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Tales of Old Japan by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford

Part 2 out of 7

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Province of Inaba. Among his retainers were two gentlemen, named
Watanabe Yukiye and Kawai Matazayemon, who were bound together by
strong ties of friendship, and were in the habit of frequently
visiting at one another's houses. One day Yukiye was sitting
conversing with Matazayemon in the house of the latter, when, on a
sudden, a sword that was lying in the raised part of the room caught
his eye. As he saw it, he started and said--

"Pray tell me, how came you by that sword?"

"Well, as you know, when my Lord Ikeda followed my Lord Tokugawa
Iyeyasu to fight at Nagakude, my father went in his train; and it was
at the battle of Nagakude that he picked up this sword."

"My father went too, and was killed in the fight, and this sword,
which was an heirloom in our family for many generations, was lost at
that time. As it is of great value in my eyes, I do wish that, if you
set no special store by it, you would have the great kindness to
return it to me."

"That is a very easy matter, and no more than what one friend should
do by another. Pray take it."

Upon this Yukiye gratefully took the sword, and having carried it home
put it carefully away.

At the beginning of the ensuing year Matazayemon fell sick and died,
and Yukiye, mourning bitterly for the loss of his good friend, and
anxious to requite the favour which he had received in the matter of
his father's sword, did many acts of kindness to the dead man's
son--a young man twenty-two years of age, named Matagoro.

Now this Matagoro was a base-hearted cur, who had begrudged the sword
that his father had given to Yukiye, and complained publicly and often
that Yukiye had never made any present in return; and in this way
Yukiye got a bad name in my Lord's palace as a stingy and illiberal

But Yukiye had a son, called Kazuma, a youth sixteen years of age, who
served as one of the Prince's pages of honour. One evening, as he and
one of his brother pages were talking together, the latter said--

"Matagoro is telling everybody that your father accepted a handsome
sword from him and never made him any present in return, and people
are beginning to gossip about it."

"Indeed," replied the other, "my father received that sword from
Matagoro's father as a mark of friendship and good-will, and,
considering that it would be an insult to send a present of money in
return, thought to return the favour by acts of kindness towards
Matagoro. I suppose it is money he wants."

When Kazuma's service was over, he returned home, and went to his
father's room to tell him the report that was being spread in the
palace, and begged him to send an ample present of money to Matagoro.
Yukrye reflected for a while, and said--

"You are too young to understand the right line of conduct in such
matters. Matagoro's father and myself were very close friends; so,
seeing that he had ungrudgingly given me back the sword of my
ancestors, I, thinking to requite his kindness at his death, rendered
important services to Matagoro. It would be easy to finish the matter
by sending a present of money; but I had rather take the sword and
return it than be under an obligation to this mean churl, who knows
not the laws which regulate the intercourse and dealings of men of
gentle blood."

So Yukiye, in his anger, took the sword to Matagoro's house, and said
to him--

"I have come to your house this night for no other purpose than to
restore to you the sword which your father gave me;" and with this he
placed the sword before Matagoro.

"Indeed," replied the other, "I trust that you will not pain me by
returning a present which my father made you."

"Amongst men of gentle birth," said Yukiye, laughing scornfully, "it
is the custom to requite presents, in the first place by kindness, and
afterwards by a suitable gift offered with a free heart. But it is no
use talking to such as you, who are ignorant of the first principles
of good breeding; so I have the honour to give you back the sword."

As Yukiye went on bitterly to reprove Matagoro, the latter waxed very
wroth, and, being a ruffian, would have killed Yukiye on the spot; but
he, old man as he was, was a skilful swordsman, so Matagoro,
craven-like, determined to wait until he could attack him unawares.
Little suspecting any treachery, Yukiye started to return home, and
Matagoro, under the pretence of attending him to the door, came behind
him with his sword drawn and cut him in the shoulder. The older man,
turning round, drew and defended himself; but having received a severe
wound in the first instance, he fainted away from loss of blood, and
Matagoro slew him.

The mother of Matagoro, startled by the noise, came out; and when she
saw what had been done, she was afraid, and said--"Passionate man!
what have you done? You are a murderer; and now your life will be
forfeit. What terrible deed is this!"

"I have killed him now, and there's nothing to be done. Come, mother,
before the matter becomes known, let us fly together from this house."

"I will follow you; do you go and seek out my Lord Abe Shirogoro, a
chief among the Hatamotos,[16] who was my foster-child. You had better
fly to him for protection, and remain in hiding."

[Footnote 16: _Hatamotos._ The Hatamotos were the feudatory nobles of
the Shogun or Tycoon. The office of Taikun having been abolished, the
Hatamotos no longer exist. For further information respecting them,
see the note at the end of the story.]

So the old woman persuaded her son to make his escape, and sent him to
the palace of Shirogoro.

Now it happened that at this time the Hatamotos had formed themselves
into a league against the powerful Daimios; and Abe Shirogoro, with
two other noblemen, named Kondo Noborinosuke and Midzuno Jiurozayemon,
was at the head of the league. It followed, as a matter of course,
that his forces were frequently recruited by vicious men, who had no
means of gaining their living, and whom he received and entreated
kindly without asking any questions as to their antecedents; how much
the more then, on being applied to for an asylum by the son of his own
foster-mother, did he willingly extend his patronage to him, and
guarantee him against all danger. So he called a meeting of the
principal Hatamotos, and introduced Matagoro to them, saying--"This
man is a retainer of Ikeda Kunaishoyu, who, having cause of hatred
against a man named Watanabe Yukiye, has slain him, and has fled to me
for protection; this man's mother suckled me when I was an infant,
and, right or wrong, I will befriend him. If, therefore, Ikeda
Kunaishoyu should send to require me to deliver him up, I trust that
you will one and all put forth your strength and help me to defend

"Ay! that will we, with pleasure!" replied Kondo Noborinosuke. "We
have for some time had cause to complain of the scorn with which the
Daimios have treated us. Let Ikeda Kunaishoyu send to claim this man,
and we will show him the power of the Hatamotos."

All the other Hatamotos, with one accord, applauded this
determination, and made ready their force for an armed resistance,
should my Lord Kunaishoyu send to demand the surrender of Matugoro.
But the latter remained as a welcome guest in the house of Abe


Now when Watanabe Kazuma saw that, as the night advanced, his father
Yukiye did not return home, he became anxious, and went to the house
of Matagoro to seek for him, and finding to his horror that he was
murdered, fell upon the corpse and, embraced it, weeping. On a sudden,
it flashed across him that this must assuredly be the handiwork of
Matagoro; so he rushed furiously into the house, determined to kill
his father's murderer upon the spot. But Matagoro had already fled,
and he found only the mother, who was making her preparations for
following her son to the house of Abe Shirogoro: so he bound the old
woman, and searched all over the house for her son; but, seeing that
his search was fruitless, he carried off the mother, and handed her
over to one of the elders of the clan, at the same time laying
information against Matagoro as his father's murderer. When the affair
was reported to the Prince, he was very angry, and ordered that the
old woman should remain bound and be cast into prison until the
whereabouts of her son should be discovered. Then Kazuma buried his
father's corpse with great pomp, and the widow and the orphan mourned
over their loss.

It soon became known amongst the people of Abe Shirogoro that the
mother of Matagoro had been imprisoned for her son's crime, and they
immediately set about planning her rescue; so they sent to the palace
of my Lord Kunaishoyu a messenger, who, when he was introduced to the
councillor of the Prince, said--

"We have heard that, in consequence of the murder of Yukiye, my lord
has been pleased to imprison the mother of Matagoro. Our master
Shirogoro has arrested the criminal, and will deliver him up to you.
But the mother has committed no crime, so we pray that she may be
released from a cruel imprisonment: she was the foster-mother of our
master, and he would fain intercede to save her life. Should you
consent to this, we, on our side, will give up the murderer, and hand
him over to you in front of our master's gate to-morrow."

The councillor repeated this message to the Prince, who, in his
pleasure at being able to give Kazuma his revenge on the morrow,
immediately agreed to the proposal, and the messenger returned
triumphant at the success of the scheme. On the following day, the
Prince ordered the mother of Matagoro to be placed in a litter and
carried to the Hatamoto's dwelling, in charge of a retainer named
Sasawo Danyemon, who, when he arrived at the door of Abe Shirogoro's
house, said--

"I am charged to hand over to you the mother of Matagoro, and, in
exchange, I am authorized to receive her son at your hands."

"We will immediately give him up to you; but, as the mother and son
are now about to bid an eternal farewell to one another, we beg you to
be so kind as to tarry a little."

With this the retainers of Shirogoro led the old woman inside their
master's house, and Sasawo Danyemon remained waiting outside, until at
last he grew impatient, and ventured to hurry on the people within.

"We return you many thanks," replied they, "for your kindness in
bringing us the mother; but, as the son cannot go with you at present,
you had better return home as quickly as possible. We are afraid we
have put you to much trouble." And so they mocked him.

When Danyemon saw that he had not only been cheated into giving up the
old woman, but was being made a laughing-stock of into the bargain, he
flew into a great rage, and thought to break into the house and seize
Matagoro and his mother by force; but, peeping into the courtyard, he
saw that it was filled with Hatamotos, carrying guns and naked swords.
Not caring then to die fighting a hopeless battle, and at the same
time feeling that, after having been so cheated, he would be put to
shame before his lord, Sasawo Danyemon went to the burial-place of his
ancestors, and disembowelled himself in front of their graves.

[Illustration: THE DEATH OF DANYEMON.]

When the Prince heard how his messenger had been treated, he was
indignant, and summoning his councillors resolved, although he was
suffering from sickness, to collect his retainers and attack Abe
Shirogoro; and the other chief Daimios, when the matter became
publicly known, took up the cause, and determined that the Hatamotos
must be chastised for their insolence. On their side, the Hatamotos
put forth all their efforts to resist the Daimios. So Yedo became
disturbed, and the riotous state of the city caused great anxiety to
the Government, who took counsel together how they might restore
peace. As the Hatamotos were directly under the orders of the Shogun,
it was no difficult matter to put them down: the hard question to
solve was how to put a restraint upon the great Daimios. However, one
of the Gorojin,[17] named Matsudaira Idzu no Kami, a man of great
intelligence, hit upon a plan by which he might secure this end.

[Footnote 17: The first Council of the Shogun's ministers; literally,
"assembly of imperial elders."]

There was at this time in the service of the Shogun a physician, named
Nakarai Tsusen, who was in the habit of frequenting the palace of my
Lord Kunaishoyu, and who for some time past had been treating him for
the disease from which he was suffering. Idzu no Kami sent secretly
for this physician, and, summoning him to his private room, engaged
him in conversation, in the midst of which he suddenly dropped his
voice and said to him in a whisper--

"Listen, Tsusen. You have received great favours at the hands of the
Shogun. The Government is now sorely straitened: are you willing to
carry your loyalty so far as to lay down your life on its behalf?"

"Ay, my lord; for generations my forefathers have held their property
by the grace of the Shogun. I am willing this night to lay down my
life for my Prince, as a faithful vassal should."

"Well, then, I will tell you. The great Daimios and the Hatamotos
have fallen out about this affair of Matagoro, and lately it has
seemed as if they meant to come to blows. The country will be
agitated, and the farmers and townsfolk suffer great misery, if we
cannot quell the tumult. The Hatamotos will be easily kept under, but
it will be no light task to pacify the great Daimios. If you are
willing to lay down your life in carrying out a stratagem of mine,
peace will be restored to the country; but your loyalty will be your

"I am ready to sacrifice my life in this service."

"This is my plan. You have been attending my Lord Kunaishoyu in his
sickness; to-morrow you must go to see him, and put poison in his
physic. If we can kill him, the agitation will cease. This is the
service which I ask of you."

