyed and then was shut away. But he is right there on the stairway. This necklace acually tells us that this Ogre was long imprisoned in the Abandoned Dungeon, something happened to him there, apparently, and he turned red-eyed and wreaked havok. This little lore bit is meant to be one of the first clues to what goes down in the Dungeon and what experiments Doujun conducts there.
Moving on through yet another 櫓門 [yaguramon] - a tower above the gates - we finally reach a place that the artbook refers to as 虎口 [koko:] - tiger's den or a dangerous place. The place is pretty dangerous, considering how many people there are and the presence of 侍大将・山内典膳 [samurai taisho:・yamauchi tenzen] - samurai general Tenzen Yamauchi.
There is also a guy who raises alarm by banging on something that looks like a pot lid as soon as he sees you. These guys are called 見張り番 [mihariban] in the artbook, which means "a lookout" or "a guard".
Let's see what the First Prayer Necklace has to say about the Samural Generals.
Its original name is 一の念珠 [ichi no nenju] - first prayer necklace. The first two paragraphs are identical to those of the other necklaces so we'll discuss the last unique one.
It's not really about Ashina army and its ferocity, the original says 「葦名衆の成人として」- "the adults of the Ashina people", which sounds kinda confusing and weird in English, but I suppose it implies that the Ashina clan is so powerful that every adult is a capable warrior.
「とりわけ侍大将となる者は、剣の才に秀でる｜みな一心の興した葦名流の、優れた遣い手だ」- "Above all, those people who become samurai generals, possess an exceptional talent for swordsmanship. They all excel at the Ashina [Fighting] Style, established by Isshin."
As we head towards the cliff, it's worth mentioning that this little construction here is actually a 御堂 [mido:] - enshriment hall of a Buddha or a temple, albeit rather small. Probably people of Ashina put this little temple here to protect them against the Headless dwelling in the caves below.
Temple Posting Turn back if you value your life. You can't behead the headless. Out swords and pikes did nothing.
There's actually a little wordplay with the word 首 [kubi] - neck, but also "head". "If you value you life" in Japanese is "If you value your head". "Our swords and spikes did nothing" is not entirely accurate.
「刀も槍も、通じぬぞ」 - "Neither a sword nor a spear can get through/connect".
This is meant to hint at using Divine Confetti because otherwise your attacks do not properly connect to apparition-type enemies.
Ah, talking about the Headless takes me back to the very first post I wrote about Sekiro! In Japanese they're called 首無し [kubinashi], literally "headless", and they all wear just a fundoshi loincloth. They are also gigantic and wield 大太刀 [o:dachi] swords that seem a perfect fit for their size. Remember how we discussed a Gokan Headless and the burial mounds full of heads that people built on the cliff to appease him? Turns out in the cave of the Ako Headless there is also such a mound, they are called 首塚 [kubizuka]. It's just so dark in this cave and I get so panicky whenever I set foot in there that I didn't notice it for three playthroughs.
This localization is pretty accurate, 橋下の谷 [kyo:ka no tani] is indeed "underbridge valley". This is where we encounter our first god of the land - ぬしの白蛇 [nushi no shirohebi], god of the land White Snake. There we can also find an old whithered palanquin that the artbook calls 白蛇の輿 [shirohebi no koshi] - White Snake's palanquin. The word 輿 [koshi] can also mean "portable shrine".
As we emerge on the other side of the cave, having escaped marriage to the White Serpent, there is a new Idol! Its original name is 大手門の出丸 [ootemon no demaru] - Front Castle Gate Tower. 出丸 [demaru] actually denotes either a tower or a smaller castle that is a part of a larger castle.
The next place that you reach is called 戦場跡 [senjo:ato] - battlefield ruins or battlefield remains. Of course, here we encounter GYOUBU MASATAKA ONIWA, a former bandit leader who was once defeated by Isshin. Isshin just couldn't resist the charm of Gyoubu - who can? - and took him in with all of his thugs, granting him the spear of General Tamura and also making him responsible for the upbringing and education of little Genichiro.
All the wooden towers on the battlefield are called 井楼櫓 [seiro:yagura] - a battlefield watchtower.
