Rise of the Nakamura
With each strike, a master swordsman creates legends.
This article is about Chisawa Ai. For the legends of Chisawa Ai, see Chisawa Ai(legends). For other uses, see Chisawa (disambiguation).
“Describing her is like describing a sword; too quick and she cannot be seen, but if held as a sword to be shown, then just as the sword is to be feared, she too must be feared.” – Uesugi Kagetora, approx. 1578 – recounting the female swordsman he saw as a child during the first Nakamura Tournament of the Sengoku Era rumored to be Chisawa Ai.
Very little is known about Chisawa Ai; her origins even to this day is unknown; her family name is also a mystery and she is, perhaps, the only known Chisawa in recorded history prior to the end of the Sengoku Era, but what is known about her is that she existed.
Though she existed, details regarding Chisawa Ai written on documents recovered from the Sengoku Era tells of her legendary exploits, stories and details about her are so unimaginable that the origin of the documents themselves are held into question, more often they are regarded as fake or hoax. However, time and time again, those documents, more often than not, have been proven to be from the Sengoku Era, such as the excerpt from Uesugi Kagetora’s personal diary.
On his diary, Uesugi Kagetora recounts the day of the first Nakamura Tournament during the Sengoku Era. In the diary, he tells his story as a child sneaking out of the palace and roaming the countryside with his most trusted guard and friends. Uesugi Kagetora is what we would call today as a “rebellious teen”, but what he saw on the day of the tournament would forever change him and this can be seen clearly from the change in his daily actions detailed in his diary.
He recalls the match between what he called a “giant brute of a demon with hair of flames and eyes that struck fear into the gods” and a mysterious woman that “drew circles on the ground”. He writes that the woman stood her ground against a demon and the crowd feared for her life. Many spectators were said to have turned away their eyes during the final moments of the battle, but Uesugi Kagetora watched the fight with full attention and fear.
“During the fight, the woman was quick, my friends and many spectators say they could not see her or that the woman was so scared she couldn’t draw her sword. Some even say she came to the tournament just to die and that the circles were funeral rituals, but my guard and I saw it differently. We saw each blow. We saw each strike. Yet, in her eyes, we saw no fear, while we feared just at the sight of her demonic opponent. Though we saw each strikes, we didn’t see the final moments, she and her sword were too quick. What we saw was the woman flying out of the circles she had drawn, badly injured. The crowd believed she was dead, I, too, believed she was dead. I looked at her as she laid there. I, then, heard the crowd’s shocked noise and I turned my head to the demon I expected to be standing proud knowing he had won. I did not see such a demon. For the first time since the match began, fear had left me and I pitied what I had called a demon. There, he stood and there, he bled from a deep wound. I looked into his eyes from afar… I saw fear.
Had ten hundred men like myself had taken that final strike of the sword, then ten hundred men like myself would not be here." – Excerpt from the diary of Uesugi Kagetora, approx. 1564.
Though some believe Chisawa Ai and this mysterious girl are not the same, there is proof from the tournament listing of participants that Chisawa Ai fought against a man named Douji. Many historians believe this is where Chisawa Ai began her legend and many more believe this is the origin of the myth regarding Shuten-Douji, one of the the three great evil Yokai and the strongest Oni in Japanese mythology.
The descriptions of Chisawa Ai by Uesugi Kagetora are perhaps the least unbelievable stories detailing her. Even more documents and books that mention Chisawa Ai have stories more unbelievable than the last.
Other legends include her duels with Tachibana Ginchiyo and Akechi Mitsuhide during the decisive battles between the Nakamura Clan and the Oda Clan at the province of Owari near the end of the Sengoku Era. These legends however have no credit as there is no proof or reason for Chisawa Ai to be at Owari during that time. Historical evidence from documents have put her in China and Korea during that year, however, Nakamura legend regarding Chisawa Ai after the duel with Tachibana Ginchiyo, where she was severely injured by a gun shot from Tachibana Muneshige, tells her legendary bravery in an epic poem, written by an unknown Nakamura soldier. In the poem, it is said that after her injury, she rushed towards a division of Nakamura soldiers locked in battle with gigantic snakes made of rotting corpses in an attempt to protect them. All but twenty-one men of the divisions numbering about two thousand men were said to have been annihilated as the giant snakes engulfed the land below the soldiers’ feet and as it raised itself from within the ground.
Those twenty-one survivors would each later become famous or infamous in their own rights, and eventually form a group rumored to be the Yakuza, but all Yakuza leaders have always denied such rumors, saying that even without the legendary stories in the epic poem, their origin goes even farther back than the Sengoku Era. But, none of them would deny Chisawa Ai’s role in the decisive battle between the Nakamura and the Oda clans.
Historians have suggested that the epic poem, Chisawa no Yuki(The Bravery of Chisawa), was actually inspired from the woman detailed in Uesugi Kagetora’s diary to invigorate and motivate the soldiers of the Nakamura Clan with the coming battles. Her stories often depicts bravery and determination against overwhelming odds; A woman, in the world of men, fighting men and monsters of unspeakable corruption and horror, it is no wonder that at a time of suffering and death with every step made, a simple story of hope would inspire a small clan during the hardest period in Japanese history to rise from the ashes of war.