Tsusen agreed to undertake the deed; and on the following day, when he
went to see Kunaishoyu, he carried with him poisoned drugs. Half the
draught he drank himself,[18] and thus put the Prince off his guard,
so that he swallowed the remainder fearlessly. Tsusen, seeing this,
hurried away, and as he was carried home in his litter the death-agony
seized him, and he died, vomiting blood.

[Footnote 18: A physician attending a personage of exalted rank has
always to drink half the potion he prescribes as a test of his good

My Lord Kunaishoyu died in the same way in great torture, and in the
confusion attending upon his death and funeral ceremonies the struggle
which was impending with the Hatamotos was delayed.

In the meanwhile the Gorojiu Idzu no Kami summoned the three leaders
of the Hatamotos and addressed them as follows--

"The secret plottings and treasonable, turbulent conduct of you three
men, so unbecoming your position as Hatamotos, have enraged my lord
the Shogun to such a degree, that he has been pleased to order that
you be imprisoned in a temple, and that your patrimony be given over
to your next heirs."

Accordingly the three Hatamotos, after having been severely
admonished, were confined in a temple called Kanyeiji; and the
remaining Hatamotos, scared by this example, dispersed in peace. As
for the great Daimios, inasmuch as after the death of my Lord
Kunaishoyu the Hatamotos were all dispersed, there was no enemy left
for them to fight with; so the tumult was quelled, and peace was

Thus it happened that Matagoro lost his patron; so, taking his mother
with him, he went and placed himself under the protection of an old
man named Sakurai Jiuzayemon. This old man was a famous teacher of
lance exercise, and enjoyed both wealth and honour; so he took in
Matagoro, and having engaged as a guard thirty Ronins, all resolute
fellows and well skilled in the arts of war, they all fled together to
a distant place called Sagara.

All this time Watanabe Kazuma had been brooding over his father's
death, and thinking how he should be revenged upon the murderer; so
when my Lord Kunaishoyu suddenly died, he went to the young Prince
who succeeded him and obtained leave of absence to go and seek out
his father's enemy. Now Kazuma's elder sister was married to a man
named Araki Matayemon, who at that time was famous as the first
swordsman in Japan. As Kazuma was but sixteen years of age, this
Matayemon, taking into consideration his near relationship as
son-in-law to the murdered man, determined to go forth with the lad,
as his guardian, and help him to seek out Matagoro; and two of
Matayemon's retainers, named Ishidome Busuke and Ikezoye Magohachi,
made up their minds, at all hazards, to follow their master. The
latter, when he heard their intention, thanked them, but refused the
offer, saying that as he was now about to engage in a vendetta in
which his life would be continually in jeopardy, and as it would be a
lasting grief to him should either of them receive a wound in such a
service, he must beg them to renounce their intention; but they

"Master, this is a cruel speech of yours. All these years have we
received nought but kindness and favours at your hands; and now that
you are engaged in the pursuit of this murderer, we desire to follow
you, and, if needs must, to lay down our lives in your service.
Furthermore, we have heard that the friends of this Matagoro are no
fewer than thirty-six men; so, however bravely you may fight, you will
be in peril from the superior numbers of your enemy. However, if you
are pleased to persist in your refusal to take us, we have made up our
minds that there is no resource for us but to disembowel ourselves on
the spot."

When Matayemon and Kazuma heard these words, they wondered at these
faithful and brave men, and were moved to tears. Then Matayemon said--

"The kindness of you two brave fellows is without precedent. Well,
then, I will accept your services gratefully."

Then the two men, having obtained their wish, cheerfully followed
their master; and the four set out together upon their journey to seek
out Matagoro, of whose whereabouts they were completely ignorant.

Matagoro in the meanwhile had made his way, with the old man Sakurai
Jiuzayemon and his thirty Ronins, to Osaka. But, strong as they were
in numbers, they travelled in great secrecy. The reason for this was
that the old man's younger brother, Sakurai Jinsuke, a fencing-master
by profession, had once had a fencing-match with Matayemon, Kazuma's
brother-in-law, and had been shamefully beaten; so that the party were
greatly afraid of Matayemon, and felt that, since he was taking up
Kazuma's cause and acting as his guardian, they might be worsted in
spite of their numbers: so they went on their way with great caution,
and, having reached Osaka, put up at an inn in a quarter called
Ikutama, and hid from Kazuma and Matayemon.

The latter also in good time reached Osaka, and spared no pains to
seek out Matagoro. One evening towards dusk, as Matayemon was walking
in the quarter where the enemy were staying, he saw a man, dressed as
a gentleman's servant, enter a cook-shop and order some buckwheat
porridge for thirty-six men, and looking attentively at the man, he
recognized him as the servant of Sakurai Jiuzayemon; so he hid himself
in a dark place and watched, and heard the fellow say--

"My master, Sakurai Jiuzayemon, is about to start for Sagara to-morrow
morning, to return thanks to the gods for his recovery from a sickness
from which he has been suffering; so I am in a great hurry."

With these words the servant hastened away; and Matayemon, entering
the shop, called for some porridge, and as he ate it, made some
inquiries as to the man who had just given so large an order for
buckwheat porridge. The master of the shop answered that he was the
attendant of a party of thirty-six gentlemen who were staying at such
and such an inn. Then Matayemon, having found out all that he wanted
to know, went home and told Kazuma, who was delighted at the prospect
of carrying his revenge into execution on the morrow. That same
evening Matayemon sent one of his two faithful retainers as a spy to
the inn, to find out at what hour Matagoro was to set out on the
following morning; and he ascertained from the servants of the inn,
that the party was to start at daybreak for Sagara, stopping at Ise to
worship at the shrine of Tersho Daijin.[19]

[Footnote 19: Goddess of the sun, and ancestress of the Mikados.]

Matayemon made his preparations accordingly, and, with Kazuma and his
two retainers, started before dawn. Beyond Uyeno, in the province of
Iga, the castle-town of the Daimio Todo Idzumi no Kami, there is a
wide and lonely moor; and this was the place upon which they fixed for
the attack upon the enemy. When they had arrived at the spot,
Matayemon went into a tea-house by the roadside, and wrote a petition
to the governor of the Daimio's castle-town for permission to carry
out the vendetta within its precincts;[20] then he addressed Kazuma,
and said--

"When we fall in with Matagoro and begin the fight, do you engage and
slay your father's murderer; attack him and him only, and I will keep
off his guard of Ronins;" then turning to his two retainers, "As for
you, keep close to Kazuma; and should the Ronins attempt to rescue
Matagoro, it will be your duty to prevent them, and succour Kazuma."
And having further laid down each man's duties with great minuteness,
they lay in wait for the arrival of the enemy. Whilst they were
resting in the tea-house, the governor of the castle-town arrived,
and, asking for Matayemou, said--

"I have the honour to be the governor of the castle-town of Todo
Idzumi no Kami. My lord, having learnt your intention of slaying your
enemy within the precincts of his citadel, gives his consent; and as a
proof of his admiration of your fidelity and valour, he has further
sent you a detachment of infantry, one hundred strong, to guard the
place; so that should any of the thirty-six men attempt to escape, you
may set your mind at ease, for flight will be impossible."

[Footnote 20: "In respect to revenging injury done to master or
father, it is granted by the wise and virtuous (Confucius) that you
and the injurer cannot live together under the canopy of heaven.

"A person harbouring such vengeance shall notify the same in writing
to the Criminal Court; and although no check or hindrance may be
offered to his carrying out his desire within the period allowed for
that purpose, it is forbidden that the chastisement of an enemy be
attended with riot.

"Fellows who neglect to give notice of their intended revenge are like
wolves of pretext, and their punishment or pardon should depend upon
the circumstances of the case."--_Legacy of Iyeyasu_, ut supra.]

When Matayemon and Kazurna had expressed their thanks for his
lordship's gracious kindness, the governor took his leave and returned
home. At last the enemy's train was seen in the distance. First came
Sakurai Jiuzayemon and his younger brother Jinsuke; and next to them
followed Kawai Matagoro and Takenouchi Gentan. These four men, who
were the bravest and the foremost of the band of Ronins, were riding
on pack-horses, and the remainder were marching on foot, keeping close

As they drew near, Kazuma, who was impatient to avenge his father,
stepped boldly forward and shouted in a loud voice--

"Here stand I, Kazuma, the son of Yukiye, whom you, Matagoro,
treacherously slew, determined to avenge my father's death. Come
forth, then, and do battle with me, and let us see which of us twain
is the better man."

And before the Ronins had recovered from their astonishment, Matayemon

"I, Arake Matayemon, the son-in-law of Yukiye, have come to second
Kazuma in his deed of vengeance. Win or lose, you must give us

When the thirty-six men heard the name of Matayemon, they were greatly
afraid; but Sakurai Jiuzayemon urged them to be upon their guard, and
leaped from his horse; and Matayemon, springing forward with his drawn
sword, cleft him from the shoulder to the nipple of his breast, so
that he fell dead. Sakurai Jinsuke, seeing his brother killed before
his eyes, grew furious, and shot an arrow at Matayemon, who deftly cut
the shaft in two with his dirk as it flew; and Jinsuke, amazed at this
feat, threw away his bow and attacked Matayemon, who, with his sword
in his right hand and his dirk in his left, fought with desperation.
The other Ronins attempted to rescue Jinsuke, and, in the struggle,
Kazuma, who had engaged Matagoro, became separated from Matayemon,
whose two retainers, Busuke and Magohachi, bearing in mind their
master's orders, killed five Ronins who had attacked Kazuma, but were
themselves badly wounded. In the meantime, Matayemon, who had killed
seven of the Ronins, and who the harder he was pressed the more
bravely he fought, soon cut down three more, and the remainder dared
not approach him. At this moment there came up one Kano Tozayemon, a
retainer of the lord of the castle-town, and an old friend of
Matayemon, who, when he heard that Matayemon was this day about to
avenge his father-in-law, had seized his spear and set out, for the
sake of the good-will between them, to help him, and act as his
second, and said--

"Sir Matayemon, hearing of the perilous adventure in which you have
engaged, I have come out to offer myself as your second."

Matayemon, hearing this, was rejoiced, and fought with renewed vigour.
Then one of the Ronins, named Takenouchi Gentan, a very brave man,
leaving his companions to do battle with Matayemon, came to the rescue
of Matagoro, who was being hotly pressed by Kazuma, and, in attempting
to prevent this, Busuke fell covered with wounds. His companion
Magohachi, seeing him fall, was in great anxiety; for should any harm
happen to Kazuma, what excuse could he make to Matayemon? So, wounded
as he was, he too engaged Takenouchi Gentan, and, being crippled by
the gashes he had received, was in deadly peril. Then the man who had
come up from the castle-town to act as Matayemon's second cried out--

"See there, Sir Matayemon, your follower who is fighting with Gentan
is in great danger. Do you go to his rescue, and second Sir Kazuma: I
will give an account of the others!"

"Great thanks to you, sir. I will go and second Kazuma."

So Matayemon went to help Kazuma, whilst his second and the infantry
soldiers kept back the surviving Ronins, who, already wearied by their
fight with Matayemon, were unfit for any further exertion. Kazuma
meanwhile was still fighting with Matagoro, and the issue of the
conflict was doubtful; and Takenouchi Gentan, in his attempt to rescue
Matagoro, was being kept at bay by Magohachi, who, weakened by his
wounds, and blinded by the blood which was streaming into his eyes
from a cut in the forehead, had given himself up for lost when
Matayemon came and cried--

"Be of good cheer, Magohachi; it is I, Matayemon, who have come to the
rescue. You are badly hurt; get out of harm's way, and rest yourself."

