Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 4-1

Episode IV

In Ko-minato Yoshizane raises justice

In Kaki-no-uchi Takayoshi pursues vengeance

And so Yoshizane and his men were on the road trying this pond and that river, seeking waters and standing in rapids the whole day without returning to their inn in Shirahama. In the end they reached as far away as the river Shirahashi in the County of Nagasa and it was already the third day. As it was their last day their frustration reached its peak. They caught plenty of fish but no carp, not even one as tiny as a small crucian carp took a bite.

In the olden age of gods, Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto[1] wandered into the undersea palace of Watatsumi in search of a lost hook. There’s also that tale of the child of the Urashimas[2] who couldn’t catch tuna fish nor carp and kept fishing without returning home for as long as 7 days to pick an example, and pick they did the line that was hanging, the line on which the three men’s fate was hanging, but all they could do was to look to each other and sigh together.

At this moment appeared someone coming this way from down the river singing songs in a loud voice. The three looked over and found that it was a terribly scruffy-looking beggar. The way he was dressed was a sight to behold. His wild hair looked like soot–covered silver grass in spring; the trailing coat hem seaweed collected on the beach in autumn. Every patch of his skin, whether it’s on the hand or the face, was covered with eerie scabs to the extent that it looked as though it wasn’t human skin any longer. Even ripe lychees, split up pomegranates, nor the back of an old toad wouldn’t look this way. Life is such a precious thing that you cannot let go of it however down and out or deserted you are. The sight of him would make you despair but he went on beating a washing bowl with a slanted bottom as if he cared not a bit about how he looked as he sang in a hoarse voice.

“’S ‘at all me dreaming, I see

Fair wind in white sails.

The ship moored in Awa Sea

Would not crush in waves,

Nor in tides decay.

The ship all folk love to board

Is the ship I love to board.

The man sang thus repeatedly as he came up to eventually stand on the riverbank and carefully watch them fish. The runny pus on his skin gave out such strong smell that the three men covertly covered their noses and wished him gone at once, but the vagabond stood by for as long as he liked and then came even closer up to look under their kasa hats into their faces one by one .

 

episode4 鯉釣

Fishing for carp in the river Shirahashi; Kanamari Takayoshi meets Yoshizane and his men

Courtesy of National Diet Library

 

“Well! I don’t really get how you fish. Be it a crucian carp or a lobster, whatever you catch you throw away. What on earth is it that you want?”

Asked persistently Mochiuji couldn’t help turning to him.

“Actually, what we want is a carp. No other fish will do. We release everything else because we wouldn’t like to perform an act of pointless killing.”

Upon hearing this the beggar threw himself into a fit of laughter.

“To fish for a carp here is even harder than hunting for a fox in Sado Island or looking for a horse in Ohshima in Izu Peninsula. Haven’t you heard yet sirs? The country of Awa produces no carp, nor does Kai[3]. Could that be due to its local environments? A theory goes that the fish is to be found only in a country with ten counties or more because it is the King of Waves Colossal[4]. Hunting for what doesn’t exist – that’s what I call a real pointless killing of time.”

Said he with a smug look on his face, clapping hands and cackling with laughter. Right then Yoshizane  had to throw down his fishing rod.

“Indeed big fish don’t live in a pool nor do garudas fly about in a small birds’ wood! Why should I not be accepted by a lord of a single county of Awa however small I make my world, crouching under the high skies and tiptoeing on the thick earth? In such a state it was ignorance[5] to compare myself to the dragon and to now hang my hopes on the carp. Finally I can see through the man who told me to fish whilst knowing all along that there were no carp to be caught in this region – his heart was a murky estuary water where lurk dark shadows. If I hadn’t met this beggar I’d be stung by his poisonous ploy. That was close.”

Yoshisane was so stricken by the shock of it all the beggar went on to comfort him.

“Don’t be vexed so. You don’t find carp even in Michinoku Province, which has 54 counties. Doesn’t this suggest the number of counties doesn’t matter to carp habitation and that axiom about ten counties or more is a kind akin to self-fulfilling prophecies? You will find the faithful even in a hamlet of ten houses. To pick an example, the prince of the Satomis grew up in Kamitsuke (上毛) unable to own a single country and now wandered over here to find no place to settle his lap in.”

