Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 3-3 (end of Episode 3)

Episode III-iii

Kagetsura and Nobutoki subtly sabotage Yoshizane

Ujimoto and Sadayuki comply with Tateyama at risk


Yoshizane smiled.

“Master Anzai, you’re quite correct. On the other hand, people talk. Ever since I arrived in this province the grapevine keeps telling me the one rumour. It’s one thing that folk will be critical of whatever you do, but it’s completely another when your own men will not let you hear of such criticisms nor reprove you themselves; can such an attitude be called loyalty? Even if Ujimoto and Sadayuki received an unexpectedly large sum of reward, they wouldn’t want to serve an unhearing master in the same camp as disloyal men.”

Kagetsura’s face changed colour at this.

“What slander is this?! What rumour are you talking about?”

Yoshizane stuck his fan on his lap.

“Are you not aware yet sir? This involves not just you but Master Maro also. The three families Jin’yo, Anzai, and Maro have been close collaborators for many years helping each other like their own hands and feet so that this country has long been peaceful, until now when Jin’yo’s best-loved servant Yamashita Sadakane harmed his master, instantly robbed him of the two counties and called himself the lord upon recommendation. Folk would naturally blame you if you didn’t crush the man for the sake of Jin’yo, unabashedly submitted to him and disgraced yourselves. My wish was to work like a horse with all my might for you if you ever took me up upon the information I provided, but it was all in vain and I don’t see any war preparation nor do you bring it up. There’s no place for my humble opinion. While you’re busy scrutinizing the courage of my men and me you’re not about to act on courage and justice to avenge Jin’yo. Such a samurai is no master of mine, and this is where we part. Let us take our leave.”

As soon as he uttered these words he made a move to leave, so Kagetsura called out to him in a hurry.

“It is only natural that you should think so if we don’t tell you of our mind. Just be seated for a little while more.”

Stood around the right hand Kagetsura raised in order to stop Yoshizane was Nobutoki, who did not hesitate a second.

“Yoshizane, you don’t know do you? I am here today for a war council, and only secret strategies are good strategies. What would I divulge unto you whom I’ve never met before? If you want to know whether we have courage ask this sword!”

He stormed and stuck his chest out, grabbing hold of his sword handle. Ever alert Ujimoto and Sadayuki swiftly surrounded their master watching cautiously around in all eight directions, which prompted Maro’s company to make eager advances on their knees even before rubbing the clenched fists in their palms. At this moment the host in panic grabbed hold of Nobutoki sideways, thrust his mouth into his ear to whisper some sort of suggestions and turned around to nod to his left and right as a signal. Together with Anzai’s attendants and Maro’s men they hurriedly stood up to move to the next room. During all this Yoshizane just looked on calmly while toying with his fan. The assembly felt it was even more sobering.

Directly Anzai Kagetsura came back to his seat.

“What do you make of this Yoshizane? As samurai it is our way of life to fight for life and death over a single word but Master Maro was only jesting. Do not mind him. Those who move with the times know patience to keep out of trouble. We have been testing you and you must be the one. While you are a captain of Yuki, now that you have wandered over to this port to join my army and defeat that Sadakane, you will have to follow my orders. If you served loyally together with my officers and achieved merits you may hear of a reward.

If you’re too proud of your family name and endowments to join us, it’s an act of disobedience and I will never hire such a man. Go ahead and defeat that traitor all by yourself and seize Takita Castle. I will not dream of complaining if you made yourself the lord of the two counties.

It’s all up to you whether you leave or stay. Make your mind up and give us your answer.”

Kagetsura now spoke in a courteous manner. Knowing there was trouble abound Yoshizane did not waver even a little.

“Ever since I became a cast-off boat, the shore that I am moored to was going to be my master. If we were allowed a roof above us here and taken up, there is nothing we should be reluctant to do. Give me any orders sir.”

“Now then for a start, be sure to never betray me. As an auspicious custom my family sometimes worship the god of war[1] before we go on a campaign. The offering is always a big carp. If you went fishing and caught one for me, it would be as good as you fought and brought back a head of a worthy enemy. Agreed?”

Yoshizane instantly replied,

“Yes sir.”

And was about to stand up. Ujimoto and Sadayuki waiting behind him pulled his sleeves to stop him and stepped forward side by side.



Sugikura Kiso-no-suke Ujimoto, the formidable lieutenant

courtesy of Tateyama City Municipal Museum


“Allow us to speak Master Maro sir. We understand that it is an auspicious custom but you say to hang a fishing rod low whilst dozing in a boat to catch a fish on a hook. However, it is a skill no one excels at better than fishermen. ‘Tis no work for samurai nor is it suited for Yoshizane. Ancient men said when your master is humiliated your life expires. Please sir make our heads your offerings instead.”

Even before they finished their words Kagetsura glared at them.

“What an insolent couple of men! Your master has already agreed in fear of breaking the law. Weren’t your silly ears listening at all? It is a grave sin for servants to so blatantly disobey my commands. Cut them up and throw them out.”

Such fury didn’t deter Ujimoto and Sadayuki who got even closer trying to change his mind, but Yoshizane strictly forbid them to do so. Not only that he made them step back far away, he begged for forgiveness in their stead so that Kagetsura eventually calmed down.

“If you repent that much I shall let you keep hold of them until I see the carp. You need to catch the fish by yourself, and you need to do so within three days. Any more days and you wouldn’t know what might become of not only those fools but, you know the rest.”

