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Thread: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

  1. #1
    Ying, Duke of Qin's Avatar Shisai
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    Default Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    tl;dr: There is enough ambiguity on Uesugi Kenshin's gender to allow many to make the conjecture that he may be female. In other words, Kenshin is either a fair-faced man who is extremely secure in his masculinity, or Kenshin was really a smokingly hot chick in disguise.

    This would also make Takeda Shingen the biggest D-bag in the Sengoku era. You'll see why.

    EDIT: Ugh. Wow. 3 AM again. I need to stop writing so late. If you find any errors, I'll probably fix it in the morning.

    =========================================================================
    WARNING: WHILE EVEN I ADMIT THAT MOST OF THIS IS CONJECTURE AND NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, I HAVE COBBLED TOGETHER ENOUGH EVIDENCE IN THE FORM OF HISTORICAL FACT AND OBSERVATIONS TO MAKE THE ARGUMENT VIABLE. ONCE THIS PIECE IS READ, YOU CANNOT UNSEE IT. I ADVISE THAT YOU LEAVE WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

    I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ALTERATION OF YOUR IMAGE OF KENSHIN.

    THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING.

    Still here?

    Alright. Let's begin.
    ===========================================================================

    Let's talk Uesugi Kenshin. I don't really need to say much about him, but he was a very interesting individual - certainly, one of the few true idealists in this era. He fought for what he perceived to be right, and had little desire to actually expand his territory - part of the reason why he basically hung around Echigo and didn't do anything else. Out of the sixty-some battles he participated in, however, not a single one was unwarranted. Kenshin was basically a peerless commander, but he also lead from the frontlines - for more examples, check out my writing on Kawanakajima, also posted on this forum.

    Nonetheless, what we have is interesting. Kenshin, interestingly, had no children. His two sons were adopted. This alone may not be anything particularly significant - after all, Hideyoshi was pretty much infertile. However, there were many whispers - some suggested that Kenshin was simply asexual, or impotent, or that he preferred the company of men. Because Kenshin was somewhat introverted and not prone to expressions of grandiosity like the other daimyos, we have comparatively fewer resources.

    Still some others whisper that the God of War was really a woman. This was, in fact, so popular a rumor that it lasted to today, and you can find female Uesugi Kenshins in everything ranging from Nobunaga's Ambition to Sengoku Rance. Interestingly, a recent poll in Japanese high schools show that many (more than 40% less than 80%) students believe that Kenshin was female, or that his gender was in dispute.

    For the purpose of this post, I'll be citing a popular piece written by contemporary novelist/historian Yagiri Tomeo. While he is discredited in academic circles for having extremely derpworthy ideas (re: Mitsuhide and Nobunaga was really in on Honnoji, for instance), his composition on Uesugi Kenshin is interesting. I will be also adding my own analysis and conjecture based on personal research, and let you, dear reader, decide on what is true and what is fiction.

    You can still back out if you can.

    No?

    Let's begin.

    First, for first-hand sources. In various books of poetry recorded in the latter Sengoku/Edo period, songs are suggestive of Kenshin being "more than a man." However, ignoring folk-tales and songs, we have the Toudaiki (当代记), composed by one Matsudaira Tadaaki. This is arguably one of the most reliable first-hand sources we have on the Sengoku era. Toudaiki is composed in the very early Edo period, and serves as a first-hand account of many historical details. Of particular interest is this entry, which tells us about the manner of Uesugi Kenshin's death.

    此の春越後景虎卒去(年四十九)大虫と云々
    Note the term 大虫. You may think that this means tiger, but in reality, given the historical context, this type of disease refers to a very specific illness: a type of uterine bleeding. A bit unusual, don't you think? Men clearly cannot die from it, at any rate.

    Those who may be questioning Matsudiara, I'm gonna toss this out here now. He was known to be a man who was knowledgeable in medicine. There's about as much chance of him getting this one messed up as say, you or I stop breathing. Furthermore, why would he lie about such a thing when every single other detail in his book is more or less right on the dot?

    Either Matsudiara was the best troll in Japanese history, or he knew something that we didn't.

    There are other sources also documenting the same thing - that Kenshin died of certain diseases that's specific to us girls. Some suggest cervical cancer, others cervicitis, but most tend to agree with this bleeding thing. What is more interesting is that in most other sources, Kenshin's manner of death is never described - the Dragon of Echigo simply died.

    Still skeptical? Let's turn to other historical sources. In all sources - check the MHNE, Hojo's archives, Koyo Gunkan, whatever. You will quickly find out something interesting: Uesugi Kenshin has severe stomach cramps and pains around the 10th of every month. The pains are so severe, in fact, that he is unable to ride into battle. His entire battle schedule is more or less scheduled around this event.

    What does this sound like?

    I'll give you a hint. It's something we go through every month.

    Still not convinced? Let's take Kenshin's campaign against the Hojo (the one that eventually lead to the siege of Odawara), for example. In the Matsudiaraki, along with Hojo's own archives, it is recorded that on June 11th, due to stomach pains, Uesugi Kenshin was forced to retreat despite the fact that the Hojo were pretty much broken on the field of battle. In other words, he could have had that castle if he attacked -

    Oh, let's take a look at when Kenshin died. In general, historians agree that it was either March 9th, or March 11th.

    You beginning to see a pattern here?

    "But Ying, we know what Uesugi Kenshin looks like. He clearly has a beard!"

    Aha. Here's where the interesting thing comes in. Compare portraits and paintings of Kenshin in the Sengoku era versus the portraits in the Edo era. You will quickly notice that the beardy, gruff looking Kenshins all come from the Edo era. Self-portraits of daimyos are comparatively common - for example, Shingen likes to put crimson lotus fires around himself. Oda likes to demonize himself, etc.

    Kenshin's self-portrait that was period appropriate (i.e. pre-Edo) not only depict Uesugi Kenshin as a beardless, clear-faced man of relative youth, but the art style is deceivingly feminine.