Then Magohachi, who until then had been kept up by his anxiety for
Kazuma's safety, gave in, and fell fainting from loss of blood; and
Matayemon worsted and slew Gentan; and even then, although be had
received two wounds, he was not exhausted, but drew near to Kazuma and

"Courage, Kazuma! The Ronins are all killed, and there now remains
only Matagoro, your father's murderer. Fight and win!"

The youth, thus encouraged, redoubled his efforts; but Matagoro,
losing heart, quailed and fell. So Kazuma's vengeance was fulfilled,
and the desire of his heart was accomplished.

The two faithful retainers, who had died in their loyalty, were buried
with great ceremony, and Kazuma carried the head of Matagoro and
piously laid it upon his father's tomb.

So ends the tale of Kazuma's revenge.

I fear that stories of which killing and bloodshed form the principal
features can hardly enlist much sympathy in these peaceful days.
Still, when such tales are based upon history, they are interesting to
students of social phenomena. The story of Kazuma's revenge is mixed
up with events which at the present time are peculiarly significant: I
mean the feud between the great Daimios and the Hatamotos. Those who
have followed the modern history of Japan will see that the recent
struggle, which has ended in the ruin of the Tycoon's power and the
abolition of his office, was the outburst of a hidden fire which had
been smouldering for centuries. But the repressive might had been
gradually weakened, and contact with Western powers had rendered still
more odious a feudality which men felt to be out of date. The
revolution which has ended in the triumph of the Daimios over the
Tycoon, is also the triumph of the vassal over his feudal lord, and is
the harbinger of political life to the people at large. In the time of
Iyeyasu the burden might be hateful, but it had to be borne; and so it
would have been to this day, had not circumstances from without broken
the spell. The Japanese Daimio, in advocating the isolation of his
country, was hugging the very yoke which he hated. Strange to say,
however, there are still men who, while they embrace the new political
creed, yet praise the past, and look back with regret upon the day
when Japan stood alone, without part or share in the great family of

NOTE.--_Hatamoto_. This word means "_under the flag_." The Hatamotos
were men who, as their name implied, rallied round the standard of the
Shogun, or Tycoon, in war-time. They were eighty thousand in number.
When Iyeyasu left the Province of Mikawa and became Shogun, the
retainers whom he ennobled, and who received from him grants of land
yielding revenue to the amount of ten thousand kokus of rice a year,
and from that down to one hundred kokus, were called _Hatamoto_. In
return for these grants of land, the Hatamotos had in war-time to
furnish a contingent of soldiers in proportion to their revenue. For
every thousand kokus of rice five men were required. Those Hatamotos
whose revenue fell short of a thousand kokus substituted a quota of
money. In time of peace most of the minor offices of the Tycoon's
government were filled by Hatamotos, the more important places being
held by the Fudai, or vassal Daimios of the Shogun. Seven years ago,
in imitation of the customs of foreign nations, a standing army was
founded; and then the Hatamotos had to contribute their quota of men
or of money, whether the country were at peace or at war. When the
Shogun was reduced in 1868 to the rank of a simple Daimio, his revenue
of eight million kokus reverted to the Government, with the exception
of seven hundred thousand kokus. The title of Hatamoto exists no more,
and those who until a few months ago held the rank are for the most
part ruined or dispersed. From having been perhaps the proudest and
most overbearing class in Japan, they are driven to the utmost straits
of poverty. Some have gone into trade, with the heirlooms of their
families as their stock; others are wandering through the country as
Ronins; while a small minority have been allowed to follow the fallen
fortunes of their master's family, the present chief of which is known
as the Prince of Tokugawa. Thus are the eighty thousand dispersed.

The koku of rice, in which all revenue is calculated, is of varying
value. At the cheapest it is worth rather more than a pound sterling,
and sometimes almost three times as much. The salaries of officials
being paid in rice, it follows that there is a large and influential
class throughout the country who are interested in keeping up the
price of the staple article of food. Hence the opposition with which a
free trade in rice has met, even in famine times. Hence also the
frequent so-called "Rice Riots."

The amounts at which the lands formerly held by the chief Daimios, but
now patriotically given up by them to the Mikado, were assessed, sound
fabulous. The Prince of Kaga alone had an income of more than one
million two hundred thousand kokus. Yet these great proprietors were,
latterly at least, embarrassed men. They had many thousand mouths to
feed, and were mulcted of their dues right and left; while their mania
for buying foreign ships and munitions of war, often at exorbitant
prices, had plunged them heavily in debt.




The word Otokodate occurs several times in these Tales; and as I
cannot convey its full meaning by a simple translation, I must
preserve it in the text, explaining it by the following note, taken
from the Japanese of a native scholar.

The Otokodate were friendly associations of brave men bound together
by an obligation to stand by one another in weal or in woe, regardless
of their own lives, and without inquiring into one another's
antecedents. A bad man, however, having joined the Otokodate must
forsake his evil ways; for their principle was to treat the oppressor
as an enemy, and to help the feeble as a father does his child. If
they had money, they gave it to those that had none, and their
charitable deeds won for them the respect of all men. The head of the
society was called its "Father"; if any of the others, who were his
apprentices, were homeless, they lived with the Father and served him,
paying him at the same time a small fee, in consideration of which, if
they fell sick or into misfortune, he took charge of them and assisted

The Father of the Otokodate pursued the calling of farming out coolies
to the Daimios and great personages for their journeys to and from
Yedo, and in return for this received from them rations in rice. He
had more influence with the lower classes even than the officials; and
if the coolies had struck work or refused to accompany a Daimio on his
journey, a word from the Father would produce as many men as might be
required. When Prince Tokugawa Iyemochi, the last but one of the
Shoguns, left Yedo for Kioto, one Shimmon Tatsugoro, chief of the
Otokodate, undertook the management of his journey, and some three or
four years ago was raised to the dignity of Hatamoto for many faithful
services. After the battle of Fushimi, and the abolition of the
Shogunate, he accompanied the last of the Shoguns in his retirement.

In old days there were also Otokodate among the Hatamotos; this was
after the civil wars of the time of Iyeyasu, when, though the country
was at peace, the minds of men were still in a state of high
excitement, and could not be reconciled to the dulness of a state of
rest; it followed that broils and faction fights were continually
taking place among the young men of the Samurai class, and that those
who distinguished themselves by their personal strength and valour
were looked up to as captains. Leagues after the manner of those
existing among the German students were formed in different quarters
of the city, under various names, and used to fight for the honour of
victory. When the country became more thoroughly tranquil, the custom
of forming these leagues amongst gentlemen fell into disuse.

The past tense is used in speaking even of the Otokodate of the lower
classes; for although they nominally exist, they have no longer the
power and importance which they enjoyed at the time to which these
stories belong. They then, like the 'prentices of Old London, played a
considerable part in the society of the great cities, and that man was
lucky, were he gentle Samurai or simple wardsman, who could claim the
Father of the Otokodate for his friend.

The word, taken by itself, means a manly or plucky fellow.

* * * * *

Chobei of Bandzuin was the chief of the Otokodate of Yedo. He was
originally called Itaro, and was the son of a certain Ronin who lived
in the country. One day, when he was only ten years of age, he went
out with a playfellow to bathe in the river; and as the two were
playing they quarrelled over their game, and Itaro, seizing the other
boy, threw him into the river and drowned him.

Then he went home, and said to his father--

"I went to play by the river to-day, with a friend; and as he was rude
to me, I threw him into the water and killed him."

When his father heard him speak thus, quite calmly, as if nothing had
happened, he was thunderstruck, and said--

"This is indeed a fearful thing. Child as you are, you will have to
pay the penalty of your deed; so to-night you must fly to Yedo in
secret, and take service with some noble Samurai, and perhaps in time
you may become a soldier yourself."

With these words he gave him twenty ounces of silver and a fine sword,
made by the famous swordsmith Rai Kunitoshi, and sent him out of the
province with all dispatch. The following morning the parents of the
murdered child came to claim that Itaro should be given up to their
vengeance; but it was too late, and all they could do was to bury
their child and mourn for his loss.

Itaro made his way to Yedo in hot haste, and there found employment as
a shop-boy; but soon tiring of that sort of life, and burning to
become a soldier, he found means at last to enter the service of a
certain Hatamoto called Sakurai Shozayemon, and changed his name to
Tsunehei. Now this Sakurai Shozayemon had a son, called Shonosuke, a
young man in his seventeenth year, who grew so fond of Tsunehei that
he took him with him wherever he went, and treated him in all ways as
an equal.

When Shonosuke went to the fencing-school Tsunehei would accompany
him, and thus, as he was by nature strong and active, soon became a
good swordsman.

One day, when Shozayemon had gone out, his son Shonosuke said to

"You know how fond my father is of playing at football: it must be
great sport. As he has gone out to-day, suppose you and I have a

"That will be rare sport," answered Tsunehei. "Let us make haste and
play, before my lord comes home."

So the two boys went out into the garden, and began trying to kick the
football; but, lacking skill, do what they would, they could not lift
it from the ground. At last Shonosuke, with a vigorous kick, raised
the football; but, having missed his aim, it went tumbling over the
wall into the next garden, which belonged to one Hikosaka Zempachi, a
teacher of lance exercise, who was known to be a surly, ill-tempered

"Oh, dear! what shall we do?" said Shonosuke. "We have lost my
father's football in his absence; and if we go and ask for it back
from that churlish neighbour of ours, we shall only be scolded and
sworn at for our pains."

"Oh, never mind," answered Tsunehei; "I will go and apologize for our
carelessness, and get the football back."

"Well, but then you will be chidden, and I don't want that."

"Never mind me. Little care I for his cross words." So Tsunehei went
to the next-door house to reclaim the ball.

Now it so happened that Zempachi, the surly neighbour, had been
walking in his garden whilst the two youths were playing; and as he
was admiring the beauty of his favourite chrysanthemums, the football
came flying over the wall and struck him full in the face. Zempachi,
not used to anything but flattery and coaxing, flew into a violent
rage at this; and while he was thinking how he would revenge himself
upon any one who might be sent to ask for the lost ball, Tsunehei came
in, and said to one of Zempachi's servants--

"I am sorry to say that in my lord's absence I took his football, and,
in trying to play with it, clumsily kicked it over your wall. I beg
you to excuse my carelessness, and to be so good as to give me back
the ball."

The servant went in and repeated this to Zempachi, who worked himself
up into a great rage, and ordered Tsunehei to be brought before him,
and said--

"Here, fellow, is your name Tsunehei?"

"Yes, sir, at your service. I am almost afraid to ask pardon for my
carelessness; but please forgive me, and let me have the ball."

"I thought your master, Shozayemon, was to blame for this; but it
seems that it was you who kicked the football."

"Yes, sir. I am sure I am very sorry for what I have done. Please, may
I ask for the ball?" said Tsunehei, bowing humbly.

For a while Zempachi made no answer, but at length he said--

"Do you know, villain, that your dirty football struck me in the
face? I ought, by rights, to kill you on the spot for this; but I will
spare your life this time, so take your football and be off." And with
that he went up to Tsunehei and beat him, and kicked him in the head,
and spat in his face.

Then Tsunehei, who up to that time had demeaned himself very humbly,
in his eagerness to get back the football, jumped up in a fury, and

"I made ample apologies to you for my carelessness, and now you have
insulted and struck me. Ill-mannered ruffian! take back the
ball,--I'll none of it;" and he drew his dirk, and cutting the
football in two, threw it at Zempachi, and returned home.

But Zempachi, growing more and more angry, called one of his servants,
and said to him--

"That fellow, Tsunehei, has been most insolent: go next door and find
out Shozayemon, and tell him that I have ordered you to bring back
Tsunehei, that I may kill him."

So the servant went to deliver the message.

