Translations Page Update

Just a quick announcement, there are new updates being added to the Translations page. For starters, both “Kai Kokushi” and “Bukijutsus Zusetsu” have new entries added today. There will be another update in a few days as well. On top of this, a new translation entry will be added soon, possibly at the ending of this week. Just like blog entries, there will not be a shortage of translation works present on this site.

Speaking of which, one of the nice things about doing translation work is some of the new & interesting topics that pop up from them. For example, I’ve spent some time on & off working on the entry under “Kai Kokushi”, which covers several military commanders who held the prestigious title of “Hayato”. Since it covers inheritance, family genealogy through arranged marraige, and the like, I needed to do a lot of research on different individuals and family lines. This also encouraged me to read certain older novels in Japanese, as these were referenced as well. While this entry mainly focuses on the Hara family of Kai Province, the Sanada family are also mentioned abit…including the famous Sanada Yukimura.

Considering the popularity of the Sanada clan, one would think that it’d be easy to get information as needed. However, this is not the case when a great deal of their fame, especially due in part of Sanada Yukimura, is through fictional novels and artworks. Lotsa fact-checking is required in cases like this to understand what’s real and what’s fiction. So, thanks to the translation work on the Hara family and the Hayato title, I will be releasing a post on Sanada Yukimura this week.

Stay tuned!

Blog Update Announcement

Over the weekend, I made some decisions with the blog which will hopefully bring more quality to the contents being provided here. For a few years Light in the Clouds was run under a free account, meaning internal and external upgrades were vastly limited. As the topics I research and write about continue to expand in the form of articles, stories, and translations, I felt it was time to invest in them financially. As of yesterday, Light in the Clouds has been has been upgraded to a more premium account.

What does this mean? For starters, the “wordpress” in the address has been removed, and my site can stand on its own. This will help for establishing my contents as a brand, which will prove vital with current and future projects. Also, I have the options of adding plugins and other customization to this site. This is something I wanted to do for the longest. Although it will be a learning process as I experiment with various add-ons and such, in the long run they should help to further how content is delivered, appearance of the site, and the like.

Another important part is available space. Originally I had to be mindful of what was stored on my site. While images do not take up much space, sound clips and videos do. Now, through this upgrade, I will have much more space to work with, and should be able to post articles with videos. On top of this, all works found in the Translations section have been reconstructed and are now stored on this site. For the longest I had been using a 2nd site for storage purposes, but can finally cut this process out. This will make performing maintenance much easier.

Just wanted to share the good news. The new address is <>. The old address still works, but for how long I do not long. Stay tuned and be on the look out for the new changes this site update will bring.

Translations Update

I’ve managed to put some time in on a few of my translation projects. Didn’t quite meet my quota, but still made some headway nonetheless.

  • Updated “Heiho Yukan” with the remaining pages
  • Updated “Topics Related to the Lunar Calendar” with a new entry, entitled “Months of the Old Calendar”
  • New topic open under “Kai Kokushi”, which contains the 1st part of the entry on Hara Hayato Sa Masatane

These can be accessed through “Translations” in the menu above. Although my schedule is still pretty tight, hoping to have another update soon, especially more entries for Buki Sode Kagami.

Stay tuned!

Revisiting Measurements for Training Weapons

In a previous post from a few years back, I spoke about the importance of measurements for one’s weapons according to the martial system being studied. There, it was mentioned how necessary it is to wield weapons that have proper dimensions according to our body type when we are beginners. For this post, we will take this same subject and look at it from another perspective, where I discuss about the strong points of training with weapons of irregular dimensions in kobudō (古武道, Classical Japanese martial arts) as an advanced student.


When first starting out, a student is required to acquire training weapons that fit their body type in order to study the lessons correctly. After some time has passed where the student has become familiar with a particular weapon of a standard length, they should next come out of their comfort zone and handle one of a different length. Sometimes this can be impromptu during class, or other times the focus of the lesson can be placed on this point. There are many reasons behind this. For starters, to further understand the principles for said weapon, whether it be a sword or staff, one has to be exposed to conditions that teach us lessons that go beyond just the physical. Distance, timing, and positioning are just some of the principles that require being explored under not-so-usual conditions.