    What's more, many self-portraits of Kenshin portray him as Bishamonten, standing above a cloud. Some of the oldest ones are still surviving today in Rensenji if you want to see it. Anyways, the Bishamonten thing isn't unusual, but what is unusual is that a crimson colored cup is placed beneath Bishamonten's feet. Now, here's what's interesting. In the Kourou Monogatari (an old, old historical source), it talks quite a bit of symbolism in ancient art. In particular, the vase or bottle was used to symbolize men, while cups are used to symbolize women.

    ...Hm. Kenshin clearly understood the symbolism - he was very well learned and was an accomplished poet, musician, and writer. So why would Uesugi Kenshin draw a cup in his own portrait? Some say that it is Kenshin's favorite object, but perhaps there may be something more to the tale than just favoritism...

    But that's not all. In the temple to Bishamonten (well, technically, Kukurihime)in Kasugayama (Kenshin's home castle), Bishamonten is for some reason, female. Instead of the typical manly hammer man we see in a lot of temples, a rather imposing looking female is present with the banner Bi. I actually visited this place once, and the abbot explained that the statue was there since Kenshin's time - they had no idea why it was female either, but they keep it there because they've kept it for all generations.

    Worth mentioning that in general, the temple have a pair of statues - one male and female. Only this particular one in Echigo has a single female statue.

    Could the symbolism and the images be Kenshin's way of secretly communicating to us?

    "Well, that's easy! All we have to do is do some DNA testing. We have modern science now - didn't we do Masamune earlier?"

    Actually... You know, you're not the only one who came up with that idea. Unfortunately, that isn't possible. Kenshin's remains is a closely guarded secret - they've even got the guts to stand up to the Shogunate when information was requested. What was more interesting, perhaps, is that when the Uesugi was forced to relocate, they always took Kenshin's remains with them to their new fief. Interestingly, only Kenshin's remains were taken - the other family members and ancestors were left as is.

    So... This is clearly not a case of ancestor veneration. In fact, this was a great shamefur dispray. The burial sites of their ancestors is basically what kept the Sanada herpaderping around Matsushiro. The remains of your clan's ancestors are sacred, and moving it is akin to graverobbing. Furthermore, Kenshin himself left no special request telling his descendents that they must lug him around, for whatever reason.

    So what did the Uesugi have to hide?

    ... See, if Kenshin was female, the Tokugawa Shogunate could invoke the ruler's edict. A clan must formally have a male head as ruler, or else they risk having their lands divided up by the Shogun. This was a part of several legislation expanded upon during the Tokugawa Shogunate's early rein to curb the influences of potentially rebellious daimyos.

    Huh.

    Do you see my point? We have no conclusive evidence, but the case for Uesugi Kenshin being female is not a bad one. Female rulers were not common, but they were by no means uncommon - there are numerous women fulfilling a leadership position in times of urgency, or when the opportunity presents itself. Before we can do that, however, we should probably look at some anecdotal evidence, just so that we get a better idea of what Kenshin's like.

    So, first things first. In almost all cases historically, his appearance was described as "beautiful." I unfortunately have NO IDEA how to type that particular kanji, but I can explain a bit about the context. It's not "pretty," it's not "handsome," it's basically drop-dead gorgeous - the term, for comparative purposes, is often used to describe goddesses. See, if I was a dude at the time, I'd be upset if someone used that to describe me. It's just something unusual, but Kenshin seemed to have been fine with it.

    Let's see... His height is somewhat contradictory. Some describe him as imposingly tall, and some as ridiculously short. In fact, most do tend to put Kenshin on the tall side - in Uesugi's own family records and through analysis of armor, we deduce that his height was about 158cm. That's not tall by anyone's standard - but it would be tall for a woman, especially for that time.

    (For the record. I'm about 175cm, or 5'10. If I was in the Sengoku era I'd be a giant, essentially. )

    Other odd bits. We know that he likes poetry. He also likes to read really, really trite love stories. Kenshin was a huge fan of the Tale of Genji and other tales dealing with romance. At the time, this is a book that no self-respecting manly daimyo would DARE be caught with - it had NOTHING to do with Bushido! It'll be, I dunno, like Schwarzenegger reading Twilight or something.

    Perhaps it was due to his choice of reading material, Kenshin's writing and speeches are also feminine in nature. It's hard to explain stylistically, but for example: whereas Shingen would list off heroics and promises of great sacrifice to the Gods if he was given victory, Kenshin's writing basically boiled down to: we need to win, therefore, please let us win. The tone is very feminine, and the rationale and reasoning was unconventional at best, and downright emotionally laden at worst. Also. Here's what his writing looked like.



    (Image taken from Nigata Prefecture Museum of History)

    Go compare this to, I dunno, Takeda Shingen, and you'll be raising eyebrows too.

    Other tidbits... Well, he was known for his ability to drink. Except, we know that Kenshin doesn't go beyond three bowls. Again, context-wise, makes more sense if Kenshin was female, because three huge things of sake IS pretty hefty.

    Other than that ... when he went up to Kyoto, none of the female officials and the royal consorts really paid much attention to him. This is, I think, one of the most hilarious counterarguments for "Kenshin is gay." You'd think that even if he was a bit effeminate or whatever there would be plenty of girls swooning over him, or at least find him to be fascinating. But no. He was mostly ignored.

    ... This might be a bit biased, but I can tell if it's another girl dressing up as a man pretty well. I know personal experience isn't a good argument at all, but I'm gonna bet that the girls (those who were straight, anyways) at court weren't stupid either.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    For the record. First of all, he would have probably been bi-sexual, much like Shingen. Shudo was a common practice, but exactly what Shudo constitutes varies from historian to history. No matter what the situation or history may have been, though, I think asexual would probably be the best way to describe his relationship paradigm. Kenshin just had no desire for anything sexual - something in stark contrast with say, Shingen or Hideyoshi.