In the meantime Tsunehei went back to his master's house; and when
Shonosuke saw him, he said--

"Well, of course you have been ill treated; but did you get back the

"When I went in, I made many apologies; but I was beaten, and kicked
in the head, and treated with the greatest indignity. I would have
killed that wretch, Zempachi, at once, but that I knew that, if I did
so while I was yet a member of your household, I should bring trouble
upon your family. For your sake I bore this ill-treatment patiently;
but now I pray you let me take leave of you and become a Ronin, that I
may be revenged upon this man."

"Think well what you are doing," answered Shonosuke. "After all, we
have only lost a football; and my father will not care, nor upbraid

But Tsimehei would not listen to him, and was bent upon wiping out the
affront that he had received. As they were talking, the messenger
arrived from Zempachi, demanding the surrender of Tsunehei, on the
ground that he had insulted him: to this Shonosuke replied that his
father was away from home, and that in his absence he could do

At last Shozayemon came home; and when he heard what had happened he
was much grieved, and at a loss what to do, when a second messenger
arrived from Zempachi, demanding that Tsunehei should be given up
without delay. Then Shozayemon, seeing that the matter was serious,
called the youth to him, and said--

"This Zempachi is heartless and cruel, and if you go to his house will
assuredly kill you; take, therefore, these fifty riyos, and fly to
Osaka or Kioto, where you may safely set up in business."

"Sir," answered Tsunehei, with tears of gratitude for his lord's
kindness, "from my heart I thank you for your great goodness; but I
have been insulted and trampled upon, and, if I lay down my life in
the attempt, I will repay Zempachi for what he has this day done."

"Well, then, since you needs must be revenged, go and fight, and may
success attend you! Still, as much depends upon the blade you carry,
and I fear yours is likely to be but a sorry weapon, I will give you a
sword;" and with this he offered Tsunehei his own.

"Nay, my lord," replied Tsunehei; "I have a famous sword, by Rai
Kunitoshi, which my father gave me. I have never shown it to your
lordship, but I have it safely stowed away in my room."

When Shozayemon saw and examined the sword, he admired it greatly, and
said, "This is indeed a beautiful blade, and one on which you may
rely. Take it, then, and bear yourself nobly in the fight; only
remember that Zempachi is a cunning spearsman, and be sure to be very

So Tsunehei, after thanking his lord for his manifold kindnesses, took
an affectionate leave, and went to Zempachi's house, and said to the

"It seems that your master wants to speak to me. Be so good as to take
me to see him."

So the servant led him into the garden, where Zempachi, spear in hand,
was waiting to kill him. When Zempachi saw him, he cried out--

"Ha! so you have come back; and now for your insolence, this day I
mean to kill you with my own hand."

"Insolent yourself!" replied Tsunehei. "Beast, and no Samurai! Come,
let us see which of us is the better man."

Furiously incensed, Zempachi thrust with his spear at Tsunehei; but
he, trusting to his good sword, attacked Zempachi, who, cunning
warrior as he was, could gain no advantage. At last Zempachi, losing
his temper, began fighting less carefully, so that Tsunehei found an
opportunity of cutting the shaft of his spear. Zempachi then drew his
sword, and two of his retainers came up to assist him; but Tsunehei
killed one of them, and wounded Zempachi in the forehead. The second
retainer fled affrighted at the youth's valour, and Zempachi was
blinded by the blood which flowed from the wound on his forehead. Then
Tsunehei said--

"To kill one who is as a blind man were unworthy a soldier. Wipe the
blood from your eyes, Sir Zempachi, and let us fight it out fairly."

So Zempachi, wiping away his blood, bound a kerchief round his head,
and fought again desperately. But at last the pain of his wound and
the loss of blood overcame him, and Tsunehei cut him down with a wound
in the shoulder and easily dispatched him.

Then Tsunehei went and reported the whole matter to the Governor of
Yedo, and was put in prison until an inquiry could be made. But the
Chief Priest of Bandzuin, who had heard of the affair, went and told
the governor all the bad deeds of Zempachi, and having procured
Tsunehei's pardon, took him home and employed him as porter in the
temple. So Tsunehei changed his name to Chobei, and earned much
respect in the neighbourhood, both for his talents and for his many
good works. If any man were in distress, he would help him, heedless
of his own advantage or danger, until men came to look up to him as to
a father, and many youths joined him and became his apprentices. So he
built a house at Hanakawado, in Asakusa, and lived there with his
apprentices, whom he farmed out as spearsmen and footmen to the
Daimios and Hatamotos, taking for himself the tithe of their earnings.
But if any of them were sick or in trouble, Chobei would nurse and
support them, and provide physicians and medicine. And the fame of his
goodness went abroad until his apprentices were more than two thousand
men, and were employed in every part of the city. But as for Chobei,
the more he prospered, the more he gave in charity, and all men
praised his good and generous heart.

This was the time when the Hatamotos had formed themselves into bands
of Otokodate,[21] of which Midzuno Jiurozayemon, Kondo Noborinosuke,
and Abe Shirogoro were the chiefs. And the leagues of the nobles
despised the leagues of the wardsmen, and treated them with scorn, and
tried to put to shame Chobei and his brave men; but the nobles'
weapons recoiled upon themselves, and, whenever they tried to bring
contempt upon Chobei, they themselves were brought to ridicule. So
there was great hatred on both sides.

[Footnote 21: See the story of Kazuma's Revenge.]

One day, that Chobei went to divert himself in a tea-house in the
Yoshiwara, he saw a felt carpet spread in an upper room, which had
been adorned as for some special occasion; and he asked the master of
the house what guest of distinction was expected. The landlord replied
that my Lord Jiurozayemon, the chief of the Otokodate of the
Hatamotos, was due there that afternoon. On hearing this, Chobei
replied that as he much wished to meet my Lord Jiurozayemon, he would
lie down and await his coming. The landlord was put out at this, and
knew not what to say; but yet he dare not thwart Chobei, the powerful
chief of the Otokodate. So Chobei took off his clothes and laid
himself down upon the carpet. After a while my Lord Jiurozayemon
arrived, and going upstairs found a man of large stature lying naked
upon the carpet which had been spread for him.

"What low ruffian is this?" shouted he angrily to the landlord.

"My lord, it is Chobei, the chief of the Otokodate," answered the man,

Jiurozayemon at once suspected that Chobei was doing this to insult
him; so he sat down by the side of the sleeping man, and lighting his
pipe began to smoke. When he had finished his pipe, he emptied the
burning ashes into Chobei's navel; but Chobei, patiently bearing the
pain, still feigned sleep. Ten times did Jiurozayemon fill his
pipe,[22] and ten times he shook out the burning ashes on to Chobei's
navel; but he neither stirred nor spoke. Then Jiurozayemon, astonished
at his fortitude, shook him, and roused him, saying--

"Chobei! Chobei! wake up, man."

"What is the matter?" said Chobei, rubbing his eyes as though he were
awaking from a deep sleep; then seeing Jiurozayemon, he pretended to
be startled, and said, "Oh, my lord, I know not who you are; but I
have been very rude to your lordship. I was overcome with wine, and
fell asleep: I pray your lordship to forgive me."

"Is your name Chobei?"

"Yes, my lord, at your service. A poor wardsman, and ignorant of good
manners, I have been very rude; but I pray your lordship to excuse my

"Nay, nay; we have all heard the fame of Chobei, of Bandzuin, and I
hold myself lucky to have met you this day. Let us be friends."

"It is a great honour for a humble wardsman to meet a nobleman face to

[Footnote 22: The tiny Japanese pipe contains but two or three whiffs;
and as the tobacco is rolled up tightly in the fingers before it is
inserted, the ash, when shaken out, is a little fire-ball from which a
second pipe is lighted.]

As they were speaking, the waitresses brought in fish and wine, and
Jiurozayemon pressed Chobei to feast with him; and thinking to annoy
Chobei, offered him a large wine-cup,[23] which, however, he drank
without shrinking, and then returned to his entertainer, who was by no
means so well able to bear the fumes of the wine. Then Jiurozayemon
hit upon another device for annoying Chobei, and, hoping to frighten
him, said--

"Here, Chobei, let me offer you some fish;" and with those words he
drew his sword, and, picking up a cake of baked fish upon the point of
it, thrust it towards the wardsman's mouth. Any ordinary man would
have been afraid to accept the morsel so roughly offered; but Chobei
simply opened his mouth, and taking the cake off the sword's point ate
it without wincing. Whilst Jiurozayemon was wondering in his heart
what manner of man this was, that nothing could daunt, Chobei said to

"This meeting with your lordship has been an auspicious occasion to
me, and I would fain ask leave to offer some humble gift to your
lordship in memory of it.[24] Is there anything which your lordship
would specially fancy?"

"I am very fond of cold macaroni."

[Footnote 23: It is an act of rudeness to offer a large wine-cup. As,
however, the same cup is returned to the person who has offered it,
the ill carries with it its own remedy. At a Japanese feast the same
cup is passed from hand to hand, each person rinsing it in a bowl of
water after using it, and before offering it to another.]

[Footnote 24: The giving of presents from inferiors to superiors is a
common custom.]

"Then I shall have the honour of ordering some for your lordship;" and
with this Chobei went downstairs, and calling one of his apprentices,
named Token Gombei,[25] who was waiting for him, gave him a hundred
riyos (about L28), and bade him collect all the cold macaroni to be
found in the neighbouring cook-shops and pile it up in front of the
tea-house. So Gombei went home, and, collecting Chobei's apprentices,
sent them out in all directions to buy the macaroni. Jiurozayemon all
this while was thinking of the pleasure he would have in laughing at
Chobei for offering him a mean and paltry present; but when, by
degrees, the macaroni began to be piled mountain-high around the
tea-house, he saw that he could not make a fool of Chobei, and went
home discomfited.

[Footnote 25: _Token_, a nickname given to Gombei, after a savage dog
that he killed. As a Chonin, or wardsman, he had no surname.]

It has already been told how Shirai Gompachi was befriended and helped
by Chobei.[26] His name will occur again in this story.

[Footnote 26: See the story of Gompachi and Komurasaki.]

At this time there lived in the province of Yamato a certain Daimio,
called Honda Dainaiki, who one day, when surrounded by several of his
retainers, produced a sword, and bade them look at it and say from
what smith's workshop the blade had come.

"I think this must be a Masamune blade," said one Fuwa Banzayemon.

"No," said Nagoya Sanza, after examining the weapon attentively, "this
certainly is a Muramasa."[27]

[Footnote 27: The swords of Muramasa, although so finely tempered that
they are said to cut hard iron as though it were a melon, have the
reputation of being unlucky: they are supposed by the superstitious to
hunger after taking men's lives, and to be unable to repose in their
scabbards. The principal duty of a sword is to preserve tranquillity
in the world, by punishing the wicked and protecting the good. But the
bloodthirsty swords of Muramasa rather have the effect of maddening
their owners, so that they either kill others indiscriminately or
commit suicide. At the end of the sixteenth century Prince Tokugawa
Iyeyasu was in the habit of carrying a spear made by Muramasa, with
which he often scratched or cut himself by mistake. Hence the Tokugawa
family avoid girding on Muramasa blades, which are supposed to be
specially unlucky to their race. The murders of Gompachi, who wore a
sword by this maker, also contributed to give his weapons a bad name.