An example of bokutō (wooden swords) of different lengths

For starters, against an adversary with a sanjaku dachi (三尺太刀, a Japanese sword that measures about three feet), a rokushaku bō (六尺棒, six-foot stick) provides a great reach that allows the wielder to perform ashibarai (足払, leg sweep) from a safe distance. Yet, when given a sanjaku bō (三尺棒, three-foot stick), you won’t have the same advantage as before. Still, with further training and having a deep understanding of the principles of one’s art, you can still perform an ashibarai to defeat an opponent without getting cut down.


Sometimes the same set of kata for one particular weapon is used to teach how to use another weapon even if it’s a different size. This is another challenging point that can further support an martial system’s ideology across a different span of weapons. For example, some traditional schools in Japan have used the kata for the naginata as a means to learn how to wield the yari. Others have used the kata for the katana to understand how to utilize the kusarigama. each of these weapons have unique traits that provide interesting results, especially in the case of the kusarigama; a sickle with a flexible chain & weight takes a great amount of understanding and control if pitted in the same scenario where a katana would be used.

Next, there are those kata where one performs with a katana, but then later does it with a much longer sword like an ōdachi, or with a much smaller one like a kodachi. All three are categorized as swords, but with varying lengths. For an advanced student, one of the greatest challenges here is understanding the strengths & weaknesses of the weapon in hand, and how it affects not only the control (or lack of) they may gain, but also how their opponent will react based on how each weapon is manipulated.


When an adequate amount of training has been put in, an advanced student should begin to develop the ability  to use anything that comes into hand. Looking the development of different martial systems in Japan’s history from the 1500s onward, many incorporated the study of multiple weapons in the form of sōgō bujutsu (総合武術, martial system featuring numerous disciplines). This not only encouraged bushi (武士, warriors) to be familiar in many different skills, but to be resourceful enough to use anything that they could get their hands on, including their opponent’s own weapon. The same mentality remains in various martial arts schools even today.

Many countries have very strict laws against carrying weapons, even those for self defense purposes. While it may seem impractical to study classical systems that specialize in the use of the yari, kusarigama, and so forth, this isn’t truth. Much of what is learned can be applied to common tools and items we find around ourselves everyday. An umbrella substituted for a sanjaku bō, a shovel used in place of a yari, or even a belt wielded like a kusarifundō are but examples of adapting one’s training for self-defense in today’s contemporary world. With a thorough understanding of the principles necessary for this through consistent training, it is possible to naturally use any common item in your environment as a weapon without getting caught up in small details such as being the “correct” length with the iaitō used in training, and so on.


In conclusion, working with weapons of different dimensions during training has its merits for advanced students. This can range from handling same-type weapons of varying lengths to using a specific to learn another different weapon type. In the end, a student should be able to go past form & structure of a particular weapon and grasp a deep understanding of the principles behind what make it work. Achieving this, that student will be able to reach the outcome they so desire despite the length of said weapon being slightly off of what would normally fit their body type.

Personal Goals & Perspective for 2020

With 2019 coming to a close, I’ve been preparing my schedule for the new year. Prioritizing is important as my hobbies & interests have increased, and I’m hoping to execute much better in terms of content for next year. Below is a quick outline of my goals for 2020.


2019 was abit tough for putting out posts, for I was juggling between this and the book translations I am working on (more on that later). I do have a list of topics planned throughout the year, with room for new topics that may be time-sensitive, interesting, or need immediate intention as they may be hot in my mind. That being said, certain topics were missed or incomplete. For 2020, I plan to catch up on a few, such as finishing the discussion on the martial development in Japan.


An added section to my blog, updates have been regrettably slow due to working on the book translations. Much of what I have for this section are either done but need to be prepared for public presentation, or are partially done. Fortunately, I took some time out during the holidays to work on this area, and should be able to roll out new content here early January.


Running a martial arts group is now part of my normal routine, so much attention is placed here as well. Plans for Chikushin Martial & Cultural Training Group are geared towards improving our public presentation in the form of updating the website, which will include revised descriptions on our training, a picture gallery, and demo vids. I will also work on advertising abit more to bring in more people who are interested in Japanese martial arts, as well as announce more small events for locals to participate in, most likely through Facebook. Outside of this, small changes and adjustments are being implemented for next year’s curriculum, which will be announced shortly.