    Uesugi Kenshin got along with women very, very well. In fact, for that matter, it is recorded that he basically had free access to the female's quarters and he hung out with the Ashikaga shogun's mom and sister quite a lot. Historically, only other women were allowed in the female's quarters. This is another bit that's puzzling - no matter how close Kenshin was with the Shogun, allowing a man to mingling with the females of the household was a bit out of character, don't you think?

    So, in light of all this. What can we conclude? The answer is: nothing. Nothing here is conclusive - everything can have a counterargument to it, and there are many, Japanese and otherwise, who will JUMP on me for suggesting such a thing.

    ... But it is interesting, isn't it? To think the God of War a woman? Can you imagine how brave she would have been? Silently enduring through a world torn apart by war and chaos, fighting stubbornly for only what she believed to be right. We would never know why she never married - perhaps she didn't want to lose control of Echigo, knowing that she was its only hope against the likes of the Takeda, Hojo, or Mogami. Perhaps she had her heart broken at some point in her maidenhood, or perhaps she did have someone she had her sights on - but because of her unique status in the Nagao-Uesugi clan, there was no way that relationship could have been consummated anyways.

    Whatever the case may have been, she fought on for Echigo. Her retainers almost certainly knew the truth. If Uesugi Kenshin was indeed female, then perhaps the best evidence supporting her comes not from the historical sources that was recorded, but rather from the multitude of rebellions in her land. Some, like the Usami or Naoe, may have been impressed by her strength of will. For she - if he indeed was a she - breathed a fresh gust of idealism in the Sengoku era. Others, of course, wouldn't have stood by having been ruled by a woman. Rebellion was the only way.

    Would Kenshin have understood their biases? We would never know. Would we know if Kenshin was a he or a she? We don't know. Someone may have known. Naoe Kanetsugu, who supposedly completed Kenshin's portrait, would have certainly known. Did they care? Probably not. Did the other daimyo care? Again, probably not. Maybe it was an unspoken thing, or maybe it wasn't.

    Who else knew? Maybe Takeda Shingen. If Kenshin was indeed a woman, then the date for Kawanakajima couldn't have been picked better: it was again, around the 10th or the 11th.

    ... If this is the case, then, it makes the dynasty-warrioresque charge by Kenshin all the more impressive. I cannot imagine moving at all with those cramps, much less actually going in to fight. Nonetheless, we know that Shingen respected Kenshin very much. Did Shingen know something that we didn't? We won't know that either.

    Did Oda know? Tokugawa Ieyasu? Hojo Ujiyasu? Maybe to the former, and probable to the latter. When the Uesugi was reassigned after the Segikahara, why didn't Ieyasu press the issue about Kenshin's legitimacy? Was it out of respect for an old rival up north? We don't know.

    We'll probably never know.

    History is interesting, isn't it? There is so much you could do with it. There is so much we know, and yet, at the same time, so much we don't know. In the end, however, history is what we make it out to be. So now you know a little more about what I know - what others knew.

    And you will subconsciously influence and shape that into something that is unique to you.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Art by 歩鳥 from Pixiv


    Just who was Uesugi Kenshin?

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    (Art by Saya from Pixiv)


    I don't know.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    (Art by ホマ蔵)


    You decide.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    (Art is also from Pixiv - unfortunately, the artist's account closed, so I cannot cite the artist... )


    If my little piece has made you think, made you contemplate what was previously thought to be foolish or unthinkable, then I think I can call it a job well done.

    Thank you so much for reading. I know my writing is long, and quite dry at times, but like all of us here, we're all slowly improving.

    ==============================================================
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    [So. For the record. I personally think Kenshin is male. However, I also buy into Usami's records that suggested that the reason why Kenshin never married was that the girl he crushed on committed suicide when her father forced her to marry someone else. Kenshin, shocked to the core by the event, basically never had interest in another person again. THAT, however, is a topic saved for another time. ]
    Last edited by Ying, Duke of Qin; September 22, 2011 at 12:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Erwin Rommel's Avatar EYE-PATCH FETISH
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    I still believe his male, and probably bishounen, and killed in a latrine in a ninja attack.



    Check it out yo.

    Oh yeah, we need more threads for.

    Mori Ranmaru x Oda Nobunaga
    Is Chosokabe Motochika, aka the ugliest daimyo in Shogun 2 actually called princess when he was young?
    Was Nohime, wife of Oda Nobunaga an assassin?
    And some good ole tragedy, like Oichi and Gracia Hosokawa

    (Its clickable by the way....An S2 overhaul mod.)

    Seriously. Click it. Its the only overhaul mod that's overhauling enough to bring out NEW clans
    Masaie. Retainer of Akaie|AntonIII






  3. #3
    Paternus Britannicus's Avatar Sukauto
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?


    Of course she was female and she was also the emperor of Japan

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Personally I think he was a man and it is a case of Romanticising the Era. It does make for a good story but then being a good story doesn't make it true for example Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Lui Bei triple teaming Lu Bu and only being able to make him retreat in Romance of the Three Kingdoms but in Records of the Three Kingdoms he was defeated by Sun Jian.

  4. #4
    kesa82's Avatar Hastatas Posterior
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    I'm not ridiculing what you wrote.
    Rather, like you said yourself, nothing can be definitively established unless Kenshin's relatives hand over the corpse .
    ( ---And by the way , His relatives are still around ? )
    But it was an interesting article.

    -- There might be explicable reasons why a male would bleed regularly between the legs. I regularly bleed between the legs --albeit not on a regular schedule .
    I'm female, but the regular bleeding between the legs I'm referring to has nothing to do with menstruation.
    About 15 years ago I went to sit down, but didn't look behind me when I sat down. I sat down --flopped down -- on a spike. And it didn't hit the buttock, it hit the bulls eye.
    Doctors told me that an EXPENSIVE surgery MIGHT fix the problem, otherwise I could expect a chronic problem. And so it has proved to be.
    Like I said, It's NOT a regular cycle , but I do bleed regularly, chronically , from the rectum. Sometimes just once , twice , or three times a month, other times its 25 days out of the month, and I can hardly sit down, and I have to take a bath after I use the bathroom because wiping is impossible, it's too painful to wipe.
    Sorry for the gross details, but there's one non-menstrual explaination for regular between-the-legs bleeding.