The swords of one Toshiro Yoshimitsu, on the other hand, are specially
auspicious to the Tokugawa family, for the following reason. After
Iyeyasu had been defeated by Taketa Katsuyori, at the battle of the
river Tenrin, he took refuge in the house of a village doctor,
intending to put an end to his existence by _hara-kiri,_ and drawing
his dirk, which was made by Yoshimitsu, tried to plunge it into his
belly, when, to his surprise, the blade turned. Thinking that the dirk
must be a bad one, he took up an iron mortar for grinding medicines
and tried it upon that, and the point entered and transfixed the
mortar. He was about to stab himself a second time, when his
followers, who had missed him, and had been searching for him
everywhere, came up, and seeing their master about to kill himself,
stayed his hand, and took away the dirk by force. Then they set him
upon his horse and compelled him to fly to his own province of Mikawa,
whilst they kept his pursuers at bay. After this, when, by the favour
of Heaven, Iyeyasu became Shogun, it was considered that of a surety
there must have been a good spirit in the blade that refused to drink
his blood; and ever since that time the blades of Yoshimitsu have been
considered lucky in his family.]

A third Samurai, named Takagi Umanojo, pronounced it to be the work
of Shidzu Kanenji; and as they could not agree, but each maintained
his opinion, their lord sent for a famous connoisseur to decide the
point; and the sword proved, as Sanza had said, to be a genuine
Muramasa. Sanza was delighted at the verdict; but the other two went
home rather crestfallen. Umanojo, although he had been worsted in the
argument, bore no malice nor ill-will in his heart; but Banzayemon,
who was a vainglorious personage, puffed up with the idea of his own
importance, conceived a spite against Sanza, and watched for an
opportunity to put him to shame. At last, one day Banzayemon, eager to
be revenged upon Sanza, went to the Prince, and said, "Your lordship
ought to see Sanza fence; his swordsmanship is beyond all praise. I
know that I am no match for him; still, if it will please your
lordship, I will try a bout with him;" and the Prince, who was a mere
stripling, and thought it would be rare sport, immediately sent for
Sanza and desired he would fence with Banzayemon. So the two went out
into the garden, and stood up facing each other, armed with wooden
swords. Now Banzayemon was proud of his skill, and thought he had no
equal in fencing; so he expected to gain an easy victory over Sanza,
and promised himself the luxury of giving his adversary a beating that
should fully make up for the mortification which he had felt in the
matter of the dispute about the sword. It happened, however, that he
had undervalued the skill of Sanza, who, when he saw that his
adversary was attacking him savagely and in good earnest, by a rapid
blow struck Banzayemon so sharply on the wrist that he dropped the
sword, and, before he could pick it up again, delivered a second cut
on the shoulder, which sent him rolling over in the dust. All the
officers present, seeing this, praised Sanza's skill, and Banzayemon,
utterly stricken with shame, ran away home and hid himself.

After this affair Sanza rose high in the favour of his lord; and
Banzayemon, who was more than ever jealous of him, feigned sickness,
and stayed at home devising schemes for Sanza's ruin.

Now it happened that the Prince, wishing to have the Muramasa blade
mounted, sent for Sanza and entrusted it to his care, ordering him to
employ the most cunning workmen in the manufacture of the
scabbard-hilt and ornaments; and Sanza, having received the blade,
took it home, and put it carefully away. When Banzayemon heard of
this, he was overjoyed; for he saw that his opportunity for revenge
had come. He determined, if possible, to kill Sanza, but at any rate
to steal the sword which had been committed to his care by the Prince,
knowing full well that if Sanza lost the sword he and his family would
be ruined. Being a single man, without wife or child, he sold his
furniture, and, turning all his available property into money, made
ready to fly the country. When his preparations were concluded, he
went in the middle of the night to Sanza's house and tried to get in
by stealth; but the doors and shutters were all carefully bolted from
the inside, and there was no hole by which he could effect an
entrance. All was still, however, and the people of the house were
evidently fast asleep; so he climbed up to the second storey, and,
having contrived to unfasten a window, made his way in. With soft,
cat-like footsteps he crept downstairs, and, looking into one of the
rooms, saw Sanza and his wife sleeping on the mats, with their little
son Kosanza, a boy of thirteen, curled up in his quilt between them.
The light in the night-lamp was at its last flicker, but, peering
through the gloom, he could just see the Prince's famous Muramasa
sword lying on a sword-rack in the raised part of the room: so he
crawled stealthily along until he could reach it, and stuck it in his
girdle. Then, drawing near to Sanza, he bestrode his sleeping body,
and, brandishing the sword made a thrust at his throat; but in his
excitement his hand shook, so that he missed his aim, and only
scratched Sanza, who, waking with a start and trying to jump up, felt
himself held down by a man standing over him. Stretching out his
hands, he would have wrestled with his enemy; when Banzayemon, leaping
back, kicked over the night-lamp, and throwing open the shutters,
dashed into the garden. Snatching up his sword, Sanza rushed out after
him; and his wife, having lit a lantern and armed herself with a
halberd,[28] went out, with her son Kosanza, who carried a drawn dirk,
to help her husband. Then Banzayemon, who was hiding in the shadow of
a large pine-tree, seeing the lantern and dreading detection, seized a
stone and hurled it at the light, and, chancing to strike it, put it
out, and then scrambling over the fence unseen, fled into the
darkness. When Sanza had searched all over the garden in vain, he
returned to his room and examined his wound, which proving very
slight, he began to look about to see whether the thief had carried
off anything; but when his eye fell upon the place where the Muramasa
sword had lain, he saw that it was gone. He hunted everywhere, but it
was not to be found. The precious blade with which his Prince had
entrusted him had been stolen, and the blame would fall heavily upon
him. Filled with grief and shame at the loss, Sanza and his wife and
child remained in great anxiety until the morning broke, when he
reported the matter to one of the Prince's councillors, and waited in
seclusion until he should receive his lord's commands.

[Footnote 28: The halberd is the special arm of the Japanese woman of
gentle blood. That which was used by Kasa Gozen, one of the ladies of
Yoshitsune, the hero of the twelfth century, is still preserved at
Asakusa. In old-fashioned families young ladies are regularly
instructed in fencing with the halberds.]

It soon became known that Banzayemon, who had fled the province, was
the thief; and the councillors made their report accordingly to the
Prince, who, although he expressed his detestation of the mean action
of Banzayemon, could not absolve Sanza from blame, in that he had not
taken better precautions to insure the safety of the sword that had
been committed to his trust. It was decided, therefore, that Sanza
should be dismissed from his service, and that his goods should be
confiscated; with the proviso that should he be able to find
Banzayemon, and recover the lost Muramasa blade, he should be restored
to his former position. Sanza, who from the first had made up his mind
that his punishment would be severe, accepted the decree without a
murmur; and, having committed his wife and son to the care of his
relations, prepared to leave the country as a Ronin and search for

Before starting, however, he thought that he would go to his
brother-officer, Takagi Umanojo, and consult with him as to what
course he should pursue to gain his end. But this Umanojo, who was by
nature a churlish fellow, answered him unkindly, and said--

"It is true that Banzayemon is a mean thief; but still it was through
your carelessness that the sword was lost. It is of no avail your
coming to me for help: you must get it back as best you may."

"Ah!" replied Sanza, "I see that you too bear me a grudge because I
defeated you in the matter of the judgment of the sword. You are no
better than Banzayemon yourself."

And his heart was bitter against his fellow men, and he left the house
determined to kill Umanojo first and afterwards to track out
Banzayemon; so, pretending to start on his journey, he hid in an inn,
and waited for an opportunity to attack Umanojo.

One day Umanojo, who was very fond of fishing, had taken his son
Umanosuke, a lad of sixteen, down to the sea-shore with him; and as
the two were enjoying themselves, all of a sudden they perceived a
Samurai running towards them, and when he drew near they saw that it
was Sanza. Umanojo, thinking that Sanza had come back in order to talk
over some important matter, left his angling and went to meet him.
Then Sanza cried out--

"Now, Sir Umanojo, draw and defend yourself. What! were you in league
with Banzayemon to vent your spite upon me? Draw, sir, draw! You have
spirited away your accomplice; but, at any rate, you are here
yourself, and shall answer for your deed. It is no use playing the
innocent; your astonished face shall not save you. Defend yourself,
coward and traitor!" and with these words Sanza flourished his naked

"Nay, Sir Sanza," replied the other, anxious by a soft answer to turn
away his wrath; "I am innocent of this deed. Waste not your valour on
so poor a cause."

"Lying knave!" said Sanza; "think not that you can impose upon me. I
know your treacherous heart;" and, rushing upon Umanojo, he cut him on
the forehead so that he fell in agony upon the sand.

Umanosuke in the meanwhile, who had been fishing at some distance from
his father, rushed up when he saw him in this perilous situation and
threw a stone at Sanza, hoping to distract his attention; but, before
he could reach the spot, Sanza had delivered the death-blow, and
Umanojo lay a corpse upon the beach.

"Stop, Sir Sanza--murderer of my father!" cried Umanosuke, drawing
his sword, "stop and do battle with me, that I may avenge his death."

"That you should wish to slay your father's enemy," replied Sanza, "is
but right and proper; and although I had just cause of quarrel with
your father, and killed him, as a Samurai should, yet would I gladly
forfeit my life to you here; but my life is precious to me for one
purpose--that I may punish Banzayemon and get back the stolen sword.
When I shall have restored that sword to my lord, then will I give you
your revenge, and you may kill me. A soldier's word is truth; but, as
a pledge that I will fulfil my promise, I will give to you, as
hostages, my wife and boy. Stay your avenging hand, I pray you, until
my desire shall have been attained."

Umanosuke, who was a brave and honest youth, as famous in the clan for
the goodness of his heart as for his skill in the use of arms, when he
heard Sanza's humble petition, relented, and said--

"I agree to wait, and will take your wife and boy as hostages for your

"I humbly thank you," said Sanza. "When I shall have chastised
Banzayemon, I will return, and you shall claim your revenge."

So Sanza went his way to Yedo to seek for Banzayemon, and Umanosuke
mourned over his father's grave.

Now Banzayemon, when he arrived in Yedo, found himself friendless and
without the means of earning his living, when by accident he heard of
the fame of Chobei of Bandzuin, the chief of the Otokodate, to whom he
applied for assistance; and having entered the fraternity, supported
himself by giving fencing-lessons. He had been plying his trade for
some time, and had earned some little reputation, when Sanza reached
the city and began his search for him. But the days and months passed
away, and, after a year's fruitless seeking, Sanza, who had spent all
his money without obtaining a clue to the whereabouts of his enemy,
was sorely perplexed, and was driven to live by his wits as a
fortune-teller. Work as he would, it was a hard matter for him to gain
the price of his daily food, and, in spite of all his pains, his
revenge seemed as far off as ever, when he bethought him that the
Yoshiwara was one of the most bustling places in the city, and that if
he kept watch there, sooner or later he would be sure to fall in with
Banzayemon. So be bought a hat of plaited bamboo, that completely
covered his face, and lay in wait at the Yoshiwara.

One day Banzayemon and two of Chobei's apprentices Token Gombei and
Shirobei, who, from his wild and indocile nature, was surnamed "the
Colt," were amusing themselves and drinking in an upper storey of a
tea-house in the Yoshiwara, when Token Gombei, happening to look down
upon the street below, saw a Samurai pass by, poorly clad in worn-out
old clothes, but whose poverty-stricken appearance contrasted with
his proud and haughty bearing.

"Look there!" said Gombei, calling the attention of the others; "look
at that Samurai. Dirty and ragged as his coat is, how easy it is to
see that he is of noble birth! Let us wardsmen dress ourselves up in
never so fine clothes, we could not look as he does."

"Ay," said Shirobei, "I wish we could make friends with him, and ask
him up here to drink a cup of wine with us. However, it would not be
seemly for us wardsmen to go and invite a person of his condition."

"We can easily get over that difficulty," said Banzayemon. "As I am a
Samurai myself, there will be no impropriety in my going and saying a
few civil words to him, and bringing him in."

