Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 4-2

Episode IV

In Ko-minato Yoshizane raises justice

In Kaki-no-uchi Takayoshi pursues vengeance

 

However, Yoshizane didn’t appear convinced.

“You speak too highly of me. Even though it is a great plan ‘tis hard for few to beat many adding to the fact that I’m a vagabond. What do I possess that should attract men? If three or four of us were to attack Takita Castle it’d be just like a praying mantis charging at a carriage with an axe. It’s hardly a match.”

To this reply Kanamari Hachiro drew closer on his knees.

“Faint-hearted man you are! The farmers in the entire two counties have been so abused by that traitor that they loathe him to the guts. They’re submissive for the moment only because they’re shoved around by power and fearful of the control. The way humans are attracted to justice is akin to the way trees and grass are drawn to the shade. If you conquer your solitude and raise a flag here and now in the name of crushing the traitor for Jin’yo’s sake and rescue people from their woes, will there be any one who wouldn’t be willing to risk their life and fight for justice and humanity wishing to eat Sadakane’s body alive as if ants were attracted to honey or humans were attracted to music? Although I myself am a humble existence, I have a few good ideas to easily muster a big crowd of men just as easily as to show the palm of my hand. Let me tell you how I’ll go about it…”

Takayoshi got closer and whispered to into their ears. While Yoshizane replied,

“Indeed.”,

And nodded slightly, Ujimoto and Sadayuki, who were listening by his side, were impressed.

“How marvelous!”

They then carefully observed Takayoshi and offered,

“What a shame, Master Kanamari! Even if it was done out of loyalty your skin is covered in scabs and hardly looks what it must have looked. Your acquaintances won’t recognize you when you call out to them and identify yourself with the purpose of mustering men. It’d be such a pity if we hadn’t good instant cure for them. Only if we had some medicine!”

To these words of comfort Takayoshi tugged up his sleeves and said,

“My physical existence can easily be given up for my late lord. Even if my body’s maimed as a result, my wish will be fulfilled as long as I can make that traitor fall. My appearance shall be not an ounce of hindrance as we’re not to raise an army for myself. Please sirs do not worry for my sake.”

As he rubbed his arms, Yoshizane who had been in deep thought opened his mouth.

“Your resolve must be so. However, if they may be cured, ‘tis best to do so. Lacquer is averse to crabs. This is why they say lacquer you’re tapping will be too runny if someone cooks crabs in the lacquer tapper’s household. Your scabs only come from lacquer on your skin and not from any intrinsic causes. This makes me suspect that crabs are capable of detoxification. I suggest you try it.”

Takayoshi was impressed by his knowledge and didn’t argue.

“In this inlet there are many crabs. Somehow I shall try it.”

At this timing there came by a fisherman’s child with a fishing basket on his head. Sadayuki and Ujimoto hurriedly called out to ask the boy what he was selling. He was selling crabs.

“What luck!”

Smiling, they bought the whole batch in which they counted a few over 30 crabs. Following Yoshizane’s instruction, Takayoshi proceeded to crack the crabs’ shells and rubbed the meat all over his own body while Sadayuki and Ujimoto struck the metal lighter hanging on their hips to burn dry twigs of pine trees and roast the remaining crabs. They then shelled and removed the legs off them to offer to Takayoshi. When he finished taking the whole dose, his body started to show a sign of miraculous recovery and even as they watched the pussy blood that had been stinking until minutes before dried up and scabs were easily scratched off the skin until it was mostly healed. Such was the effects of medicine that it was as though gods and the Buddhas had pitied the solitary serviceman and performed a miracle.

“That is truly remarkable!”

Ujimoto, along with Sadayuki, stared at the sight this way one second and that way another in deep appreciation and pointed out to Takayoshi,

“Look in there.”