The master and men exchanged glances and carefully observed the beggar’s face. Yoshisane, who was giving out a sigh at every word of the man, said,

“Appearances can be deceiving. You speak like no beggar, more like Jie Yu the lunatic of Chu[6] or the incarnation who had Empress Kohmyo wash his back[7]. You could be someone who knows me from before. Pray tell me who you are.”

The man smiled broadly at incredulous Yoshizane.

“It’s too conspicuous to talk here, come this way please.”

As he led the way the still mystified master and men hurriedly put away the fishing rods and followed him to reach after a short while a shadow of a hill near a village of Komatsu-hara, where the man took off the shabby straw mat he was wearing, shook dust off it and laid it there under a tree to let Yoshisane sit on it, so Ujimoto and Sadayuki folded the summer grass and sat on it on each side of their master.

The beggar then stepped back and respectfully made a deep bow.

“Your suspicion is only natural when I haven’t had your audience yet. Here I am, Kanamari Hachiroh Takayoshi or what he’s become of, a servant to Jin’yo Nagasa-no-suke Mitsuhiro. While the Kanamaris belong to the Jin’yos by blood and are Samurai in all respect, they were of illegitimate descent and so served the Jin’yos as the most respected of the senior retainers. However I lost my parents in the early age. Because I was not yet twenty and wasn’t deemed to be fit for the job yet, I was taken up merely as an attendant on a humble pay.

The lord’s conduct however was lamentable; he loved women as much as he loved wine and was besotted with his concubine Tamazusa to the extent that he wouldn’t come out of the harem. He promoted the crook Sadakane to a position of trust and left him to deal with personnel matters, which disturbed the order of the house, angered gods and made folk resentful. The situation was as precarious as eggs placed on top of each other, but the senior retainers in full knowledge of his faults did not rebuke him in fear of losing income, nor would folk dare lodge a complaint. When the lord himself was committing a crime and was not aware of it, it was no use of me repeatedly arguing and admonishing; it was the same old story as Bi Gan who had his liver stabbed or Wu Xizu who had his eyes hung on the east gate[8].

When my admonishments weren’t accepted after repeated attempts I thought I should die, but I came to realize how sinful it was for me to have been defiant against the lord. How could a single post support a great tower when it’s falling? Once I decided there was no other way than retiring and told my mind only to two of my colleagues Nako no Shichiro and Amatsu no Hyonai, I went underground leaving in the dark of the night with no worries behind as I was a bachelor, first for Kadzusa, then over to Shimo-fusa, not to mention farther down to Kamitsuke and Shimotsuke, and to the farthest end of Michinoku[9] I spent day after day travelling. To feed myself I taught what skills I had – sword fighting and martial arts, for half a year here, for a season[10] there. Because time waits for no man even if his heart isn’t there, five years came and went until finally this year, anxious about my lord’s well-being, I came back as far as to Kadzusa in secrecy only to find the fall of the lord’s family. When I heard,

“It all came from Sadakane’s treacherous mind. Somaki no Bokuhei and Mukuzo were shot to death,”

I felt as if my guts were being torn and my bones broken.

Bokuhei and Mukuzo grew up in my father’s care and have been my family’s attendants all these years. We taught them in depth how to sword fight the Kanamari way. Born in farming families they had brave hearts and hence weren’t too fond of farming, so we meant to keep them for good, but then they were abandoned by me. My guess is that even though they became farmers, out of agony under the harsh law they decided to shoot Sadakane dead in order to avenge their lord and themselves, which plan was taken advantage of and they were made fools. I couldn’t hate that traitor enough that I so wanted to attack him. However, because he knew my face there was no way of approaching him, so I got the hint from Yu Rang of Jin[11] and I’ve been roaming Takita day by day covered in lacquer to change my form and constantly on the watch, but there’s been not a single thread of hope. People started to raise suspicion, so I came over here to stay away for a while.

