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IZU PAINTING

Around the Meiwa and Anei eras (1764 to 1780) of Japanese history, there was a man named Izu Kamitono. A master of many martial disciplines, he was legendary, among locals who knew him, in the secret art of ‘shurikenjutsu’. Translated literally as ‘palm weapon art’, shurikenjutsu was also sometimes referred to in those days as ‘sen-ken’. With his long gray hair pulled back, old man Izu was said to always carry four long sharpened needles hidden in his coiffure, two on each side of his head. As a aging warrior, who had survived many conflicts that required him to straddle the line between life and death, the honed edge of continuous heightened awareness and razor sharp reflexes had not dulled even slightly. Although he had found peace within himself in his years of late, he knew the world had not waned in its turbulence and episodes of utter violence. Once when visiting Shiba Palace in Edo, the residence of the Lord of his province, Izu was suddenly asked to hit four hooves of a horse standing under a cherry tree in a painting that adorned the Lord’s cedar door. Drawing the needle-like shuriken from his hair with lightning dexterity, he hit all four marks twice, without a miss. His lightning fast skill drew audible gasps from the aristocratic onlookers who had gathered to watch, as well as from his normally subdued Lord. Up until the day the Shiba Palace was destroyed by a fire over a century later in 1893, the painting and the needle marks from Izu’s test of skill remained on the palace wall and were still readily visible for visitor’s of the palace to see. As to Izu’s method of shuriken throwing, it is said that he left no disciple and that his gifted skill and method passed quietly with him.

✧ BRANDON ALVAREZ