    Cramps ? I got cramps years before I started menstruating. Turns out I had more than the usual number of acid ducts in my stomach. That's not unknown, like people with 6 fingers instead of 5 are not unknown.
    Anyway, excess acid ducts in the stomach will produce bad cramping. ( And eventually an ulcer ; i.e. internal bleeding, which might appear as uterine bleeding. And before internal surgery became practical, yes, and ulcer usually was fatal. )

    I've read that men of the Imperial court painted their skins white, and painted fake eyebrows high on their foreheads --- like Japanese women.
    And the Tiara clan, and The Imagawa clan, also affected this courtly practice --- and were criticized by others for this effeminate affectation.
    I don't actually know the reason for the practice of painting your skin white and painting fake eyebrows, but my comment , " ---like women " is apparently valid, because, like I said, others criticized it as an effeminate affectation .

    So........there was some androgynous behavior among upper class Japanese in feudal Japan anyway ?


    If an aristocratic house could not present a male heir, they might be stripped of their property ?

    Considering how hard life was for the peasantry, that would be a pretty strong motive for carrying out an elaborate charade. And not just for one person, but for a whole family, conceivably for a whole community.
    As you indicated somewhat yourself, up until recently women typically came to power in emergency situations, when, for whatever reason, a male just wasn't available.
    Elizabeth I of England became queen of England , basically, because the only male alternative was an unthinkable alternative for Protestant England ; a Catholic male Ruler.
    That's just one example, but it happened time and time again ; a woman became the boss simply because there was no practical male alternative , it was an emergency.

    Nor is it unknown for a woman to masquerade as a man in a high-profile position. In ancient Egypt Pharaoh was not just a secular ruler, he was the reincarnation of the God Horus, and Would become the God Osiris.
    So there were important theological reasons why a Pharaoh HAD TO BE male.
    But then, in the 18th Dynasty the Pharoah Thutmose II dropped dead at age 19-21. He left a son, but his son Thutmose III was 2 years old.
    Apparently that left only Thutmose II's wife and sister Hapshepsut. And maybe there was a further emergency that simply doesn't appear in the surviving records ; a coup attempt ?
    It appears that the Tetisheri clan were and ambitious group, they would not have given up power easily, and the 18th dynasty was a relatively good and prosperous period, so why mess up a good thing with a potential power-struggle / civil war ?
    So, female or not , 13-16 years old as she was, Hapshepsut simply had to do.
    The surviving evidence seems to indicate that there was a brief experiment in presenting Hapshepsut as a Female Pharoah, but the experiment was quickly dropped, and for the next 20 years until she died Hapshepsut was formally portrayed in statues and portraits as the conventional male Pharoah , and was referred to in official documents as " He " .

    So, maybe there was a compelling reason in the Japanese context why the Daimyo had to be presented as male no matter what ?

    On the one hand you say the court ladies ignored Kenshin, but then you say the Shogun's mom and sister hung out with Kenshin a lot, that Kenshin got along with girls really really well .

    So all of this signifies ...........?

    I'm a girl who is sexually attracted to both men and women, but typically I don't get along with other girls very well.
    This signifies .......?

    I think this is the imponderable question , " Why do people like the people they like ? "
    I think it is an imponderable question, because if it were not, then we could come up with love potions or love spells that actually worked. That we have not come up with a means to guarantee that Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian will love you proves that we do not know.

    Kenshin liked romance novels .
    This signifies ........?

    I'm a girl who likes ballet ----AND military history. I'm a girl who likes Barbie dolls ..... AND toy soldiers.
    This signifies .........?
    In my opinion all it signifies is that I think that typing tastes and interests according to sex is idiotic.
    And maybe Kenshin thought something along similar lines ?

    Kenshin's libido ;

    In my honest opinion, ( albeit a minority opinion ) it's half-and half.

    That is; about half of the female population actually has a strong libido. But -- up until recently at least -- it was not a good idea for a girl to broadcast the fact that she likes to screw.
    For one thing, just because you like to screw doesn't necessarily mean you want to screw EVERYBODY.
    But if you say you like to screw, then you got EVERYBODY calling you.
    For another thing --- up until recently at least --- a girl who publicly admitted liking sex would almost certainly acquire a negative label and status.

    About half of the male population actually has a low libido. 90% of the time they would rather play golf than screw. Or, show them ten guys, and they would maybe like to talk to 8 of them. Show them 10 girls, and they would only really like to talk to 1 or 2 of them. And not because they are gay.
    I'm not sure actually what the reasons are , but it is still clearly not socially exceptable for a male to admit that his libido is low.
    "You don't have an erection 90% of the time ? Then you're a loser. "
    Like I said, I don't know why that is, but it is certainly the case.
    It's especially odd considering that I suspect that most powerful men fall into this category. That is, they lust after power, status, money, typically far more than they lust after the flesh.

    So, in my opinion, high and low libido are not at all the exclusive prerogative of this sex or that. Much is obscured by a fog of social expectations and posturing. People habitually play roles, and pretend to be the opposite of what they are.

  5. #5
    Ying, Duke of Qin's Avatar Shisai
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    FYI: Official explanation is that Kenshin died "suddenly" from stomach ulcers. He was a regular drinker, even if he was very careful to not be drunk.

    Bleeding example
    Ow.

    I do sympathize.

    In terms of the historical context... that basically cements what it was. That term (大虫) I cite above has very little room for alternative interpretation - it is a "disease for women," for lack of a better word to describe it. Furthermore, I never said that Kenshin bled on a regular basis (though that is probable). Merely that he suffered from stomach cramps and was incapable of riding, including other things which probably went undocumented.