That’s when I heard the rumour exchanged in the broad daylight that Master Yoshisane the prince of the Satomis broke free of entrapment in Yuki to seek protection of Maro and Anzai, who not only refused out of jealousy for genius and talent but went as far as to contrive a ploy to kill him. Knowing all this I could not see a way to tell you of it. Upon hearing your name my mind sought you just like a newborn baby seeks its mother, and it was agonizing not to be able to openly ask around your whereabouts for it was not a good move.

Still, hope against all hope to find you I prowled about until today when I came over here by the river Shirahashi and  saw some gentlemen fishing, who appeared to be strangers, had an unusual aura around them and were acting friendly but courteous to each other; I had to guess that they were a master and his men and that one of them was the one I’d been seeking. As a way to approach you I sang my mind in a song of seafarers. What did you make of it sirs?

‘’S ‘at all me (Satomi) dreaming’ represents folk’s joy in accepting Prince Yoshisane. ‘Fair wind in white sails’ because white is the flag colour of the Minamoto clan. It suggests that anyone would yield to the majesty if you raise an army of justice in this place. And then it goes “the ship moored in Awa Sea would not crush in waves, nor in tides decay. The ship all folk love to board is the ship I love to board.’ You sir are a ship according to Xun Kuang[12]. You are now adrift, despised by Maro and Anzai, and are having a hard time, but the countrymen will all favour you so that you shall be out of harm’s way in defeating the strongholds of Takita, Tateyama, and Hiratate, and I congratulate you on that. The castle will fall if you fly your just flag, denounce Sadakane’s wrongs and make a surprise attack on Takita in rapid deployment of troops. Having defeated the villain, take Heguri and Nagasa also, and Maro and Anzai will fall without you having to fight. Take advance action and you shall be in control, be late and you shall be controlled. Directly make your mind  up sir. That castle is like this…”

As he went on to describe the geography and strategic points of the castle as if it were the back of his hand, Ujimoto and Sadayuki intently listened in with confidence in him. However, Yoshisane…

 

Will Yoshizane follow Takayoshi’s plan and attack Takita? To be continued

 

[1] Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto is a god commonly refered to as Yebisu, who visited the undersea palace in search of his lost fishing hook. He spent three years married to the undersea princess after which the princess gifted him with the hook he lost and a sacred gem.

[2] The story is one of children’s bedtime favourites in Japan and it goes that a young man called Urashima Taro saves a turtle, who offers him a ride to the undersea palace of Oto-hime (Princess Oto), where he spends dream-like few days. He then receives a parcel which he was instructed never to open and rides the same turtle home, but to his amazement not one of his family members and friends is around in his village. Probably thinking the key to the mystery was in the parcel, he opens it. From it smoke comes out and turns him into an old man. The period of time he thought was only a few days was actually life-long. Some say the lesson of the story is that time spent idly passes a lot faster than you think.

[3] Kai Province is located where Yamanashi Prefecture is in the modern day Japan.

[4]According to an ancient belief the carp turns into the dragon if it swims up a dragon gate.

[5] He’s referring to one of the three poisions in Buddhism, which are ignorance, attachment, and aversion.

[6] Jie Yu was a philosopher described in the Analects of Confucius. He pretended to be mad.

[7] Empress Komyo (701-760) is said to have built a bath to bathe the destitute and the thousandth she washed was an incarnation of Akshobhya – a Buddha.

[8] Bi Gan and Wu Xizu are both historical figures in China who criticized their masters.

[9] Area around present-day Miyagi Prefecture. It used to border the Ainu teritories in the age when they were independent.

[10] I’m not sure if Bakin means a season or a period of contract which typically was a year.

[11] Yu Rang of the Warring States China painted himself lacquer to disguise himself and waited for a chance to avenge his master.

[12] Xun Kuang is a Confucian scholar.

 

 

© Livingdaylightz and The Legend of Eight Samurai Hounds, 2016 (except for images). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of all or any part of this material without express and written permission from me, Livingdaylightz, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Livingdaylilghtz and The Legend of Eight Samurai Hounds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content and upon express and written permission from me, the author/site owner. The images belong to their individual copyright holders as specified in the text.

 

 

I was a bit sicky poorly yesterday and had to delay the update, but I’m all fine now. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

 

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