The Commentaries - an ancient record of the founding of Matsuyama Clan
It happened that a learned traveler came to settle on the slopes of Matsuyama. This person chose to join our Clan, but had some misgivings. One evening, seated in the chaya, our Okugatasama (Houselady) and Oyakatasama (Houselord) spoke with this traveler and explained their vision.
On How We See Our Household and Belonging Back
Q: Why have a Japanese household if it is not an association of Japanese re-enactors?
A: The Okugatasama is not Japanese. Also, a number of people we would like to invite are not Japanese (well, yet...). We are viewing this household as a group of people that have close ties to each other and truly enjoy each other's company, not a group of personas that want an artifical association to other personas based on something as superficial as choice of persona origin.
If you are joining this household, it is because you are are very close friend to us. We will not force you to be Japanese at any SCA events to which you go. If you are a Japanese persona, we will not tell you that you must be a late-period persona because Mokurai is. That is not what we are about.
We ask that you respect our interets and the theme we have chosen for the household, but we also respect your interests, accomplishments and individuality. It is not fair to make someone choose between a persona and a household.
Q: Then why not just have a household of friends and not put any time or place on it?
A: Because having a focus makes it possible and more fun to interact in a period manner (i.e. ceremonies, etc.), gives us all one framework to work within, and encourages people to have a common goal, and a common focus for the direction of the household. In our illusions of grandeur, we would like to think that as a whole we can be more than just the sum of the parts...
On The Five Principles Back
Q: It sounds to me like you are making your "principles" more important
than the Japanese theme of this household. I'm afraid I disagree with you on the
importance of this aspect of the group.
A: The Principles ARE more important than having a Japanese persona. Mokurai developed the Principles based on his Buddhist beliefs. These beliefs are integral to who he is now, and also express beliefs and opinions his monk persona would have held and would have been trained to believe. Therefore, the Principles embody the Japanese theme; if a person follows the principles it does not matter what their persona is; they will behave more "Japanese" than people in perfectly accurate clothing. The Clan strives to re-create Japanese culture, but even more importantly strives to gather good people around us and encourage all of us to look beyond ourselves and improve the world we live in. Certainly, considering the good of the group above the individual is very Japanese.
On Altruism Back
Q: I have a serious problem with the concept of "Charity". It doesn't work
and it belittles people. I think it is self-rightious.
A: Regarding Charity, there are three definitions we have considered; the modern, the Japanese historical, and ours. Of course, this is all the opinion of the Oyakatasama and the Okugatasama.
The modern definition of Charity seems to usually involve money given to a non-profit organization. Non-profit, however does not mean "religious" or "for the poor", however. The Okugatasama, for instance, gives money to Planned Parenthood, our local public radio station, The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, and the Environmental Defense Fund because they are organizations that represent principles she upholds and are educating people in things she believes are good causes. The Oyakatasama chooses to give funds to the exiled government of Tibet and humanitarian organizations. We would never want anyone to give money to something they did not believe in. More importantly, MONEY is NOT really the best way to show charity. It is a cop-out in many ways, because writing a check doesn't require personal involvement or much spiritual benefit.
The Japanese historical definition of Charity does include religion. People supported monks with food, cast-off clothing, and funds. This was supposed to benefit their spiritual well-being. ("gaining merit") Monks in turn would feed the poor, treat the sick, bury and perform rites for unattended dead, and prevent others from coming into hazard. Charity is the tangible demonstration of Compassion, which, for a Buddhist, is the highest state to strive for when dealing with others. It reminds you that you are no better than the people you are helping. Pity as a negative concept and the Victorian concept of "we should be charitable because we are better than the people we are helping" is more Western and does not enter into it.
The Oyakatasama and Okugatasama's definition of Charity includes both of the prior definitions, with additions. Giving time to people/organizations is very much a part of it. It is putting the good of other people ahead of yourself and sharing what you have, be it money, talent, resources, knowlege, time, etc. The idea is to better yourself by helping others in whatever way you feel most important.
However, perhaps "Charity" is not the perfect word for what we are envisioning because of some of the negative connotations American Culture has imposed on it. Considering this, we have decided to use the term "Altruism" instead.
In any case, if you do not value the Principles, then you really should question your involvement with the household. But before you do that, please read our opinions on "Charity" and the like. We will always answer any questions, just as we are doing now.
On the strange turn of phrase "Good Schtick" Back
The Principle of Growing mentions the term "good schtick". It is an odd, very mundane term. (one we may replace someday if we see another which serves the same meaning) "Good schtick" means that doing things in a period/persona manner whenever possible is a good thing; especially if it makes things more entertaining. It includes both serious and light-hearted actions; throwing one's-self at the feet of a beautiful hime upon seeing her or engaging in a cultural debate with Portugese only to discover that neither of you really like "Jesuito". It is role-playing and impromptu cultural references as well as engaging in a high ceremony.
On Ceremony Back
Q: I'd like to see us follow some Japanese type of ritual order, especially in formal
situations or at the beginning of clan events. I just don't want to act like our modern
selves in medieval clothing. We can do that any time and any place. I look upon Matsuyama
Clan as a special place where we can do these things than re-enact this culture that we
find so interesting and beautiful.