Sometime last year I announced that I’m working on 2 books that are translations of old Japanese works. Been working on these as much as possible on a daily basis, and am happy with how things are progressing. There was some changes in which one was prioritized, which are explained as followed:

  • KINETSUSHU: I was able to locate a 3rd version of this document. Thus,  this has been upgrade to 3-scroll translations. While the time frame for completing this is not long, I am putting this book to the side momentarily to work on another.
  • TSUKI NO SHO: Initially was supposed to be book #2, this has been moved to being my designated 1st book to publish. This changed due to requests for putting out an English version out in a timely fashion. An important document for schools that specialize in Shinkage ryū Heihō, much research has been going into deciphering the contents, which has proven to be very educational. A must read for all kenjutsu practitioners imho. Here’s a sample of a preliminary layout for the book. Note that this is still a work in progress, so editing, revisions, and formatting may change the overall final product.

With plenty of projects on my plate, I’m still dedicated in keeping my blog alive and strong with interesting contents. Here’s looking forward to a progressive new year!

Announcement of a New (Translated) Book

Late last year I was involved in a Japanese-to-English translation project for a new book. I am happy to announce that it’s finally being released this month!

Entitled “Ninja: Secrets of the Unsurpassable Heart”, it’s written by Teruhisa Komori, a professor of Mie University who specializes in psychiatric studies. To give some background information, this book explores more than just a historical perspective of the origins, activities, and techniques of the ninja, but incorporates Mr. Komori’s research on their physical, mental and spiritual fortitude and how they were able to succeed in their missions. The studies conducted give many hints on how these traits of the ninja can also benefit people in today’s technologically & socially-driven societies in terms of dealing with stress and issues that arise through it.

This is a Japanese-to-English translation of his original book “Ninja “Makenai Kokoro no Himitsu”” (忍者「負けない心の秘密」). As the sole translator chosen for this project, I was fortunate in being able to correspond directly with Mr. Komori to ensure that his writing was transcribed accurately as possible in English.

This book will be available through your typical retail bookstores and online retail businesses. For those looking for a more analytical and detailed look into what made the ninja who they were and the methods they used to do so, pick it up and give it a good read!

Click here to see its page on

June Updates

June has been a busy month for me, with new projects that are being put into motion. My articles covering Japanese-related topics are still in the works, but have been placed on the backburner until at least early July. Here’s some projects that have had my full attention throughout June.

  1. Translation Page: On top of the page (or under the Menu tab if viewing on a smartphone) you’ll notice there is a new tab, “Translations”. This has been in the works for some time now. The tricky part was how to implement it on my blog. This section will feature some of my translation works I have done in the past, as well as future works currently being worked on. Some of these have already been posted on my blog as a topic. Translation works will have a wide range of topics, for there may be something that everyone will find interesting.
  2. Facebook: In the “Links and Resources” menu at the right hand side of the screen is a link to the Chikushin Martial & Cultural Training Group Facebook page. It’s been there for several months, and was slowly being developed in terms of direction of contents. Other than posting the monthly training schedule and announcements of new blog posts, it is used as another means to share Japanese culture-related topics, as well as inform of other sites and establishments in NYC of similar interests.
  3. Monthly Events: A few days ago my group hosted a small event in Manhattan. It was our first local event, as I try to bring more attention to my group for those who would be interested in studying Japanese martial arts (and possibly Japanese language). There are more monthly events in the works; with June’s event being on kamae and distancing, July’s event is subject to focus on bōjutsu. These events will be mentioned periodically on the FB page.
  4. Books: Late last year, I was setting aside certain old Japanese documents that I would one day translate into English and have published. Although that has been a slow undertaking, this month I began working nonstop on 2 of them, as I’m hoping to have them done by the ending of the year. These manuscripts are “Kinetsushu” and “Tsuki no Shō”. Both have some connections to a traditional kenjutsu school called Shinkage ryū Hyōhō. So far, progression on these have been positive, and I am greatly looking forward to the end product. More news regarding these 2 works should be on the way, so I will post updates as the time comes.
Guess this post is more of an “update” of what’s on my plate, as well as what to expect. These new projects by no means replace my normal postings, as I enjoy writing on my blog and have plenty of topics lined up. Stay tuned, for regularly scheduled articles should be coming out next week.