So Takayoshi went to the pool of water in a horse shoe track and using it as a mirror saw his own reflection. As he pored over he couldn’t stop tears of joy running and continued,

“My skin used to only show in patches in between scratched scabs but it’s all healed thanks to the good captain of civil and military virtues. They say a good doctor cures a country, or something to that effect. I myself am a humble existence. Only when you govern the warring state and save the people from their suffering, you would be performing an act of supreme benevolence.

As we’re neither in Maro’s nor Anzai’s territory, they won’t have any means to interfere with us even after the promised date. Having said that we have no time to waste. As I whispered into your ear earlier, promptly proceed to that place.”

As Takayoshi said this earnestly, he tucked up his wild hair and tied it in a short bun.

Even though he was wearing

A piece of rope for a sash,

There he had a knife stashed,

Which he now pointed

O’er and towards the inlet

In Kominato

As the way he showed.

Thus Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi guided the Satomi’s men to Kominato. On the road meanwhile the long summer day’s sun had already set. The bell of the Tanjou Temple [1] rang in the starry sky where the much awaited over-twentieth-day moon had not risen yet, and the count of the bells told them that it was 10 o’clock.

This Tanjou Temple of Mt. Kohkoh in Kominato is within the boundary of A’ekawa Village[2]. Because it was Saint Nicheren’s birth place, Saint Nikka founded a cloister there and named it Tanjou Temple, and ever since then it was worshipped by the respected and the humble alike, who all joined the membership[3], so the temple prospered ever after. Whether it is what they commonly call Kadzusa’s Seven Li[4] of the Nichiren sect[5] or Awa’s Seven Coves of Kyo-shu, they all belong to the Nichiren sect. Among them the County of Nagasa, perhaps because it is the founder’s birth place, has many obstinate believers who wouldn’t even temporarily mingle with other sects.

Now for a start Kanamari Takayoshi, as he had previousely planned, set fire to a bamboo bush by Temple Tanjou in order to gather villagers. Bamboos do not easily catch fire but the fire quickly shot up to reach the sky against the jet-black of the night and made the birds sleeping on the twigs make a clamour, and the monks quickened the pace of their hammer to ring the bell.[6]

In a short while the villagers everywhere had a rude awakening and were pushing the gates open to look far out and shouted,

“Alas, something’s the matter with the temple! Get up! Come out!”

Townsmen picked up a staff, farm workers carried a farming tool, fishermen and seafarers, dogs and cats, mice and rats, they all fought to get there first running and huffing, only to find the temple safe and sound and the only thing burnt was an insignificant portion of a bamboo bush 6 Cho[7] away which no one visits. Being far away from the village centre there was not even a hut around, and on top of that it was a quiet windless night; by the time they all rushed up there fire had largely calmed down and the bells had stopped ringing. The crowd were both irked and baffled, so that some untied the Tenugui towel which they were wearing around their heads and wiped sweat with them.

“What an idiot did this? Such a stupid deed! Or did it just catch a creeping wild fire? If only we’d known all along, waking us all up in our sweet dreams, making us run as if on wings, all the bloody way of the 10 Cho[8] for some at the shortest and 3-4 Li[9] for others at the worst, and now it made our stomach hungry and how can we stomach that?!”

“Would you rather be sweating your stomach out putting out the fire then?

This made some of them laugh out loud while some others wouldn’t stop swearing, but they all had a moment’s peaceful rest as they crowded together.

Right this moment Kanamari Takayoshi gave out a cough and revealed himself from behind the bamboos still standing unburnt.

“What on earth?”

Every one of them was perfectly dumbstruck as if to wonder whether he was a human or an Oni demon. Takayoshi raised his hand and said to them,

“Gentlemen, do not be alarmed. I’ve been waiting for you here since evening.”

 

Kanamari Hachiro, dark hero of Episode 4

Kanamari Hachiro, dark hero of Episode 4

Image courtesy of Tateyama City Municipal Museum (Hakkenden Museum)

 

Hearing this men stared at him even more and made raucous.

“This must be the idiot who did such a wrongful deed and fooled us all. Hit him! Tie him up!”