    If you're interested, historians often explain this away as a trolling attempt or an error of the pen, and that he died of stomach ulcers instead. However, again, the term for stomach ulcer is specific, and it is not possible to mistake one for the other.

    (FYI: I'm one of those folks with a pretty regular cycle, so IF Kenshin was female, I could see how that interpretation would work).

    I've read that men of the Imperial court painted their skins white, and painted fake eyebrows high on their foreheads --- like Japanese women.
    And the Tiara clan, and The Imagawa clan, also affected this courtly practice --- and were criticized by others for this effeminate affectation.
    I don't actually know the reason for the practice of painting your skin white and painting fake eyebrows, but my comment , " ---like women " is apparently valid, because, like I said, others criticized it as an effeminate affectation .
    Onna-Bushi in S2 is period-appropriate, yes. The interesting thing is that Kenshin is never called effeminate. The term used to describe him (beautiful) is reserved for women, while the term used to describe pretty, effeminate-looking men is another (modern translation would be bishounen )

    So........there was some androgynous behavior among upper class Japanese in feudal Japan anyway ?
    Androgynous behavior is typically pretty rare.

    If an aristocratic house could not present a male heir, they might be stripped of their property ?
    Only during the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and that was basically Tokugawa being a dick.

    Considering how hard life was for the peasantry, that would be a pretty strong motive for carrying out an elaborate charade. And not just for one person, but for a whole family, conceivably for a whole community.
    As you indicated somewhat yourself, up until recently women typically came to power in emergency situations, when, for whatever reason, a male just wasn't available.
    Elizabeth I of England became queen of England , basically, because the only male alternative was an unthinkable alternative for Protestant England ; a Catholic male Ruler.
    That's just one example, but it happened time and time again ; a woman became the boss simply because there was no practical male alternative , it was an emergency.
    Let's look at the context of Kenshin's ascension. Kagetora lost his father at the age of 8, when Nagao sr. was out cleaning out bandits in Echigo. Of the numerous brothers, the clan heir was pretty much incompetent, and gradually, support went to the young Kagetora, who won his/her first battle at the age of 14 against Kuroda, one of the ambitious traitors of the house. Kenshin supposedly learned strategy from Usami Sadamitsu, but Sadamitsu was quickly impressed by his tactical acumen, and proclaimed him a military genius and publicly supported Kagetora to the surprise of the other nobles. Afterwards, people basically flocked to Kagetora's banner, and things happened as we know.

    The Nagao house was basically getting screwed over left and right before Kagetora (Kenshin) came into play. The fascinating thing is that typically, no one cares if the Katoku was male or female - there has historically been female Katoku (lit. ruler of household passed towards the eldest son) before, and it wouldn't be a terribly big deal for the average peasant.

    On the one hand you say the court ladies ignored Kenshin, but then you say the Shogun's mom and sister hung out with Kenshin a lot, that Kenshin got along with girls really really well .

    So all of this signifies ...........?
    This is fishy because the court ladies are known to be gold-diggers. The imperial court was very poor at the time, and a good way for them to get into a better life is to latch themselves onto a prominent daimyo. The circumstances is unusual because every other daimyo, when going into Kyoto, received a lot of attention from the women at court. Kenshin was the odd exception.

    The second bit of evidence offers context. At the time, men not of the household were (in some cases) barred from interacting with women in the aforementioned manner. Women, of course, typically were not comfortable being alone with other men (due to a cultural custom). The fact that Kenshin had essentially free reign to the female's quarters tells us that Shogun Ashikaga knew something that we didn't.

    The alternative explanation is that he was such an exemplary men that Ashikaga didn't mind breaking cultural norms, and Ashikaga's mother/wives etc were comfortable with him around.

    I'm a girl who is sexually attracted to both men and women, but typically I don't get along with other girls very well.
    This signifies .......?
    Sexuality is a difficult topic to measure, mostly because I take to the view that sexual orientation is not binary or trinary, but rather, on a shifting scale. Kenshin, however, is basically asexual. He practiced Shudo just like everyone else, but he seemed to have made a unique effort and distinction in his own writings to distance himself from Shingen. In other words, asexual, again.

    Kenshin liked romance novels .
    This signifies ........?
    I'm a girl who likes ballet ----AND military history. I'm a girl who likes Barbie dolls ..... AND toy soldiers.
    This signifies .........?
    In my opinion all it signifies is that I think that typing tastes and interests according to sex is idiotic.
    And maybe Kenshin thought something along similar lines ?
    Cultural norms play a strong role. You have to take history into context as well. In our days, especially post women's lib and other feminist movements, what is considered to be genderly appropriate has been blurred considerably. You gotta remember, this was a time where women wearing armor or pants would have been considered to be unusual. For Kenshin to have such feminine tastes is unusual enough to take note.

    Also, his first book is the Tale of Genji. Most, if not all, Sengoku parents at the time would raise girls on that book, and boys on something more militant.

    In my honest opinion, ( albeit a minority opinion ) it's half-and half.

    That is; about half of the female population actually has a strong libido. But -- up until recently at least -- it was not a good idea for a girl to broadcast the fact that she likes to screw.
    For one thing, just because you like to screw doesn't necessarily mean you want to screw EVERYBODY.
    But if you say you like to screw, then you got EVERYBODY calling you.
    For another thing --- up until recently at least --- a girl who publicly admitted liking sex would almost certainly acquire a negative label and status.
    My theory, then. If Kenshin is female, then she has a low libido. Thus, she vent out whatever frustration that she may be building up through righteous anger and war.

    Unless there's some creepy secret history of the Uesugi that we haven't uncovered, almost all historical sources paint Kenshin as an asexual being. The rest doesn't cover his personal relationships at all.

