A Beauty’s Hardships in the Warring Kingdoms

Spoiler Alert!

Where are you?

Blinking quickly and looking around, you find yourself in an unfamiliar forest.

You walk around a bit, but are still unable to get your bearings.

Sitting on the ground, you try to recall what happened today…

It was the morning of April 15th, 20XX. You had spent a late-nighter reading up on the Age of Warring States. History has always been fascinating to you!

School ended after the fifth period that day, leaving you unable to do your agriculture presentation. You even bought purebred seeds from the garden shop for this! Ecchan and Ritsuko invited you to go with them to a karaoke lounge, but you turned them down. After all, you wanted to help your grandfather with his farm work!

You were walking home after buying a book about the history of weapons for your elder sister. After that…

After that…?

For some reason, you only draw a blank.

You hear a rustling sound from behind.

“That’s a strange-looking woman!”

Turning around, you see four dirty, unkempt men wearing only scraps of armor and clothing. They look like brigands from the past! Is someone shooting a movie nearby?

You don’t like the leers on their faces…

You’d better…RUN!

After a moment of running blindly, something pulls on your bag and you find yourself falling onto the ground.

One of the men gets on top of you!

No! No! No. No…

“Aaaghk!”

Something emerges from the brigand’s chest, causing him to rise up and gurgle in pain.

As he falls to one side, you see someone else behind him…a man in Japanese armor carrying a spear with blood on its head. And he’s not alone.

“Miscreant! We shall not allow such vile acts in our lord’s territory!”

The other three brigands run away.

Did he just…kill…someone?! Is this really happening?!?

“What’s all this commotion?”

A strong, authoritative voice from a short distance away catches your attention.

“My lord!”

You see a man on horseback approach you.

Huh?

That crest…that katana with a golden guard…that strong prescence…

You’ve seen his picture in history books, so it’s impossible. And yet, there’s no mistake…

Oda Kazusanosuke Saburou Taira no Ason Nobunaga (織田上総介三郎平朝臣信長).”, you blurt.

He gets off his horse and suddenly draws his katana, aiming it at your face!

“Do you have a death wish?”

A Beauty’s Hardships in the Warring Kingdoms (戦国小町苦労譚, Sengoku Komachi Kurō Tan, lit. “Warring State Beauty Hardships”) is a web novel, light novel series and manga written by Kyochikuto (夾竹桃, Kyōchikutō).

Shizuko Ayanokouji, a high school student and an agriculture enthusiast, suddenly finds herself in an unfamiliar forest. A moment later, she is rescued from brigands by a group of men in Japanese armor and is approached by their leader, a man she recognizes from history books as the legendary daimyo, Nobunaga Oda. With Nobunaga and his men suspicious of her strange appearance and belongings, Shizuko offers them her knowledge of modern-day agriculture techniques, passing it off as from the Nanban (南蛮, Nanban, “southern barbarians”). Intrigued, the open-minded Nobunaga accepts the offer and assigns her as chief of a struggling village in his domain. After some discreet questions, Shizuko learns that it is now the third month of Eiroku 8 (1565 A.D.), in the midst of Japan’s Age of Warring States (戦国時代, Sengoku Jidai).

Red or black rice is the staple food during the Age of Warring States

In addition to rice, Shizuko grows many crops not yet introduced to Japan at that point (e.g. sweet potatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomatoes) using purebred seeds. She also grows sugarcane and builds mushroom farms, allowing the village to produce sugar and shiitake mushrooms, both of which are considered valuable during the Age of Warring States. Pleased with Shizuko’s progress, Nobunaga assigns more land, workers and guards to her. To manage her growing community, Shizuko uses bulletin boards, sundials and the Gregorian calendar to ensure timely communication. She also starts up a technology town with the goal of teaching craftsmen to make items based on modern-day necessities, such as bamboo flasks with screw-on lids and cotton futons.

In the past, a small amount of shiitake mushrooms could buy a castle!

Nobunaga gradually uses Shizuko’s knowledge for his military campaigns. She also creates gunpowder and muskets for the Oda army using a book about weapons she originally purchased for her elder sister. After becoming Nobunaga’s advisor, Shizuko uses her modern-day historical knowledge to provide several strategic advantages to the Oda clan and its allies. As her reputation grows, she gains the notice and respect of several famous people, such as Yoshinari Mori, Lady Nō, Shigeharu Takenaka (“Hanbei”) and Ieyasu Tokugawa.