Unfortunately, the artbook does not depict the insides of the Demaru tower that we've passed on the way here where we meet Tengu for the first time. Before we look at the Rat Description that he gives us, we should not forget about probably my favorite NPC in the entire game - an old lady around the corner with a lit candle, just standing there, minding her own business near what's got to be the most useless shortcut in the history of shortcuts. Believe it or not but this lady is in the artbook, and she is called 修羅語り [shuragatari] - Shura Narrator. She is basically the killjoy of the game: whenever you approach her, she tells you that whatever you do is useless, the war will continue, the flames of hatred will be spreading and piling up SOMEWHERE. She also implies that Wolf is stupid not to ponder where all these flames of hatred go. She is charming. Try talking to her at several points throughout the game and most certainly after defeating the Demon of Hatred. The lady knows how to uplift your spirits.
鼠相書き [soso:gaki] - rat or mouse description. I find it particularly charming that Tengu wrote a bullet list and you can actually see that it was reflected in the item picture. Remember that in Japanese you write from right to left, top to bottom, so the little dots at the top of the page are actually a bullet list.
Did you know that this quest is actually different in Japanese? The original tells you to go and kill one single rat to complete the quest. The English version says "rats", making you think that you have to kill all of the small guys, when in fact you need only one - he wears a different type of hat.
While we're talking about assassin hats! Tengu says that that one rat wears a kasa hat (笠かぶる), but kasa is a very wide notion, there are dozens of types of kasa hats made out of bamboo or rice straw. The rat we're looking for wears what appears to be a takuhatsugasa (托鉢笠) - a big bowl-shaped hat that covers the face. All shinobi at the Senpou Temple wear these. These kasa hats were actually worn by Buddhist monks to allow anonymity so they could travel undistirbed. In the artbook the Senpou Temple shinobi is depicted with this bowl-shaped hat and called らっぱ [rappa], which translates to "spy". Or hooligan! The English localization calls them "assassins", which is a touch pretentious for my taste and does not reflect their fall from grace as they degraded from the Senpou Temple Shinobi protecting holy grounds to common thugs kidnapping children.
Other rats wear cone-shaped hats and I'm not sure if this is a hierarchy thing, or something else. Black Badger, the leader of Senpou Temple shinobi, wears a cone hat. In the Rat Description it is said that there are more rats lurking about, so it might be referring to the cone-shaped ones. Confusing...
The Japanese also uses a counter for small animals when talking about "rats" - 匹 [hiki].
The next Idol is Ashina Castle Gate, and its original name is 大手門 [ootemon] - front castle gate. As you proceed behind the gates, there are more 櫓門 [yaguramon] - a tower above the gates, a 三重櫓 [sanju:yagura] - a three-storey tower, or it might be a weapon storehouse. There is also a piece of structure called 石落とし [ishiotoshi], literally "throwing rocks" - it is a small balcony usually built above gates or around corners to enable defenders to throw things at the attackers.
This place is called 本丸門前火牛広場 [hommarumonmae hiushi hiroba] - the Flaming Bull square before the gates to the inner castle. What a mouthful. Blazing Bull's original name is 火牛 [hiushi], literally "fire bull". This way of treating bulls is, unfortunately, a part of history: in ancient China sword blades were tied to bulls' horns edge side up, then a pile of reed was strapped to their tails and ignited so they would charge into enemy armies.
The tower you see on the Blazing Bull square is yet another type of watchtower and it's called 物見櫓 [monomiyagura].
And just like that, we have reached the Ashina Castle. But before we wrap this post up, I think Third Prayer Necklace has some information of the Blazing Bull.
三の念珠 [san no nenju] - third prayer necklace. I'd really appreciate if the English localization wrote "The Blazing Bull was", instead of writing just "bull" and then adding "fiery". The original uses the name of the boss - 火牛 [hiushi] - Blazing Bull. The last line is a little different in Japanese:
「何だろうと使わねば、もはや立ち行かぬのだ」- "Something has to be done or [we] won't last".
Apparently, the Blazing Bull was the last resort for Ashina as they lost more and more people in the war. I wonder why they ignited the bull when we meet him - why would you activate such a chaotic weapon basically in your backyard when nobody is attacking you at the moment? Oh well, I guess someone dropped a match.
Well, not so bad! This part of the project demands even more attention, knowledge and research than the previous one. I'd love to post more often, I really would and I promise you I'm doing my absolute best. Can't wait to explore Ashina Castle in more detail! If I missed something or walked past things you wanted to know more about, let me know in the comments! I'm generally following the artbook page by page so I might skip something that isn't there. Hope you like the new format!
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.