    It's especially odd considering that I suspect that most powerful men fall into this category. That is, they lust after power, status, money, typically far more than they lust after the flesh.

    So, in my opinion, high and low libido are not at all the exclusive prerogative of this sex or that. Much is obscured by a fog of social expectations and posturing. People habitually play roles, and pretend to be the opposite of what they are.
    This is very astute. Kenshin's motivations seem to stem primarily from his/her idealism. Again, one of the differences between him and say, Nobunaga or Shingen or even Hideyoshi, who basically died from being oversexed.
    Last edited by Ying, Duke of Qin; June 26, 2011 at 01:54 AM.

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    kesa82's Avatar Hastatas Posterior
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    You might be interested in this article ???
    http://www.east-asian-history.net/te...2/ch3_main.htm

    It's on the Heian period , NOT Muromachi , and it's a long article, but there's good stuff further down on the prominent role of women in Heian Japan , and how there were similarities in male and female dress, and artistic depiction, in Heian Japan.

    It's a 400 year difference, but clearly there was some cultural carry-over, like the skin-whitening, blackening of teeth, and fake eyebrows were common to both periods.

    By the way, I'm not sure about that portrait of Oda Nobunaga's wife Nohime. She looks Heian period to me.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C5%8Dhime
    But maybe the long , loose hair also survived into the Muromachi period ?

    ( I really like the Heian period. )


    By the way, Kenshin's handwriting, or calligraphy , was really pretty. It does seem feminine, or effeminate, as the case may be. That's just looking at it superficially though. My understanding of written Japanese is Zero.
    So I wouldn't necessarily know what a feminine hand looks like.
    But , though I don't know what I'm looking at, I have looked at many handwriting examples, and it is a pretty handwriting.

    Hmm, I was wondering, for an AAR I might hopefully eventually write, if there was any nude art in Feudal Japan. According to this article, there apparently wasn't any in the Heian era. At least not any formal art that would be socially exceptable.

    Anyway, this is an interesting thread. I hope there are a few more interesting contributions.


    Oh, one more thing ;
    You might have thought this ; " His relatives are still around ? " was a sarcastic comment.
    No, I wasn't suggesting that 400 year old Uesugi's were still walking around.
    I should have wrote , " His relatives / DESCENDANTS are still around ? "
    Some cultures are more enthusiastic genealogists than others.
    I'm wondering if there are still Japanese Aristocracy who know that they are Japanese aristocracy, people who know what their clan affiliations are , people who would know they are descendants of Kenshin ?
    In some cultures, when the feudal class system passes away, such knowledge is promptly forgotten.

    What you wrote seemed to indicate, present-tense, that Kenshin's remains are still being hidden.
    Last edited by kesa82; June 26, 2011 at 04:34 AM.

  7. #7
    Ying, Duke of Qin's Avatar Shisai
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Heian period customs and societal norms are very different from that of the Muromachi. You need to separate what is considered to be "courtly" and what the more "hillbilly"-esque daimyos, such as Nobunaga would have appreciated. Imagawa Yoshimoto, for example, liked his women exactly as the Onna-bushi are depicted - frail, pale, very willowy, basically. Shingen, on the other hand...

    Heh. Let's just say that one of his women disguised herself as a man and went onto the battlefield with him. And then we have the likes of Sentoin (Kenshin's sister), Mogami-hime (Date's mom), and Okuni. They're probably much closer to what our modern standard of beauty is.

    Of course, then you have the likes of Oichi, whose skin was so beautifully pale that she didn't need make-up.

    By the way, I'm not sure about that portrait of Oda Nobunaga's wife Nohime. She looks Heian period to me.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C5%8Dhime
    But maybe the long , loose hair also survived into the Muromachi period ?
    You could say that everything looks like Heian period. >_> Japanese classical art is definitely classifiable, but I'm not going to comment here. Portraits are almost always dramaticized anyways - Masamune, for instance, always had both of his eyes drawn.

    By the way, Kenshin's handwriting, or calligraphy , was really pretty. It does seem feminine, or effeminate, as the case may be. That's just looking at it superficially though. My understanding of written Japanese is Zero.
    So I wouldn't necessarily know what a feminine hand looks like.
    But , though I don't know what I'm looking at, I have looked at many handwriting examples, and it is a pretty handwriting.
    I practice calligraphy. As anyone who knows a bit about brush strokes will tell you - in Chinese/Japanese styled calligraphy, who you learn from his very important. Men have a different application of force than women because of muscle structure - in other words, it's easier for them to write a certain way. For a girl to have a "masculine" style or a guy to have a "feminine" style they'd either have to have been trained from birth (possible, given that one of Kenshin's mentors is supposedly his sister) or they would had to have exceptional ability.

    (And, we're not just talking calligraphy and handwriting, but also writing style and tone which is also feminine. It's worth noting that Kenshin lost his mother pretty much at birth and his father at 6-8.)

    For comparison purposes:

    Shingen's handwriting. Pilfered from random museum from googling.

    Hojo Ujiyasu.

    Hmm, I was wondering, for an AAR I might hopefully eventually write, if there was any nude art in Feudal Japan. According to this article, there apparently wasn't any in the Heian era. At least not any formal art that would be socially exceptable.
    Not appropriate for this topic. You can start up another one if you wish.

    I should have wrote , " His relatives / DESCENDANTS are still around ? "
    Some cultures are more enthusiastic genealogists than others.
    I'm wondering if there are still Japanese Aristocracy who know that they are Japanese aristocracy, people who know what their clan affiliations are , people who would know they are descendants of Kenshin ?
    In some cultures, when the feudal class system passes away, such knowledge is promptly forgotten.

    What you wrote seemed to indicate, present-tense, that Kenshin's remains are still being hidden.
    Indeed. We have on hand a record of my family lineage going back to the 1300-1400s, though unfortunately I will not be the one to inherit that little batch of parchments.

