Iwakuni Marines transform into samurai for Kuragake Castle Festival
By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 23, 2016
Five Marines jumped at a chance this week to be samurai for a day.
The 27th annual Kuragake Castle Festival and Samurai March near Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni commemorates the last gathering of Kuga samurai in 1555, during the Sengoku period of frequent warfare in Japan, in which the samurai urged their lord to march them into battle against a much larger enemy force. Participants exchanged their street clothes for traditional samurai armor and weapons and marched to a local temple to pray for safety and victory in the battle to come.
“During my transformation to a samurai, I was amazed at how similar the samurai and Marines are,” combat videographer Cpl. Waiyan Tin said in a Marine Corps statement. “The samurai were not afraid to sacrifice themselves in order to protect their family and land.”
The real samurai, emboldened by prayer, marched to the town square to talk to their daimyo, or feudal leader, and persuade him to let them make a last stand against their enemies. Festival participants made the same march and re-enacted the same scene 461 years later.
“Our squad’s role was to be the advance group leading the troops into battle and trying to keep the massive enemy at bay as long as possible,” said event participant Kida Shoji.
Re-enactors fell into ranks in the town square while squad chiefs like Shoji consulted with the lord to convince him of their readiness to fight and die in his service. The warriors yelled “Oyakata-sama” [My lord] to show their dedication. Convinced of their readiness, the daimyo ordered them to fight to the death.
“It was so impressive, and I felt so much power and strength from walking in the same squad as the Marines,” Shoji said.
Afterward, participants posed for pictures with onlookers, enjoyed traditional Japanese cuisine and saw the sights in Kuga.