Japan moves toward “Reiwa”

On April 1st, the new gengo (元号), known as era or period in English, has been announced in Japan. It is “Reiwa” (令和), and will mark the shift of imperial decree to the crown prince Naruhito. This is also momentous, as this is the 1st time that the gengo is named using Japanese literature; for the previous eras the naming convention was determined following centuries-old tradition of using Chinese literature.

Pics from the official announcement of the new gengo, or era, that will mark the arrival of the new Emperor this year. To the left is Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga making the annoucement , and to the right is a clearer image of the writing of Reiwa in kanji. These pics were taken as my family and I watched the announcement live.

Gengo is significant within Japan’s culture, as it is tied to the emperor, and acts as a decree of his imperial reign. A few years ago, the current Emperor Akihito announced his retirement, and will officially step down on April 30th. Thus, a new Gengo signifies the shift of imperial power to the new emperor, while the previous gengo is retired.

The current gengo Heisei (平成) lasts for about only 30 years, from January 1st, 1989 to early 2019. Heisei is the 247th in Japan’s history. The new gengo, Reiwa, will become the 248th starting May 1st.

The word Reiwa is taken from a line in the Manyōshū (万葉集), which is one of the oldest existing documentation of Japanese poetry. While the character “wa” (和) has been used many times in previous gengo, the character “rei” (令) makes its 1st time appearance, marking this naming convention very Japanese-like. The original line goes as follow:

初春の月にして 気淑く風
梅は鏡前の粉を披き 蘭は珮後の香を薫らす

(しょしゅんのれいげつにして きよくかぜやわら
うめはきょうぜんのこをひらき らんははいごのこうをかおらす)


Prime Minister Abe explaining the decision behind using Reiwa as the new gengo.

The characters rei and wa are highlighted in red, and their place within the poem is significant. Prime Minister Abe explained during the announcement how this poem inspires the new gengo. This meaning is pretty deep, both culturally and symbolically. Although it would be a feat to give a thorough interpretation from Japanese to English, I will try to give a simpler explanation:

  1. Reiwa’s meaning is tied to the season of Spring and how it symbolizes the new beginnings after enduring the harsh times of the previous cold season, Winter.
  2. The timing of Spring is auspicious, and said to be a pleasant one, too.
  3. The poem follows a much older Japanese calendar system called inreki (陰暦), or Lunar calendar, when February was the month designated as the start of Spring alongside the beginning of the new year. This is indicated by the mentioning of the Japanese plum flower called ume (梅); associated with the month of February, it is described as going into full bloom after enduring the cold Winter.

Based on Prime Minister Abe’s description, the overall meaning of Reiwa is pretty unique. The character “rei” features its meaning from how it’s used in the poem from above, veering towards new growth (for both humans and culture), while the character “wa” indicate pleasant times of peace amongst people and throughout society.

The crown prince Naruhito is scheduled to officially take his place as Emperor on May 1st 2019. The period of Reiwa will also go into effect at the same time.

Closing of 2018…

Happy New Years! (明けましておめでとうございます!)

We have come to the end of another year. Hope 2018 was good for everyone. For me, this has been a prosperous year in many different ways. Besides continuing to provide content for my blog and start a new business venture or two, I’ve been able to make contact with people both online and offline in my area of expertist: martial arts and Japanese translation. Both were by chance and have had positive outcomes. I hope to keep good relations like this, and more,

For 2019, expect a variety of topics regarding Japanese culure, traditions, and historical figures (a little less on the Kuki clan this time….). A couple of more posts regarding my own personal martial arts training experiences (both past and present) are in the works as well. There are also plans to expand on what my blog (as well as my training group) can offer; one part of that will be unveiled early this January. We’ll see how that fairs out.

Once again, I thank all those who continue to supportmy efforts through “Light in the Clouds” blog, as well as all those who follow & read my contents. Looking forward to another fun & prosperous year in 2019!