The other two having joyfully accepted the offer, Banzayemon ran
downstairs, and went up to the strange Samurai and saluted him,

"I pray you to wait a moment, Sir Samurai. My name is Fuwa Banzayemon
at your service. I am a Ronin, as I judge from your appearance that
you are yourself. I hope you will not think me rude if I venture to
ask you to honour me with your friendship, and to come into this
tea-house to drink a cup of wine with me and two of my friends."

The strange Samurai, who was no other than Sanza, looking at the
speaker through the interstices of his deep bamboo hat, and
recognizing his enemy Banzayemon, gave a start of surprise, and,
uncovering his head, said sternly--

"Have you forgotten my face, Banzayemon?"

For a moment Banzayemon was taken aback, but quickly recovering
himself, he replied, "Ah! Sir Sanza, you may well be angry with me;
but since I stole the Muramasa sword and fled to Yedo I have known no
peace: I have been haunted by remorse for my crime. I shall not resist
your vengeance: do with me as it shall seem best to you; or rather
take my life, and let there be an end of this quarrel."

"Nay," answered Sanza, "to kill a man who repents him of his sins is a
base and ignoble action. When you stole from me the Muramasa blade
which had been confided to my care by my lord, I became a disgraced
and ruined man. Give me back that sword, that I may lay it before my
lord, and I will spare your life. I seek to slay no man needlessly."

"Sir Sanza, I thank you for your mercy. At this moment I have not the
sword by me, but if you will go into yonder tea-house and wait awhile,
I will fetch it and deliver it into your hands."

Sanza having consented to this, the two men entered the tea-house,
where Banzayemon's two companions were waiting for them. But
Banzayemon, ashamed of his own evil deed, still pretended that Sanza
was a stranger, and introduced him as such, saying--

"Come Sir Samurai, since we have the honour of your company, let me
offer you a wine-cup."

Banzayemon and the two men pressed the wine-cup upon Sanza so often
that the fumes gradually got into his head and he fell asleep; the two
wardsmen, seeing this, went out for a walk, and Banzayemon, left alone
with the sleeping man, began to revolve fresh plots against him in his
mind. On a sudden, a thought struck him. Noiselessly seizing Sanza's
sword, which he had laid aside on entering the room, he stole softly
downstairs with it, and, carrying it into the back yard, pounded and
blunted its edge with a stone, and having made it useless as a weapon,
he replaced it in its scabbard, and running upstairs again laid it in
its place without disturbing Sanza, who, little suspecting treachery,
lay sleeping off the effects of the wine. At last, however, he awoke,
and, ashamed at having been overcome by drink, he said to Banzayemon--

"Come, Banzayemon, we have dallied too long; give me the Muramasa
sword, and let me go."

"Of course," replied the other, sneeringly, "I am longing to give it
back to you; but unfortunately, in my poverty, I have been obliged to
pawn it for fifty ounces of silver. If you have so much money about
you, give it to me and I will return the sword to you."

"Wretch!" cried Sanza, seeing that Banzayemon was trying to fool him,
"have I not had enough of your vile tricks? At any rate, if I cannot
get back the sword, your head shall be laid before my lord in its
place. Come," added he, stamping his foot impatiently, "defend

"With all my heart. But not here in this tea-house. Let us go to the
Mound, and fight it out."

"Agreed! There is no need for us to bring trouble on the landlord.
Come to the Mound of the Yoshiwara."

So they went to the Mound, and drawing their swords, began to fight
furiously. As the news soon spread abroad through the Yoshiwara that a
duel was being fought upon the Mound, the people flocked out to see
the sight; and among them came Token Gombei and Shirobei, Banzayemon's
companions, who, when they saw that the combatants were their own
friend and the strange Samurai, tried to interfere and stop the fight,
but, being hindered by the thickness of the crowd, remained as
spectators. The two men fought desperately, each driven by fierce rage
against the other; but Sanza, who was by far the better fencer of the
two, once, twice, and again dealt blows which should have cut
Banzayemon down, and yet no blood came forth. Sanza, astonished at
this, put forth all his strength, and fought so skilfully, that all
the bystanders applauded him, and Banzayemon, though he knew his
adversary's sword to be blunted, was so terrified that he stumbled and
fell. Sanza, brave soldier that he was, scorned to strike a fallen
foe, and bade him rise and fight again. So they engaged again, and
Sanza, who from the beginning had had the advantage, slipped and fell
in his turn; Banzayemon, forgetting the mercy which had been shown to
him, rushed up, with bloodthirsty joy glaring in his eyes, and stabbed
Sanza in the side as he lay on the ground. Faint as he was, he could
not lift his hand to save himself; and his craven foe was about to
strike him again, when the bystanders all cried shame upon his
baseness. Then Gombei and Shirobei lifted up their voices and said--

"Hold, coward! Have you forgotten how your own life was spared but a
moment since? Beast of a Samurai, we have been your friends hitherto,
but now behold in us the avengers of this brave man."

With these words the two men drew their dirks, and the spectators fell
back as they rushed in upon Banzayemon, who, terror-stricken by their
fierce looks and words, fled without having dealt the death-blow to
Sanza. They tried to pursue him, but he made good his escape, so the
two men returned to help the wounded man. When he came to himself by
dint of their kind treatment, they spoke to him and comforted him, and
asked him what province he came from, that they might write to his
friends and tell them what had befallen him. Sanza, in a voice faint
from pain and loss of blood, told them his name and the story of the
stolen sword, and of his enmity against Banzayemon. "But," said he,
"just now, when I was fighting, I struck Banzayemon more than once,
and without effect. How could that have been?" Then they looked at his
sword, which had fallen by his side, and saw that the edge was all
broken away. More than ever they felt indignant at the baseness of
Banzayemon's heart, and redoubled their kindness to Sanza; but, in.
spite of all their efforts, he grew weaker and weaker, until at last
his breathing ceased altogether. So they buried the corpse honourably
in an adjoining temple, and wrote to Sanza's wife and son, describing
to them the manner of his death.

Now when Sanza's wife, who had long been anxiously expecting her
husband's return, opened the letter and learned the cruel
circumstances of his death, she and her son Kosanza mourned bitterly
over his loss. Then Kosanza, who was now fourteen years old, said to
his mother--

"Take comfort, mother; for I will go to Yedo and seek out this
Banzayemon, my father's murderer, and I will surely avenge his death.
Now, therefore, make ready all that I need for this journey."

And as they were consulting over the manner of their revenge,
Umanosuke, the son of Umanojo, whom Sanza had slain, having heard of
the death of his father's enemy, came to the house. But he came with
no hostile intent. True, Sanza had killed his father, but the widow
and the orphan were guiltless, and he bore them no ill-will; on the
contrary, he felt that Banzayemon was their common enemy. It was he
who by his evil deeds had been the cause of all the mischief that had
arisen, and now again, by murdering Sanza, he had robbed Umanosuke of
his revenge. In this spirit he said to Kosanza--

"Sir Kosanza, I hear that your father has been cruelly murdered by
Banzayemon at Yedo. I know that you will avenge the death of your
father, as the son of a soldier should: if, therefore, you will accept
my poor services, I will be your second, and will help you to the best
of my ability. Banzayemon shall be my enemy, as he is yours."

"Nay, Sir Umanosuke, although I thank you from my heart, I cannot
accept this favour at your hands. My father Sanza slew your noble
father: that you should requite this misfortune thus is more than
kind, but I cannot think of suffering you to risk your life on my

"Listen to me," replied Umanosuke, smiling, "and you will think it
less strange that I should offer to help you. Last year, when my
father lay a bleeding corpse on the sea-shore, your father made a
covenant with me that he would return to give me my revenge, so soon
as he should have regained the stolen sword. Banzayemon, by murdering
him on the Mound of the Yoshiwara, has thwarted me in this; and now
upon whom can I avenge my father's death but upon him whose baseness
was indeed its cause? Now, therefore, I am determined to go with you
to Yedo, and not before the murders of our two fathers shall have been
fully atoned for will we return to our own country."

When Kosanza heard this generous speech, he could not conceal his
admiration; and the widow, prostrating herself at Umanosuke's feet,
shed tears of gratitude.

The two youths, having agreed to stand by one another, made all ready
for their journey, and obtained leave from their prince to go in
search of the traitor Banzayemon. They reached Yedo without meeting
with any adventures, and, taking up their abode at a cheap inn, began
to make their inquiries; but, although they sought far and wide, they
could learn no tidings of their enemy. When three months had passed
thus, Kosanza began to grow faint-hearted at their repeated failures;
but Umanosuke supported and comforted him, urging him to fresh
efforts. But soon a great misfortune befell them: Kosanza fell sick
with ophthalmia, and neither the tender nursing of his friend, nor the
drugs and doctors upon whom Umanosuke spent all their money, had any
effect on the suffering boy, who soon became stone blind. Friendless
and penniless, the one deprived of his eyesight and only a clog upon
the other, the two youths were thrown upon their own resources. Then
Umanosuke, reduced to the last extremity of distress, was forced to
lead out Kosanza to Asakusa to beg sitting by the roadside, whilst he
himself, wandering hither and thither, picked up what he could from
the charity of those who saw his wretched plight. But all this while
he never lost sight of his revenge, and almost thanked the chance
which had made him a beggar, for the opportunity which it gave him of
hunting out strange and hidden haunts of vagabond life into which in
his more prosperous condition he could not have penetrated. So he
walked to and fro through the city, leaning on a stout staff, in which
he had hidden his sword, waiting patiently for fortune to bring him
face to face with Banzayemon.


Now Banzayemon, after he had killed Sanza on the Mound of the
Yoshiwara, did not dare to show his face again in the house of Chobei,
the Father of the Otokodate; for he knew that the two men, Token
Gombei and Shirobei "the loose Colt," would not only bear an evil
report of him, but would even kill him if he fell into their hands, so
great had been their indignation at his cowardly Conduct; so he
entered a company of mountebanks, and earned his living by showing
tricks of swordsmanship, and selling tooth-powder at the Okuyama, at
Asakusa.[29] One day, as he was going towards Asakusa to ply his
trade, he caught sight of a blind beggar, in whom, in spite of his
poverty-stricken and altered appearance, he recognized the son of his
enemy. Rightly he judged that, in spite of the boy's apparently
helpless condition, the discovery boded no weal for him; so mounting
to the upper storey of a tea-house hard by, he watched to see who
should come to Kosanza's assistance. Nor had he to wait long, for
presently he saw a second beggar come up and speak words of
encouragement and kindness to the blind youth; and looking
attentively, he saw that the new-comer was Umanosuke. Having thus
discovered who was on his track, he went home and sought means of
killing the two beggars; so he lay in wait and traced them to the poor
hut where they dwelt, and one night, when he knew Umanosuke to be
absent, he crept in. Kosanza, being blind, thought that the footsteps
were those of Umanosuke, and jumped up to welcome him; but he, in his
heartless cruelty, which not even the boy's piteous state could move,
slew Kosanza as he helplessly stretched out his hands to feel for his
friend. The deed was yet unfinished when Umanosuke returned, and,
hearing a scuffle inside the hut, drew the sword which was hidden in
his staff and rushed in; but Banzayemon, profiting by the darkness,
eluded him and fled from the hut. Umanosuke followed swiftly after
him; but just as he was on the point of catching him, Banzayemon,
making a sweep backwards with his drawn sword, wounded Umanosuke in
the thigh, so that he stumbled and fell, and the murderer, swift of
foot, made good his escape. The wounded youth tried to pursue him
again, but being compelled by the pain of his wound to desist,
returned home and found his blind companion lying dead, weltering in
his own blood. Cursing his unhappy fate, he called in the beggars of
the fraternity to which he belonged, and between them they buried
Kosanza, and he himself being too poor to procure a surgeon's aid, or
to buy healing medicaments for his wound, became a cripple.