    Remember Kenshin had no biological children. Kagekatsu had children, and there are folks who claim that they are descended from the Ueda Nagao - the same lineage of Kenshin, his sister, and his other siblings. In the same way that many, many claim to be the descent of Takeda Shingen (this is actually sort of rofl - go to Yamanashi, or where Kai used to be. I guarantee you every two out of three street vendors will claim that their wares or their person is directly descended from Takeda Shingen/patroned by the Takeda clan).

    The caretakers at Yonezawa tells everyone that Kenshin's remains was "moved to a location of safety" after the fire of 1940 that nearly destroyed the entire shrine. So ... *shrug* probably. If anyone want to go DNA/analyze him, though, I wish them the very best of luck.

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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Eh this would pretty much require everyone around Kenshin from the moment Kenshin was born to immediately start lying and covering it up saying that this child was a boy. That's the part that seems like a definite stretch.
    Logical paradoxes and giant dragons don't get on.

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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    This really sounds like an urban legend or basically the tabloids' of the past. Bleeding disease of the women? Made me think. Could it be translated to, "Kenshin was 'like a women' who could not ride on certain days, due to some woman-like disease?" It sounds like it could simply be a slanderous statement to dishonor Kenshin to some degree. I imagine weakness was looked down upon, especially by a leader. And the idea that the word beautiful is reserved for women is questionable IMHO. I don't speak for all of feudal Japan, but beauty is a universal thing I thought. They were Buddhists, weren't they?
    Last edited by alexjs; June 26, 2011 at 02:57 PM.
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    Ying, Duke of Qin's Avatar Shisai
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kamos View Post
    Eh this would pretty much require everyone around Kenshin from the moment Kenshin was born to immediately start lying and covering it up saying that this child was a boy. That's the part that seems like a definite stretch.
    Or they could have known about it but didn't care that much. After all, the Nagao clan was in pretty dire straits. A female "daimyo" would have been not unusual (Japan had something like four Empresses, remember?) in the sense that there is no explicit rule forbiding the Katoku (I'm going to use this term to refer to the ruler of the Nagao-Uesugi house, because daimyo is way too generic for our purposes.) to be a woman. However, after Tokugawa passed that male-only edict it would have been extremely bad for the Uesugi if Kenshin was female. Toyotomi also passed something similar, but that incident was not retroactive, which is why Tachibana was so eager to marry Ginchiyo off.

    FYI: If you missed my first post, I fully believe that Kenshin was a guy. For the sake of this discussion, however, I am going to take the other perspective.

    This really sounds like an urban legend or basically the tabloids' of the past. Bleeding disease of the women? Made me think. Could it be translated to, "Kenshin was 'like a women' who could not ride on certain days, due to some woman-like disease?" It sounds like it could simply be a slanderous statement to dishonor Kenshin to some degree. I imagine weakness was looked down upon, especially by a leader. And the idea that the word beautiful is reserved for women is questionable IMHO. I don't speak for all of feudal Japan, but beauty is a universal thing I thought. They were Buddhists, weren't they?
    No. For one, Matsudaira Tadaaki is one of the most reliable historians we have that offers first-hand materials. Secondly, the two events are separate. "Kenshin cannot ride due to stomach pains and cramps" is recorded everywhere - MRNE included, which is considered by many to be an authoritative work on Kenshin's life. "Kenshin died from a woman's disease" is recorded by Matsudaira, in a separate document.

    As for beautiful, there are many kanji for beautiful. I'm afraid I cannot type up that particular one because my computer isn't capable of it, but the modern approximation is something like 丽しき. You would not use that word to describe a male.
    Last edited by Ying, Duke of Qin; June 26, 2011 at 04:32 PM.

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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Ying, I like how you tell a story. Looking forward to the next one if a next one there be.

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    Shashu
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    What the hell is that kanji? Is it modern? It looks like 'ame,' but of course it is not. What is the rest of the hiragana? なんだりかんだりしき

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    Shashu
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    I got it! You mean 麗しい!? (うるわしい)

    Modern approximation, huh? I don't know how far back you're going, but it must be farther than I ever could, because 麗しい is not modern. I'd never heard anyone say that before. When I asked my principal about it today, she said they don't say it anymore because that type of woman no longer exists, or is at least very rare.

    But it was a good chance for me to learn some new complimentary adjectives about the ladies. Gonna bust one or two out the next time I go out, maybe tonight.
    Last edited by BlueMonkE; June 26, 2011 at 10:17 PM.

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    Good ole Reb's Avatar Aquilifer
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueMonkE View Post
    When I asked my principal about it today, she said they don't say it anymore because that type of woman no longer exists, or is at least very rare.
    Okay, well now I'm curious. Just what type of woman is it that no longer exists?
    Your reality sir, is lies and balderdash, and I'm happy to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!


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    Shashu
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Well, as was stated, there are many ways to write beautiful, and some carry different nuances.

    Now, I'm definitely not a kanji expert; I've only been living in Japan for three years and studying is not my strong point, plus I don't typically have a lot of free time. Anyway, excuses aside, I'll take a swing at it. Granted the OP has a way better handle on this than I do, and given that only half the kanji was written in the previous post, it might not even be 麗しい, but I've got a strong feeling it is.

    麗しい, 麗しく; this type of beauty encompasses a lot more than just physical looks. It is a woman (and as was said, ONLY a woman) who is graceful, dignified, noble, angelically beautiful, and on and on. For example,

    It is a woman who walks in a quiet and graceful manner, never strolling on tramping along like a normal person.

    She would never let out a boisterous laugh or speak in a raised voice, but always laugh lightly behind a raised hand, she would demur and speak in a reserved and utterly polite fashion.

    Maybe, like if you had a speck of dirt on your collar, instead of brushing it away she might most gently and lightly pluck away the offending bit, while at the same time apologizing for inconveniencing you and maybe even tossing in a compliment.