Kuki Archives: Hidari Mitsudomoe ~ Part 1

Previously, I had spoken about the Kuki clan and the 2 kamon¹, or family emblems, they are known by. I spoke extensively about the 1st family crest, Shichiyō (七曜), many months back here. The 2nd family crest, Hidari Mitsudomoe (左三つ巴), will finally be highlighted, as it is the most recognized out of the two. Since the roots of the Hidari Mitsudomoe are ancient and have a significantly long history, much of the discussion will focus soley on these as a whole. Dividing this topic into two parts, part one will cover much of these roots, from the various meanings, their influence on theoretical views, how they’ve cemented important roles within Japanese culture, as well as the variations in design. Through this, we can transition smoother into discussing solely on the Hidari Mitsudomoe and its history with the Kuki clan in a 2nd separate post.


The Hidari Mitsudomoe is better understood as a spiraling design most frequently called a “tomoe” in Japanese². The word tomoe is believed to have been derived from archery. There are records that point to its roots being that of an armguard worn on the left hand used during archery in ancient times. This special armguard was called a “tomo” (Japanese linguistics), and the written kanji for it is “鞆”. Another thought is that the tomo was a circular design on this type of armgurad. When referring to this based on visual representation, one would say “tomo-e” (鞆絵), with the 2nd kanji meaning drawing or picture. Eventually the word tomoe became its own word, and its kanji was simplified to “巴”. This is what is used today. We can look at this as being the basis of its conception.

In the series of illustration scrolls collectively known as “Nenchu Gyoji Emaki” (年中行事絵巻), there is a drawing of 2 archers, both wearing a tomo around their left wrist. The 1st pic is a section from that particular scroll (includes a drum with the actual tomoe mark). 2nd pic is the enlarged section of the archers. The 3rd pic is a colored version, from Wikipedia.


The symbol of tomoe is said to have strong roots from China’s ancient times, where its original source stems from. There are numerous ideas on how the tomoe came about from surviving records from China’s past, but no way to prove which explains the beginnings of its use. One theory about this circling pattern is that it represents a whirlpool, while another states that it represents the coiling of a snake. Usually indicating 2 or more intertwining forces, this image inspired different forms and usages throughout Asia.

There is the theory about the tomoe which is based around the kanji “巴”. It is said to have been a hieroglyphic character that represented a person whose stomach doubled in size. Whether this is a symbolic meaning of “overeating”, or something different, is difficult to distinguish. The magatama (勾玉), a curved “comma-shaped” jewel first prominent in China, also represents this kanji, and has its own theories for its conception.

Above is a tomoe emblem well recognized in Daoism. Next to it, a depiction of eternal rivalry between the tiger and dragon from Eastern culture. Generally both creatures represent a philosophy dirctly opposite of each other. While seen as a conflict, in reality both are needed to be complete, such as expressed in ying yang theory.

A general universal use of the tomoe as a pattern is where it consists of two parts, being made up of 2 commas. These commas entwine endlessly in a circle, with the head (larger section) of one comma chasing after the tail (the slimmer part) of the other. The head of the commas can refer to the intertwining of 2 individuals; this can be a figurative, or even literal, conflict between these individuals in the form of rivals. In China, this theoretical imagery has a strong connection with Daoism, such that the concept of the everlasting battle between the tiger and dragon found in many folktales and cultural-related activities represent this theory very well.


When the concept of the tomoe came to Japan, it too spread and evolved in different ways. For example, when the comma-shaped jewels called magatama made their way to Japan, they were acquired by certain wealthy families. These jewels were symbolic of divine spirits, and even played an important role within Japan’s story of creation³. Worn as a necklace consisting of many of these commas, these magatama are said to have been used in ritualistic practices to ward off evil and misfortune. They are said to have connections with the tomoe emblem as well.

2 pictures of Iwashimizu Hachimangu located in Yawata City, Kyoto Prefecture. One of many shrines dedicated to the deity Hachiman around Japan, this features the Hidari Mitsudomoe emblem, such as those on the banners in the 1st pic, as well as along the edge of the roof and golden lanterns in the 2nd pic. Pics were taken by Hideki and Genji, respectively, on Pixta. Used with permission.