[Footnote 29: See Note at end of story.]

It was at this time that Shirai Gompachi, who was living under the
protection of Chobei, the Father of the Otokodate, was in love with
Komurasaki, the beautiful courtesan who lived at the sign of the Three
Sea-shores, in the Yoshiwara. He had long exhausted the scanty
supplies which he possessed, and was now in the habit of feeding his
purse by murder and robbery, that he might have means to pursue his
wild and extravagant life. One night, when he was out on his cutthroat
business, his fellows, who had long suspected that he was after no
good, sent one of their number, named Seibei, to watch him. Gompachi,
little dreaming that any one was following him, swaggered along the
street until he fell in with a wardsman, whom he cut down and robbed;
but the booty proving small, he waited for a second chance, and,
seeing a light moving in the distance, hid himself in the shadow of a
large tub for catching rain-water till the bearer of the lantern
should come up. When the man drew near, Gompachi saw that he was
dressed as a traveller, and wore a long dirk; so he sprung out from
his lurking-place and made to kill him; but the traveller nimbly
jumped on one side, and proved no mean adversary, for he drew his dirk
and fought stoutly for his life. However, he was no match for so
skilful a swordsman as Gompachi, who, after a sharp struggle,
dispatched him, and carried off his purse, which contained two hundred
riyos. Overjoyed at having found so rich a prize, Gompachi was making
off for the Yoshiwara, when Seibei, who, horror-stricken, had seen
both murders, came up and began to upbraid him for his wickedness. But
Gompachi was so smooth-spoken and so well liked by his comrades, that
he easily persuaded Seibei to hush the matter up, and accompany him to
the Yoshiwara for a little diversion. As they were talking by the way,
Seibei said to Gompachi--

"I bought a new dirk the other day, but I have not had an opportunity
to try it yet. You have had so much experience in swords that you
ought to be a good judge. Pray look at this dirk, and tell me whether
you think it good for anything."

"We'll soon see what sort of metal it is made of," answered Gompachi.
"We'll just try it on the first beggar we come across."

At first Seibei was horrified by this cruel proposal, but by degrees
he yielded to his companion's persuasions; and so they went on their
way until Seibei spied out a crippled beggar lying asleep on the bank
outside the Yoshiwara. The sound of their footsteps aroused the
beggar, who seeing a Samurai and a wardsman pointing at him, and
evidently speaking about him, thought that their consultation could
bode him no good. So he pretended to be still asleep, watching them
carefully all the while; and when Seibei went up to him, brandishing
his dirk, the beggar, avoiding the blow, seized Seibei's arm, and
twisting it round, flung him into the ditch below. Gompachi, seeing
his companion's discomfiture, attacked the beggar, who, drawing a
sword from his staff, made such lightning-swift passes that, crippled
though he was, and unable to move his legs freely, Gompachi could not
overpower him; and although Seibei crawled out of the ditch and came
to his assistance, the beggar, nothing daunted, dealt his blows about
him to such good purpose that he wounded Seibei in the temple and arm.
Then Gompachi, reflecting that after all he had no quarrel with the
beggar, and that he had better attend to Seibei's wounds than go on
fighting to no purpose, drew Seibei away, leaving the beggar, who was
too lame to follow them, in peace. When he examined Seibei's wounds,
he found that they were so severe that they must give up their night's
frolic and go home. So they went back to the house of Chobei, the
Father of the Otokodate, and Seibei, afraid to show himself with his
sword-cuts, feigned sickness, and went to bed. On the following
morning Chobei, happening to need his apprentice Seibei's services,
sent for him, and was told that he was sick; so he went to the room,
where he lay abed, and, to his astonishment, saw the cut upon his
temple. At first the wounded man refused to answer any questions as to
how he had been hurt; but at last, on being pressed by Chobei, he told
the whole story of what had taken place the night before. When Chobei
heard the tale, be guessed that the valiant beggar must be some noble
Samurai in disguise, who, having a wrong to avenge, was biding his
time to meet with his enemy; and wishing to help so brave a man, he
went in the evening, with his two faithful apprentices, Token Gombei
and Shirobei "the loose Colt," to the bank outside the Yoshiwara to
seek out the beggar. The latter, not one whit frightened by the
adventure of the previous night, had taken his place as usual, and was
lying on the bank, when Chobei came up to him, and said--

"Sir, I am Chobei, the chief of the Otokodate, at your service. I have
learnt with deep regret that two of my men insulted and attacked you
last night. However, happily, even Gompachi, famous swordsman though
he be, was no match for you, and had to beat a retreat before you. I
know, therefore, that you must be a noble Samurai, who by some ill
chance have become a cripple and a beggar. Now, therefore, I pray you
tell me all your story; for, humble wardsman as I am, I may be able to
assist you, if you will condescend to allow me."

The cripple at first tried to shun Chobei's questions; but at last,
touched by the honesty and kindness of his speech, he replied--

"Sir, my name is Takagi Umanosuke, and I am a native of Yamato;" and
then he went on to narrate all the misfortunes which the wickedness of
Banzayemon had brought about.

"This is indeed a strange story," said Chobei who had listened with
indignation. "This Banzayemon, before I knew the blackness of his
heart, was once under my protection. But after he murdered Sanza, hard
by here, he was pursued by these two apprentices of mine, and since
that day he has been no more to my house."

When he had introduced the two apprentices to Umanosuke, Chobei pulled
forth a suit of silk clothes befitting a gentleman, and having made
the crippled youth lay aside his beggar's raiment, led him to a bath,
and had his hair dressed. Then he bade Token Gombei lodge him and take
charge of him, and, having sent for a famous physician, caused
Umanosuke to undergo careful treatment for the wound in his thigh. In
the course of two months the pain had almost disappeared, so that he
could stand easily; and when, after another month, he could walk about
a little, Chobei removed him to his own house, pretending to his wife
and apprentices that he was one of his own relations who had come on a
visit to him.

After a while, when Umanosuke had become quite cured, he went one day
to worship at a famous temple, and on his way home after dark he was
overtaken by a shower of rain, and took shelter under the eaves of a
house, in a part of the city called Yanagiwara, waiting for the sky to
clear. Now it happened that this same night Gompachi had gone out on
one of his bloody expeditions, to which his poverty and his love for
Komurasaki drove him in spite of himself, and, seeing a Samurai
standing in the gloom, he sprang upon him before he had recognized
Umanosuke, whom he knew as a friend of his patron Chobei. Umanosuke
drew and defended himself, and soon contrived to slash Gompachi on the
forehead; so that the latter, seeing himself overmatched, fled under
the cover of the night. Umanosuke, fearing to hurt his recently healed
wound, did not give chase, and went quietly back to Chobei's house.
When Gompachi returned home, he hatched a story to deceive Chobei as
to the cause of the wound on his forehead. Chobei, however, having
overheard Umanosuke reproving Gompachi for his wickedness, soon became
aware of the truth; and not caring to keep a robber and murderer near
him, gave Gompachi a present of money, and bade him return to his
house no more.

And now Chobei, seeing that Umanosuke had recovered his strength,
divided his apprentices into bands, to hunt out Banzayemon, in order
that the vendetta might be accomplished. It soon was reported to him
that Banzayemon was earning his living among the mountebanks of
Asakusa; so Chobei communicated this intelligence to Umanosuke, who
made his preparations accordingly; and on the following morning the
two went to Asakusa, where Banzayemon was astonishing a crowd of
country boors by exhibiting tricks with his sword.

Then Umanosuke, striding through the gaping rabble, shouted out--

"False, murderous coward, your day has come! I, Umanosuke, the son of
Umanojo, have come to demand vengeance for the death of three innocent
men who have perished by your treachery. If you are a man, defend
yourself. This day shall your soul see hell!"

With these words he rushed furiously upon Banzayemon, who, seeing
escape to be impossible, stood upon his guard. But his coward's heart
quailed before the avenger, and he soon lay bleeding at his enemy's

But who shall say how Umanosuke thanked Chobei for his assistance; or
how, when he had returned to his own country, he treasured up his
gratitude in his heart, looking upon Chobei as more than a second

Thus did Chobei use his power to punish the wicked, and to reward the
good--giving of his abundance to the poor, and succouring the
unfortunate, so that his name was honoured far and near. It remains
only to record the tragical manner of his death.

We have already told how my lord Midzuno Jiurozayemon, the chief of
the associated nobles, had been foiled in his attempts to bring shame
upon Chobei, the Father of the Otokodate; and how, on the contrary,
the latter, by his ready wit, never failed to make the proud noble's
weapons recoil upon him. The failure of these attempts rankled in the
breast of Jiurozayemon, who hated Chobei with an intense hatred, and
sought to be revenged upon him. One day he sent a retainer to Chobei's
house with a message to the effect that on the following day my lord
Jiurozayemon would be glad to see Chobei at his house, and to offer
him a cup of wine, in return for the cold macaroni with which his
lordship had been feasted some time since. Chobei immediately
suspected that in sending this friendly summons the cunning noble was
hiding a dagger in a smile; however, he knew that if he stayed away
out of fear he would be branded as a coward, and made a laughing-stock
for fools to jeer at. Not caring that Jiurozayemon should succeed in
his desire to put him to shame, he sent for his favourite apprentice,
Token Gombei, and said to him--

"I have been invited to a drinking-bout by Midzuno Jiurozayemon. I
know full well that this is but a stratagem to requite me for having
fooled him, and maybe his hatred will go the length of killing me.
However, I shall go and take my chance; and if I detect any sign of
foul play, I'll try to serve the world by ridding it of a tyrant, who
passes his life in oppressing the helpless farmers and wardsmen. Now
as, even if I succeed in killing him in his own house, my life must
pay forfeit for the deed, do you come to-morrow night with a
burying-tub,[30] and fetch my corpse from this Jiurozayemon's house."

[Footnote 30: The lowest classes in Japan are buried in a squatting
position, in a sort of barrel. One would have expected a person of
Chobei's condition and means to have ordered a square box. It is a
mistake to suppose the burning of the dead to be universal in Japan:
only about thirty per cent of the lower classes, chiefly belonging to
the Monto sect of Buddhism, are burnt. The rich and noble are buried
in several square coffins, one inside the other, in a sitting
position; and their bodies are partially preserved from decay by
filling the nose, ears, and mouth with vermilion. In the case of the
very wealthy, the coffin is completely filled in with vermilion. The
family of the Princes of Mito, and some other nobles, bury their dead
in a recumbent position.]

Token Gombei, when he heard the "Father" speak thus, was horrified,
and tried to dissuade him from obeying the invitation. But Chobei's
mind was fixed, and, without heeding Gombei's remonstrances, he
proceeded to give instructions as to the disposal of his property
after his death, and to settle all his earthly affairs.

On the following day, towards noon, he made ready to go to
Jiurozayemon's house, bidding one of his apprentices precede him with
a complimentary present.[31] Jiurozayemon, who was waiting with
impatience for Chobei to come, so soon as he heard of his arrival
ordered his retainers to usher him into his presence; and Chobei,
having bade his apprentices without fail to come and fetch him that
night, went into the house.

[Footnote 31: It is customary, on the occasion of a first visit to a
house, to carry a present to the owner, who gives something of equal
value on returning the visit.]

No sooner had he reached the room next to that in which Jiurozayemon
was sitting than he saw that his suspicions of treachery were well
founded; for two men with drawn swords rushed upon him, and tried to
cut him down. Deftly avoiding their blows, however, he tripped up the
one, and kicking the other in the ribs, sent him reeling and
breathless against the wall; then, as calmly as if nothing had
happened he presented himself before Jiurozayemon, who, peeping
through a chink in the sliding-doors, had watched his retainers'

"Welcome, welcome, Master Chobei," said he. "I always had heard that
you were a man of mettle, and I wanted to see what stuff you were made
of; so I bade my retainers put your courage to the test. That was a
masterly throw of yours. Well, you must excuse this churlish
reception: come and sit down by me."