A: We agree. We intend to have very clear distinctions about "ceremonial" get-togethers versus "social" get-togethers. You will notice we have already defined specific ceremonies for people entering and leaving the household, and we intend to conduct them in as formal and period a manner as possible.
We envision the annual Clan Gathering as containing both ceremonial and social aspects; it should be a time to hang out with friends, but we also wanted to pick one of the Principles as a focus for each year. So we would try to integrate that into the gathering through ceremony, discussion or whatever way seems most appropriate.
On Accuracy Back
Q: Accurate historical re-enactment is very important to me. I strive for perfect
historical accuracy in everything I do (not that I attain it, of course). I have been
torturing myself with visions of people showing up to a Clan event in "silk-look
kimono" (polyester bathrobes) and karate gi. I'm not saying that everyone
should have twelve layers of silk robes, of course. But I am saying that everyone should
have something accurate. I don't think we should be too harsh. But if someone shows up
with chopsticks in her hair, I think we should say, "Come on. Take those out."
Or if someone shows up in a black gi and ninja-esque doo-rag, I think we should say,
"Here. Why don't you borrow this from me today."
A: The Okugatasama answers: What did your first kimono look like? Are you completely happy with the way the collars turned out? Did you make it out of exactly the right fabric in exactly the right colors? If so, it is only because you did an impressive amount of research before even starting. Even with perfect research there is no substitute for experience, and one will always be able to improve later.
If the girl with chopsticks in her hair really thinks her persona would wear them, I would ask her where she got her information and let her learn how to determine good sources from bad (or maybe she actually found the one existing painting of a Kamakura girl wearing chopsticks in her hair. (Could happen.) You cannot force someone to be accurate by ramming it down their throat, you need to first get them interested in the concept of accuracy.
Any garb the Clan provides will be accurate. This includes the "gift of clothing" given at the Naming Ceremony. We will be giving our new members correct information. We will not ignore mistakes, but will take gentle, firm steps to assist the member in correcting them.
I believe by the time we would let anyone be in our household, they would already have had to demonstrate an interest in historical accuracy. The Principle of Growth hopefully ensures that members should continue their learning rather than being content with "good enough" in their areas of focus.
In our Matsuyamado, we state that a persona may consist of a name and a set of garb at first. This is so that new, currently non-Japanese people will not feel they have to spend a year researching Japan and developing their persona's life story before joining the Clan. if they join, it is a commitment on both their part and ours. The commitment is to help one another grow and learn.
On New Members vs. Newbies Back
Q: How do you feel about people wanting to join the Clan who are new to SCA?
A: We love newbies! We believe that new blood is the only way to keep any organization alive. However, we will NOT invite or admit SCA newbies. We define "Newbie" as someone who has less than six months of active participation in the SCA - preferably, a year.
As for new Clan members, we look forward to working very closely with them to help them feel like a part of our Clan. This includes active help with all the afore-mentioned expectations such as the Points of Giri, authenticity, etc. It means we are open to discuss anything on the mind of the new member.
On the "Current Middle Ages" Back
Q: I've never bought into the idea of "The Current Middle Ages." It implies
to me "Recreating the Middle Ages the we we want them to be." It takes away from
serious re-enactment or re-creation.
A: With respect to the "Current Middle Ages", Eric and Jennifer Munson are officers in the Shire of Eisenthal, where they are known as Lord Mokurai and Lady Anne Liese. That is what the Current Middle Ages means to us. It is a framework for dealing with the places where the 20th Century intersects with the SCA, and explaining the culture which is a by-product of being re-enactors. It is not an excuse for shoddy presentation. If either of us refer to it, we probably do so in reference to the Society as a whole, people recieving awards or local politics - entirely modern things.
Regarding serious re-creation, we take historical re-creation seriously. However, we still think the whole concept of "play" is necessary. It helps us to distinguish ourselves from those who confuse fantasy and alternate personas with reality. The SCA unfortunately has way too many of those. "Play" also denotes fun. We wouldn't do this if we didn't think it was fun. But it is definately much more than a costume party.
On Free Speech Back
Q: Please don't be taken aback by what I have said. It is not personal. I just know that these things will bother me in the future and I needed to get them out in the open now.
A: We are really glad you are coming out with these points! We don't want anyone to join the Clan who doesn't feel they fit. We envision the household as having many friends who will be welcome to be involved with the household. The line will only be drawn for really "official" occasions. It really is good that you are questioning now, rather than later, and we have agreed that in the future, we will not make the mistake of talking to/about someone as if they are already in the household before they get a chance to really read and think about the Principles. If you don't feel comfortable with the Principles, then perhaps the Clan is not a "good fit" for you. We will not hold it against you if you do not want to join the household, and hope we can continue to consider you a good friend and a valued resource.
Q: Thank you for speaking to all my points so clearly. In light of the above discussion, I would be honored if you would accept me into your household. And to be a founding member would be a joy that I could not possibly bear in my wretchedness (READ: That'd be SO cool! Count me in!). Thanks again for letting me get this off my chest and out into the open. I feel so much better. I hope you do too.
When are we going to Yaohan's?