After such families disappeared, these magatama became hard-to-find relics, but their religious like tones persisted. In time, the tomoe was widely incorporated in religious practices. As an example, beginning from the late 700s onward during the Heian period, many shrines and temples, as well as homes, placed the tomoe as an emblem near their rooftops and doorways as a talisman to ward off misfortune and disaster, such as fire. Along with that, it was utilized as a shinmon (神文, emblem of a deity) by shinto shrines that worshipped a god named Hachiman⁴, who represents the god of war. Elite families, such as the Seiwa Genji (清和源氏) and Kanmu Heishi (桓武平氏), were large supporters of the deity Hachiman. Due to its symbol of strength in battle, these families spread the practice of the worship of Hachiman to many military families, as many adopted this for the sake of praying for victory in battle⁵. Through this, some other families also made the tomoe a family emblem, or added it as an addition to the one they have.


While one of the most familiar design of the tomoe is of the symbol of Daoism (made up of 2 commas), it is not certain if this was the original design in conception. However, it is safe to say that there are numerous designs in history. Later, different variants were created; while their uses varied depending on the person and lifestyle, many of these patterns were used as kamon (家紋, family crests), shinmon (神文, deity crests) and jimon (寺紋, temple crests).

Examples of common tomoe emblems. Click on each for a brief description. From Wikipedia.

There are designs that range from using just one comma, to up to four commas. Then there are a those composing of small differences such as size, while others possess elaborately complex designs, such as the “kuyou⁵” type. A tomoe is further identified by the direction of its spin; the head of the comma can curve clockwise or curve counter-clockwise. This type of spin was traditionally used to indicate which side it is placed on in certain situations, such as clothing, which then identifies what type of tomoe it becomes. For example, if placed on the left side of the body, then the one with the clockwise spin is used, and is labeled a hidari (left) tomoe. Reasoning behind this is if you place the tomoe on the back of the left hand, the head of the comma has to be turning towards the left thumb. The rule is opposite for the right side of the body; the tomoe turning counter-clockwise is used and is labeled as a migi (right) tomoe.

In a case where the number of comma and direction of spin played an important role is seen through wa-taiko (和太鼓), or Japanese drums. During the Heian period, within the main building of a Shinto shrine were various drums used for specific purposes. They needed to be placed in a particular fashion. To distinguish these, drums that were placed on the right side would bear a tomoe mark on top which had 2 commas with a counter-clockwise (right) spin, while the drums on the left would have a tomoe mark which had 3 commas with a -clockwise (left) spin. Take note that this was not always consistent, as these rules may have changed with each generation. There are other meanings behind this which are related to in-yo (ying yang), but the visual differences are what stick out the most.

As a whole, there are over 100 designs in Asia alone. Japan has its own designs that are unique, with a good number of them being family crests. Note that some of these designs are variants of others, which could mean that these variations are merely cosmetic.


Here ends the first part regarding the Hidari Mitsudomoe. More of an overview of its roots from a historical and cultural perspective both in and outside of Japan, we get an understanding of how it is generally conceived and its purpose in use. Please check back in a few days for part 2, which will go much further in discussion both on the Hidari Mitsudomoe and how the Kuki clan not only acquired this as a family crest, but how it is deeply connected to their family and religious practices.

1) 家紋

2) Take note that “domoe” is the same as “tomoe”, only difference is in pronunciation. In cases where tomoe is attached to another word, it will change to domoe. However, this is not always the case, such as the topic at hand. While generally called “Hidari Mitsudomoe”, there are cases where it is instead pronounced as “Hidari Mitsu Tomoe”. Factors for this are very lenient, so both cases are correct.

3) Within old stories such as Kojiki (古事記, Records of Ancient Matters) and Nihon Shoki (日本書記, The Chronicles of Japan), the magatama was portrayed as “Yasakani no Magatama” (八尺瓊勾玉, Long [approx. 8 ft] string of Curved Jewels), which was one of three sacred treasures of the gods. The concept is symbolic, as replicas of these treasures are currently kept by the imperial family in Japan.

4) 八幡. Generally referred to as the deity Hachiman (八幡神, Hachiman shin), also known by the (older) name “Yahata no kami”, as well as several other titles such as “Hondawake no Mikoto” (誉田別命).

5) While often recognized as the “god of war” (武神, bushin), he was specifically called a “god that brings fortune in battle”, or “bu-un no kami” (武運の神) .

6) 九曜.