After making several dozen copies of Shizuko’s crossbow, Nobunaga tests their use in battle

Meanwhile, two other people from the modern era survive as well – Mitsuo Tanaka, a middle-aged breeder, and Ashimitsu, a mysterious man and a long-time friend of the Ayanokouji family. Three years after the time slip, these two learn about and meet Shizuko. Discussing their experiences, the three learn that they all travelled back in time at the same moment and Mitsuo was riding a bus that had an accident…

Their last memory from the modern day…

Main Characters

Shizuko Ayanokouji (綾小路 静子, Ayanokōji Shizuko), advisor to the Oda clan, town leader and former high school student. Humble, passionate and somewhat innocent, she has a keen interest in agriculture and history. The granddaughter of an agricultural expert, Shizuko understands the need for proper technique, meticulous care and tools to ensure a good harvest. Although she has some skill in a crossbow after using it for hunting, Shizuko’s true talents lie in her modern-day knowledge, which has enabled the rapid advance of agriculture and technology in Nobunaga’s domain. Her historical knowledge also allows her to advise Nobunaga in military and political matters. Shizuko is also reasonably skilled in other areas such as mathematics, English, health and the production of various goods (e.g. porcelain, cotton, modern farming technology).

Shizuko with Saizo Kani and Keiji Maeda

Nobunaga Oda (織田 信長, Oda Nobunaga), a powerful daimyo (feudal lord) and head of the Oda clan based in Owari province (now part of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture). Ambitious, charismatic and strong-willed, he is unusually curious and open-minded compared to many people of his day. After taking Shizuko into his service, Nobunaga quickly learns the value of her skills and gradually gives her more political power and territory. Keen on conquest, he is particularly hungry for the girl’s knowledge on weapons and military strategy, which she restricts in order to prevent history from changing too much. Nobunaga has shrewdly used Shizuko’s advice to craft strategies in battle, such as using random skirmishes to exhaust a besieged army and igniting alcohol to create momentary conflagrations, causing enemy soldiers to panic.

Lady Noh (濃姫, Nōhime), Nobunaga’s wife. Graceful and shrewd, she is every bit as curious and open-minded as her husband. After taking an interest in Shizuko’s unusual cooking, Lady Noh sometimes visits her to sample her unique dishes such as tempura, yakitori (chicken) and fried rice. Unlike many women of her time, she values innovation and encourages others to do the same.

Lady Noh

Yoshinari Mori (森 可成, Mori Yoshinari), a samurai and Nobunaga’s trusted retainer. Observant, clever and firm, he has watched over Shizuko since she was taken in by the Oda clan. He soon learns to trust her despite her mysterious origins thanks to her contributions to the Oda clan. Later, he entrusts Shizuko with the care and education of his young son, Nagayoshi Mori.

Aya (彩, Aya), Shizuko’s handmaid. Quiet and reserved, she is also a spy assigned by Nobunaga and Yoshinari to observe Shizuko and, if possible, discover the source of her miraculous knowledge.

Wittman, a male grey wolf. He was found injured and starving by Shizuko when she went hunting one day. After he was nursed back to health, he became the girl’s loyal pet. Later, Wittman leaves and returns with a mate in tow, resulting in the birth of an entire pack of grey wolves loyal to Shizuko.

Shizuko with Wittman and his mate

Personal Thoughts

You’d need decent knowledge of Japanese culture and history to appreciate this story’s context, but it provides specific information as needed.

The most interesting part is how the story gives some details about everyday life during the Age of Warring States, one of most famous and violent times of Japanese history. Peasants had to sleep in hay or their own clothes and were only able to wash themselves with a wet cloth. Due to superstitions, meat and other sources of protein were not usually eaten despite the abundance of game in nearby forests. Since there were no clocks, it was hard for people to be on time. Modern farming techniques and technology were not yet developed, so farming was backbreaking work with not much crop yield, especially by modern day standards. Many things that we now take for granted simply didn’t exist, making us only wonder how people from the past survived.

Thanks to Shizuko’s tools, tilling the fields on a rainy day in June is no longer a backbreaking task!

Unlike Nobunaga, most daimyo were staunch traditionalists, so they would be unlikely to give a woman a role in military or political affairs. When daimyo conquer a city or town, they often allow their soldiers to pillage it as a reward. In contrast to the stories, manga and anime that romanticize the Age of Warring States, many daimyo were actually rather callous to those who were not samurai or nobles, since Japanese culture emphasizes the importance of a strict social hierarchy. Even now, it is common courtesy in Japan to be respectful to superiors of any sort, even if they are family members or workmates.

A demonstration of Nobunaga’s neverending curiosity.

The heroine Shizuko uses her modern-day knowledge (and some seeds) to bring about a time of new concepts, ideas and invention to the past, much like many other isekai heroes. Her imported knowledge not only improves the quality of life of everyday people, but also gives advantages to the Oda army. In particular, Shizuko’s modern-day agriculture enables the growth of a huge amount of crops, both old and new. With this, the Oda clan’s armies and villages became well-supplied, enabling them to gain the strength to prosper and fight. It’s easy to take food for granted, but we can’t do without it.

Moral

A public service announcement!

Be grateful for what we have now, because it’s always possible for life to be even harder.

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