In many ways, the Shiba family is a contradiction. Descended from the Kami, the Shiba deliberately choose to serve their clan not by asserting control, but rather by faithful service. It is a curious choice, but one that they continue in honor of the Kami that they were descended from, the God who knelt before a man.
The Shiba family is often viewed by outsiders as weak and ineffectual due to their choice to serve as protectors of the Isawa. Add the fact that the Shiba are also known to practice the less martial pursuits of the samurai, such as studying the Tao or the arts and it’s easy to underestimate them.
Of course, the Shiba are actually far more competent than their attitudes and bearing make them out to be. Shiba bushi are incredible capable at protecting their Isawa Shugenja, and their focus on polearm weapons such as spears and naginata, combined with their intricate (and finely crafted) armor make each one a force to be reckoned with.
While the Shiba might not have the glory and reputation of the Lion or the Crab in terms of combat, they are perhaps the most welcome in the courts. Their knowledge, education, bearing and attitudes towards a peaceful option before drawing steel is always a good thing in the eyes of any Courtier.
I’ve always had a soft spot for this family. The Shiba represent not just Humility but also a stalwart devotion to Duty. They gave their word and they take it seriously. While there are exceptions to the stereotype, the Shiba family are generally level-headed and stick to the ideals of peace before violence.
This selfless martyrdom is perhaps the purest manifestation of the Phoenix clan’s ideals, and is a fertile ground for a multitude of interesting characters. One of the most memorable characters I’ve played is a Shiba bodyguard with a mountain of regrets that give him the strength and will to survive and thrive in hopeless situations.