    I was told it's the kind of beauty and poise that would charm anyone. Basically, it's the old-fashioned idealized Japanese lady, who is also a one-of-a-kind beauty.

    So we got to talking about it in the teachers' room and it was generally agreed upon that while this type of woman had always been rare, now they are basically extinct. It's not a word you cannot throw around lightly, it has too much meaning. And because it is so charged with meaning, no one can match be criteria.

    That was probably a rather confused explanation, and might not have clarified anything, but it's a little hard to explain in English. Japanese does not lend itself to direct translation, there's a lot of nuance to consider.

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    Good ole Reb's Avatar Aquilifer
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Very interesting. I appreciate you taking the time to answer in such great detail.

    It's sad to think that women such as this are extinct, or perhaps it's better said that they are indeed very rare, as are most precious things.

    Ying, sorry to derail your interesting thread, carry on, please.
    Your reality sir, is lies and balderdash, and I'm happy to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!


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    Shashu
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Indeed!

    m(_ _)m

    But please do let me know if that's the right kanji...

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    Ranmaru~Mori's Avatar Ikko-Ikki
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Very nice read Ying. I myself am a, for lack of a better term, huuuge fan of Kenshin too. As such I've always heard about the rumors of him being a woman, but never as in depth as you've provided. Kudos to you.

    Personally, I wish he was a she, but as it is it's really too vague, and most of history, even in his life, he's been considered a him... However the evidence is there for him being a woman, so, for now, I'll just call him a he until it's proven decisively, if only because calling one of the greatest leaders of the Sengoku era- if not of all time- an it would just be plain disrespectful.

    ... Or maybe I can call Kenshin "Bi". Ohohoho... Haha... Sorry, a little bit of historical humor there, pardon me. (For mods and others: Bi as in the first character in "Bi"shamonten)

  19. #19
    Ying, Duke of Qin's Avatar Shisai
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    It's sad to think that women such as this are extinct, or perhaps it's better said that they are indeed very rare, as are most precious things.
    Oh, I don't know. There are a few still floating around.

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueMonkE View Post
    I got it! You mean 麗しい!? (うるわしい)

    Modern approximation, huh? I don't know how far back you're going, but it must be farther than I ever could, because 麗しい is not modern. I'd never heard anyone say that before. When I asked my principal about it today, she said they don't say it anymore because that type of woman no longer exists, or is at least very rare.

    But it was a good chance for me to learn some new complimentary adjectives about the ladies. Gonna bust one or two out the next time I go out, maybe tonight.
    I call anything post Kamakura modern, but your explanation is very good. うるわしき can be read in a few ways, one of which is that sort of "angelic" description you gave. This kind of classic beauty was also used to describe Tomoe Gozen, so it gives you an idea of what kind of women it's often applied to.

    One of the incidents in which the MRNE (Military Records of Northern Echigo, something I cite frequently) used this term to describe Kenshin at the time right before his/her death. He/she didn't really look 49, at any rate.

    So we know that Kenshin at least went peacefully, anyways.

    Very nice read Ying. I myself am a, for lack of a better term, huuuge fan of Kenshin too. As such I've always heard about the rumors of him being a woman, but never as in depth as you've provided. Kudos to you.

    Personally, I wish he was a she, but as it is it's really too vague, and most of history, even in his life, he's been considered a him... However the evidence is there for him being a woman, so, for now, I'll just call him a he until it's proven decisively, if only because calling one of the greatest leaders of the Sengoku era- if not of all time- an it would just be plain disrespectful.

    ... Or maybe I can call Kenshin "Bi". Ohohoho... Haha... Sorry, a little bit of historical humor there, pardon me. (For mods and others: Bi as in the first character in "Bi"shamonten)
    Join me in my mod project.

    On topic. The only reason why I posted something like this is because Uesugi Kenshin's gender can be ambiguous. Genderbending, while popular in Japan, is mostly done for the lolz except for instances like this, where the rumors perpetuated themselves even before the internet came out. Regardless of it was a he or a she, the accomplishments - in either case - is very impressive. I've pointed it out in my Kawanakajima thread that Kenshin's brilliance as a military commander is unmatched.

    Disrespectful? Hardly. The historical Kenshin, male or female, cared very little for personal prestige or glory. And just imagine if the God of War was really a woman - she would have been remarkable. I might have to seriously reconsider my orientation if Kenshin did turn out to be a she -

    Eeh, but you know, again, the whole disinterested-in-personal-relationships thing. We know that Kenshin was a very doting uncle - especially on his adopted sons Kagekatsu and Kagetora. Then there's that one Portuguese document that referred to Kenshin as Tia (aunt) rather than uncle... but I'm not going to cite that here. The validity of the Portuguese one is questionable at best, though people enjoys citing it for a number of reasons. My personal gripes with that letter is that if some random gaijin knew that Kenshin was female, then it clearly wasn't much of a secret.

    ... But maybe it wasn't. There's some popular songs at the time, as I noted, that talk about Kenshin as if he was a woman. So...
    Last edited by Ying, Duke of Qin; June 27, 2011 at 01:54 AM.

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    Ranmaru~Mori's Avatar Ikko-Ikki
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    Default Re: Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?

    Hm! I'd love to, but I'm afraid I know little about modding. Perhaps we should take this portion of the conversation to PMs?

    Ah, I haven't read your Kawanakajima thread yet, being new here, but I think I'll go check it out, especially after this topic. And, indeed, she would have been. Not to say it's unthinkable a woman could be one of the greatest leaders and military minds in all of history, but that it's so unlikely that if it DID happen, it'd be pretty awesome. Still, something about calling someone I regard very highly an "it" seems... Off to me, haha.

    Ah, and mistake upon my part. I meant using bi as a prounoun in place of he/she/it, not anything else, especially not sexual orientation, hence the note at the end there, haha... Seems I made a failed joke. And yeah, I meant to ask why you didn't mention the Portuguese, since I hear that as one of the main arguments all the time.

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