Every time Kagetsura reiterated Yoshizane confirmed his consent in a respectful manner.

“Now then let us retire to our inn.”

He hurried the resentful looking old-timers and left. Maro no Kogoro Nobutoki who was eavesdropping in the next room had the hemp screens open for him so that he could watch on sneering as they left and then stood next to the host.

“Master Anzai, you’re too lenient. Why did you let them leave? All I wanted was to do away with Yoshizane but because you shielded him I lost the bird in hand.”

At this grumbling of Nobutoki Kagetsura smiled.

“That was my initial thought but Yoshizane, after all, comes from a good family; while he’s only a child the level of erudition and faculties he possesses easily surpasses that of an average man. His men’s formidable countenances only belong to those warriors whom they call ‘worth a thousand’. If we’d attacked them, we’d have lost many of our men. A cornered beast will bite, a cornered bird will stab. Let alone those brave captain and mighty warriors. They wouldn’t just stay put to be cut down. They say even a hunter will spare a bird which takes sanctuary in his pocket. If we killed innocent men instead of Sadakane, folk would grow even unhappier with us and may likely get in the way of our intentions. On the other hand if we kept Yoshizane here we wouldn’t be sleeping soundly as if we were keeping a wild beast.

Here lies the reason why I pretended to have two minds and forced them to just bear with it and bring offerings; it was to set them up. The whole county of Awa produces no carp. It may have something to do with the local environment but those men don’t know this fact, so they’d be standing by a pool or fishing in rapids just wasting day by day and would be coming back empty-handed, only to be executed. We then would have a good reason to kill them. No buts or exceptions. Never would I be sparing his life then.”

He explained proudly. This made Nobutoki smile and clap hands.

“That is extremely crafty! Indeed half-heartedly throwing him out might make him run to Takita and side with Sadakane, then we’d be giving wings to a tiger. On the other hand you never know whether taking him up might end in tears over giving an inch and having a yard taken. The best idea is to let them be and kill them later. Oh how subtle! What a marvellous idea!”

There’s no end to his praises. Meanwhile, Yoshizane hurried to his inn in Shirahama but it was a long way and the sun set long before they got there.

Initially Shirahama of Awa was located in Asahi County and was an ancient village which had been mentioned in the classic ‘Wamyo Ruijushow’[2]. It is said to have been neighbouring Takikuchi Village. Today the name of the beach belonging to Nanaura (Seven Coves) is the only remnant. You can observe the ruins of the Satomi Clan properties and their Bhuddist temple still standing there[3]. What they call Seven Coves of Awa are: Kawashimo, Iwahme, Oto, Shioura, Hara, Otonohama, and Shiramatsu. You must excuse me for going off at a tangent and allow me to carry on with the story.

Yoshizane reached Shirahama early next morning and without even a brief rest prepared to go fishing. Ujimoto and Sadayuki weren’t happy about this.

“Are you not aware yet, Young Master? Nobutoki is a brute with courage. Kagetsura is extremely envious of any man’s talents and excellence. The way he looked at you was as if he’d been looking at his enemy. What good would it do to catch carp for such an untrustworthy man? Please swiftly head for Kadzusa to save yourself from the harm’s way.”

When reprimanded by the two of them Yoshizane shook his head sideways.

“No sirs you’re not on the mark. Maro and Anzai are by nature profit-seeking and lacking sincerity; they don’t speak their minds. They are fearful of Sadakane and have no intention of attacking Takita. It’s not that I’m not aware of these things but if we were to leave this place for Kadzusa only to find ourselves in similar situations, we’d be making an enemy of Shimofusa. Where can we run to then? A gentleman enjoys himself in good times; he enjoys himself in bad times likewise. Lü Shang is commonly called Tai Gong Wang[4]. He was virtually unknown to men until he was seventy. Whilst fishing on the Wei river bank, he encountered King Wen and later achieved great merit in defeating King Zhou. He was later assigned fief of the state of Qi and passed it on to tens of generations down the line. Even that Tai Gong Wang comes from such background. I myself have no force of circumstances. Why should I despise fishing? On top of that the carp is a lucky fish. A carp jumping the dragon gate turns into a dragon they say. I saw a dragon tail in Miura. Now in Shirahama I’m told to catch a carp. Aren’t all these promising good omens? When I get my catch I’d like to take it to Kagetsura and see how he might react. Let’s go out when the sun rises.”

Impressed with the logic, both Ujimoto and Sadayuki sought a hook, arranged a rod and tied a fish basket to their waists. As the three of them wandered along waters whose names they didn’t know, ravens of the woods started flying off tree branches and the sky slowly turned pale.



[1] Hachiman, the god of war, is ironically the tutelary god or guardian deity of the Minamoto clan.

[2] Obviously it’s a Japanese dictionary of Chinese characters written in the 10th century. See Wikipedia.

[3] The translator is not totally sure if this is still true in the 21st century. I know you can visit the castle in Tateyama which now houses Hakkenden Museum, so the chances are the temple is still there too.

[4] Tai Gong Wang (‘Grand Duke’s Hope’) or Lü Shang was an ‘ancient Chinese military strategist’ according to Wikipedia. The Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters (太公望) is Tai-koh-boh, the way he is known to the Japanese public still today. Throughout the story many famous historical figures from ancient China are referred to.



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