"Pray do not mention it, my lord," said Chobei, smiling rather
scornfully. "I know that my poor skill is not to be measured with
that of a noble Samurai; and if these two good gentlemen had the worst
of it just now, it was mere luck--that's all."

So, after the usual compliments had been exchanged, Chobei sat down by
Jiurozayemon, and the attendants brought in wine and condiments.
Before they began to drink, however, Jiurozayemon said--

"You must be tired and exhausted with your walk this hot day, Master
Chobei. I thought that perhaps a bath might refresh you, so I ordered
my men to get it ready for you. Would you not like to bathe and make
yourself comfortable?"

Chobei suspected that this was a trick to strip him, and take him
unawares when he should have laid aside his dirk. However, he answered

"Your lordship is very good. I shall be glad to avail myself of your
kind offer. Pray excuse me for a few moments."

So he went to the bath-room, and, leaving his clothes outside, he got
into the bath, with the full conviction that it would be the place of
his death. Yet he never trembled nor quailed, determined that, if he
needs must die, no man should say he had been a coward. Then
Jiurozayemon, calling to his attendants, said--

"Quick! lock the door of the bath-room! We hold him fast now. If he
gets out, more than one life will pay the price of his. He's a match
for any six of you in fair fight. Lock the door, I say, and light up
the fire under the bath;[32] and we'll boil him to death, and be rid
of him. Quick, men, quick!"

[Footnote 32: This sort of bath, in which the water is heated by the
fire of a furnace which is lighted from outside, is called
_Goyemon-buro,_ or Goyemon's bath, after a notorious robber named
Goyemon, who attempted the life of Taiko Sama, the famous general and
ruler of the sixteenth century, and suffered for his crimes by being
boiled to death in oil--a form of execution which is now obsolete.]

So they locked the door, and fed the fire until the water hissed and
bubbled within; and Chobei, in his agony, tried to burst open the
door, but Jiurozayemon ordered his men to thrust their spears through
the partition wall and dispatch him. Two of the spears Chobei clutched
and broke short off; but at last he was struck by a mortal blow under
the ribs, and died a brave man by the hands of cowards.


That evening Token Gombei, who, to the astonishment of Chobei's wife,
had bought a burying-tub, came, with seven other apprentices, to fetch
the Father of the Otokodate from Jiurozayemon's house; and when the
retainers saw them, they mocked at them, and said--

"What, have you come to fetch your drunken master home in a litter?"

"Nay," answered Gombei, "but we have brought a coffin for his dead
body, as he bade us."

When the retainers heard this, they marvelled at the courage of
Chobei, who had thus wittingly come to meet his fate. So Chobei's
corpse was placed in the burying-tub, and handed over to his
apprentices, who swore to avenge his death. Far and wide, the poor and
friendless mourned for this good man. His son Chomatsu inherited his
property; and his wife remained a faithful widow until her dying day,
praying that she might sit with him in paradise upon the cup of the
same lotus-flower.

Many a time did the apprentices of Chobei meet together to avenge him;
but Jiurozayemon eluded all their efforts, until, having been
imprisoned by the Government in the temple called Kanyeiji, at Uyeno,
as is related in the story of "Kazuma's Revenge," he was placed beyond
the reach of their hatred.

So lived and so died Chobei of Bandzuin, the Father of the Otokodate
of Yedo.


_Translated from a native book called the "Yedo Hanjoki," or Guide to
the prosperous City of Yedo, and other sources._

Asakusa is the most bustling place in all Yedo. It is famous for the
Temple Sensoji, on the hill of Kinriu, or the Golden Dragon, which
from morning till night is thronged with visitors, rich and poor, old
and young, flocking in sleeve to sleeve. The origin of the temple was
as follows:--In the days of the Emperor Suiko, who reigned in the
thirteenth century A.D., a certain noble, named Hashi no Nakatomo,
fell into disgrace and left the Court; and having become a Ronin, or
masterless man, he took up his abode on the Golden Dragon Hill, with
two retainers, being brothers, named Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma
Takenari. These three men being reduced to great straits, and without
means of earning their living, became fishermen. Now it happened that
on the 6th day of the 3rd month of the 36th year of the reign of the
Emperor Suiko (A.D. 1241), they went down in the morning to the
Asakusa River to ply their trade; and having cast their nets took no
fish, but at every throw they pulled up a figure of the Buddhist god
Kwannon, which they threw into the river again. They sculled their
boat away to another spot, but the same luck followed them, and
nothing came to their nets save the figure of Kwannon. Struck by the
miracle, they carried home the image, and, after fervent prayer, built
a temple on the Golden Dragon Hill, in which they enshrined it. The
temple thus founded was enriched by the benefactions of wealthy and
pious persons, whose care raised its buildings to the dignity of the
first temple in Yedo. Tradition says that the figure of Kwannon which
was fished up in the net was one inch and eight-tenths in height.

The main hall of the temple is sixty feet square, and is adorned with
much curious workmanship of gilding and of silvering, so that no place
can be more excellently beautiful. There are two gates in front of it.
The first is called the Gate of the Spirits of the Wind and of the
Thunder, and is adorned with figures of those two gods. The Wind-god,
whose likeness is that of a devil, carries the wind-bag; and the
Thunder-god, who is also shaped like a devil, carries a drum and a
drumstick.[33] The second gate is called the Gate of the gods Nio, or
the Two Princes, whose colossal statues, painted red, and hideous to
look upon, stand on either side of it. Between the gates is an
approach four hundred yards in length, which is occupied by the stalls
of hucksters, who sell toys and trifles for women and children, and by
foul and loathsome beggars. Passing through the gate of the gods Nio,
the main hall of the temple strikes the eye. Countless niches and
shrines of the gods stand outside it, and an old woman earns her
livelihood at a tank filled with water, to which the votaries of the
gods come and wash themselves that they may pray with clean hands.
Inside are the images of the gods, lanterns, incense-burners,
candlesticks, a huge moneybox, into which the offerings of the pious
are thrown, and votive tablets[34] representing the famous gods and
goddesses, heroes and heroines, of old. Behind the chief building is a
broad space called the _okuyama_, where young and pretty waitresses,
well dressed and painted, invite the weary pilgrims and holiday-makers
to refresh themselves with tea and sweetmeats. Here, too, are all
sorts of sights to be seen, such as wild beasts, performing monkeys,
automata, conjurers, wooden and paper figures, which take the place of
the waxworks of the West, acrobats, and jesters for the amusement of
women and children. Altogether it is a lively and a joyous scene;
there is not its equal in the city.

[Footnote 33: This gate was destroyed by fire a few years since.]

[Footnote 34: Sir Rutherford Alcock, in his book upon Japan, states
that the portraits of the most famous courtesans of Yedo are yearly
hung up in the temple at Asakusa. No such pictures are to be seen now,
and no Japanese of whom I have made inquiries have heard of such a
custom. The priests of the temple deny that their fane was ever so
polluted, and it is probable that the statement is but one of the many
strange mistakes into which an imperfect knowledge of the language led
the earlier travellers in Japan. In spite of all that has been said by
persons who have had no opportunity of associating and exchanging
ideas with the educated men of Japan, I maintain that in no country is
the public harlot more abhorred and looked down upon.]

At Asakusa, as indeed all over Yedo, are to be found fortunetellers,
who prey upon the folly of the superstitious. With a treatise on
physiognomy laid on a desk before them, they call out to this man that
he has an ill-omened forehead, and to that man that the space between
his nose and his lips is unlucky. Their tongues wag like flowing water
until the passers-by are attracted to their stalls. If the seer finds
a customer, he closes his eyes, and, lifting the divining-sticks
reverently to his forehead, mutters incantations between his teeth.
Then, suddenly parting the sticks in two bundles, he prophesies good
or evil, according to the number in each. With a magnifying-glass he
examines his dupe's face and the palms of his hands. By the fashion of
his clothes and his general manner the prophet sees whether he is a
countryman or from the city. "I am afraid, sir," says he, "you have
not been altogether fortunate in life, but I foresee that great luck
awaits you in two or three months;" or, like a clumsy doctor who makes
his diagnosis according to his patient's fancies, if he sees his
customer frowning and anxious, he adds, "Alas! in seven or eight
months you must beware of great misfortune. But I cannot tell you all
about it for a slight fee:" with a long sigh he lays down the
divining-sticks on the desk, and the frightened boor pays a further
fee to hear the sum of the misfortune which threatens him, until, with
three feet of bamboo slips and three inches of tongue, the clever
rascal has made the poor fool turn his purse inside out.

The class of diviners called _Ichiko_ profess to give tidings of the
dead, or of those who have gone to distant countries. The Ichiko
exactly corresponds to the spirit medium of the West. The trade is
followed by women, of from fifteen or sixteen to some fifty years of
age, who walk about the streets, carrying on their backs a
divining-box about a foot square; they have no shop or stall, but
wander about, and are invited into their customers' houses. The
ceremony of divination is very simple. A porcelain bowl filled with
water is placed upon a tray, and the customer, having written the name
of the person with whom he wishes to hold communion on a long slip of
paper, rolls it into a spill, which he dips into the water, and thrice
sprinkles the Ichiko, or medium. She, resting her elbow upon her
divining-box, and leaning her head upon her hand, mutters prayers and
incantations until she has summoned the soul of the dead or absent
person, which takes possession of her, and answers questions through
her mouth. The prophecies which the Ichiko utters during her trance
are held in high esteem by the superstitious and vulgar.

Hard by Asakusa is the theatre street. The theatres are called
_Shiba-i_,[35] "turf places," from the fact that the first theatrical
performances were held on a turf plot. The origin of the drama in
Japan, as elsewhere, was religious. In the reign of the Emperor Heijo
(A.D. 805), there was a sudden volcanic depression of the earth close
by a pond called Sarusawa, or the Monkey's Marsh, at Nara, in the
province of Yamato, and a poisonous smoke issuing from the cavity
struck down with sickness all those who came within its baneful
influence; so the people brought quantities of firewood, which they
burnt in order that the poisonous vapour might be dispelled. The fire,
being the male influence, would assimilate with and act as an antidote
upon the mephitic smoke, which was a female influence.[36] Besides
this, as a further charm to exorcise the portent, the dance called
Sambaso, which is still performed as a prelude to theatrical
exhibitions by an actor dressed up as a venerable old man, emblematic
of long life and felicity, was danced on a plot of turf in front of
the Temple Kofukuji. By these means the smoke was dispelled, and the
drama was originated. The story is to be found in the _Zoku Nihon Ki_,
or supplementary history of Japan.

[Footnote 35: In Dr. Hepburn's Dictionary of the Japanese language,
the Chinese characters given for the word _Shiba-i_ are _chi chang_
(_keih chang_, Morrison's Dictionary), "theatrical arena." The
characters which are usually written, and which are etymologically
correct, are _chih chue_ (_che keu_, Morrison), "the place of plants or
turf plot."]

[Footnote 36: This refers to the Chinese doctrine of the Yang and Yin,
the male and female influences pervading all creation.]

Three centuries later, during the reign of the Emperor Toba (A.D.
1108), there lived a woman called Iso no Zenji, who is looked upon as
the mother of the Japanese drama. Her performances, however, seem only
to have consisted in dancing or posturing dressed up in the costume of
the nobles of the Court, from which fact her dance was called
Otoko-mai, or the man's dance. Her name is only worth mentioning on
account of the respect in which her memory is held by actors.

It was not until the year A.D. 1624 that a man named Saruwaka

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