Toshi no Omoidoso holds an annual festival, to commemorate the local folk hero, Matsu Hitomi. The event is coordinated by the Lion and the Phoenix. Representatives of all clans attend the festival to honor the hero.
The primary feature of the Festival is a re-enactment of the battle to take the city. Each year, a promising samurai-ko takes on the role of Hitomi, and leads the defenders against the forces of her lover, Akodo Godaigo. The roles of the commanders are traditionally chosen as the top male and female finishers in a tournament leading up to the event. Many Lion Clan samurai traditionally turnout for this honor, as well as hopeful samurai-ko from other clans, as tradition has it that a maiden that wins as Hitomi, is favored by Benten and will be blessed with a romantic life.
The tournament is intended to honor and replicate the life of Matsu Hitomi. As such, it is a celebration of Love and Honor. Competing samurai may earn points for a number of available competitions, overseen by expert judges from the Lion, Phoenix, and Imperial families. The festival directors this year are Kitsu Shanegon, and Agasha Shizuka. The pair is trying to find a balance between the military aspect of the day and the spiritual one.
The city begins to swell with extra samurai from all over the empire, especially Lion Clan samurai. The wait at the city gates becomes longer and longer as more and more warriors and merchants huddle to get in. The inns begin to fill up and prices quickly rise for the few rooms available.
In order to stem a flood of samurai presenting themselves to the local lord’s estate, Agasha Tadamo has arranged a small tent near the city gates to briefly greet new arrivals and exchange pleasantries.
Not far from the local daimyo’s tent is a station set up for samurai to sign up for the tournament that will take place as part of the festival ceremony.
Each participant is expected to sign his name and lineage and accept a token to wear for the duration of the festival, designating them as a contestant.
The first day of the festival is a parade in the honor of Matsu Hitomi. A ceremonial statue is marched through town on a giant palanquin, trailed by dancers, drummers, musicians, and monks. A great crowd of supplicants goes to the shrine to pay homage.
Once respects have been shown, a great celebration ensues. Vendors sell sweets and sake at virtually every intersection and every plaza has drummers or musicians. There are plays featured in the play halls and the streets, re-telling the story of the great Lion Paragon, by Kabuki, by Noh, and with puppets. Most of the citizens drink heartily and wake up with a headache, and Hiruma Nokatsu was no exception, while Shiba Tetsujin-no Sodona and Shinjo Lily managed to gracefully decline over-indulging.
On the second day of the Festival the tournament was held with each contestant being given a list of the events and their locations, and left to their own devices to attend in whatever order they desire. Any event they did not want to participate in, they were able to merely skip, they simply received no points for that event. The more experienced samurai bet on the participants.
The events, were Poetry – both composition and presentation, Kenjutsu, Kyujutsu, History, Theology, Bushido Lore, and Battle strategy. Each contestant was awarded one point for a ‘satisfactory’ answer or skill demonstration, with potential bonus points at the judges’ discretion for exceptional displays of skill or knowledge. Testusjin and Lily did well, with Tetsujin placing second overall in the mens’ division with 29 points overall earning 2 koku in prize money, while Lily placed third in the women’s group with 27. Nokatsu’s training among the Crab left him ill prepared for virtually every event, but he managed to take 12 points overall. The winning competitors were Shiba Ishi for the females with 32 points, and Akodo Denbei for the males. The next day, a complex ceremony was performed by the Kitsu Sodan-Senzo – calling upon the ancestors to bless the victors as they took the roles they had earned as the honorary heads of the two armies that would take place in the mock battle reenacting the fateful day of Matsu Hitomi’s death.
As inexperienced samurai, Tetsujin, Lily, and Nokatsu were assigned roles among the front lines among the most heavily engaged troops. Shinjo Lily, fell in a heroic attempt to hold the gates of the fortress against impossible odds, while Shiba Tetsujin was defeated in personal combat by Daidoji Karasu atop the wall. Hiruma Nokatsu fared a little battle, crushing Daigotsu Yugore in a Test of Might at the gates when they first gave way before falling beneath a flood of invaders as they rushed into the breach.
Having been ruled ‘out’ by the judges, the trio were able to watch the resolution of the battle, as the overwhelming numbers of the attacking group repeated history once again, and Shiba Ishi, as Matsu Hitomi plunged from the tower (into the waiting arms of summoned air spirits that kept her from coming to harm).
Following the battle, most of the city erupted into revelry once more.
The three young samurai awakened to find that each had received a summons from Otomo Miharu – an Imperial matchmaker that had come to the ceremony specifically to find un-married samurai he could match in the most politically advantageous marriages possible. In due course, each donned his or her finest apparel, and marched up the hill to be presented to the Imperial. Miharu had tea with each, and engaged them in conversation – subtly probing the mind and temperament of each to see where they would best serve the Empire, before being dismissed without a clue of their fate.