Takayoshi calmly stepped closer.

“’Tis only natural that you should assume so without knowing why, but I did not set fire and gather you for no reason. Let me introduce myself.”

Seeting that his voice was effectively calming them down he contnued.

“When a country is in turmoil it’ll produce loyal retainers; when a family is in distress it’ll produce dutiful children. I’ve been hiding in an invisible coat and hat because I have a thing or two to do in this floating world. Now I’m wasted to the point I’m no longer recognizable. I’m Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi who served our previous lord.

Having been unable to admonish our lord, I left him and spent years in journey against my wishes, but how should I forget his favour? I stole back to my home country and have been waiting with a bated breath incognito and in disguise for a chance to strike Sadakane the traitor, but big armies can beat the heaven and my enemy was in a castle of three Li with tens of thousands of servicemen[10]. No use for Yu Rang[11] to sharpen his swords under the bridge or for Tadamitsu to cover his eyes with fish scales[12]. Even so, Maro and Anzai in Hiratate and Tateyama were disgraceful and were not ashamed of complying with traitors. Whilst they were old friends with our previous lord, telling them the secrets wouldn’t do. I could only begrudge such a sad world and lament my own insignificant self. I was alive and breathing yet powerless.

When I was about to cut my own stomach so as to take revenge as a ghost after death, Prince Yoshizane cut through the enemy line at Yuki and wandered over to Shirahama to seek protection of Anzai and his company, who out of spite not only refused to let him stay even for a few days but tried to kill him by speaking with forked tongue in such and such a manner, which hasn’t been successful for now. I happened to come across him at the bank of the River Shirahashi and straightforwardly talked to him to test his person with all due respect, as a result of which he turns out to be a true good captain both learned in letters and skilled in martial arts with benevolence and justice in his words and mannerisms despite his young age.

Almost all the samurai entrapped in the Castle of Yuki were either shot or captured alive; it is extremely rare for them to survive. I’m not the only one who should be grateful that Yoshizane and his men miraculously escaped the jaws of the tiger and reached this place. Wouldn’t you say so for yourselves, who have been terribly tormented by that traitor Sadakane and privately in despair all these years? If you let things as they are, it’d make you traitors too and the whole country’d deserve ancestral karma. On the other hand you could rise above him by serving for justice and beat Sadakane together with the Prince. Imagine how generations of your children to come will be free of agony and benefit from your deeds.

Secrets are always extremely difficult to keep. Because there’s no way of telling each one of you of what I’ve just said, I had no choice but to gather you to this bamboo bush by setting fire to it. I mean business.”

As he earnestly explained all these things every one of them clapped hands in joy.

“You are so terribly emaciated that even those who knew you couldn’t tell it was you, Master Kanamari. That is why we said such silly things earlier. Excuse us for our rudeness. We’re none of us learned nor talented, a bunch of no gooders but who would forget our late lord’s favour? Who wouldn’t resent Sadakane? Even though we despise him we’ve been powerless to attack him the way things are; thus we’ve lived in despair believing the sun and the moon don’t shine on us. Then the rumour of Prince Yoshizane quietly spread. It turns out that he comes from the Minamoto Clan and is a rare specimen of a good captain. Since the day we learnt of it there wasn’t one among us who wouldn’t stand on toes and hold hopes and dreams. Indeed he’d be our country’s saviour if he fought out of pity on us folk who are scorching worse than summer grass and are made to weakly wilt by a fake head of the state. Who wouldn’t offer their lives up for it? Master Kanamari, would you tell him these wishes of ours in our stead?”

Thus they chorused. When Takayoshi turned around and said,

“As you already heard sir it’s been fulfilled.”

Yoshizane, with Ujimoto and Sadayuki in tow, quietly proceeded from behind the bush and faced the crowd.

“Here I am Satomi Yoshizane. It is the custom of a man of war such as myself to run east and west in Asura Realm of battle fields[13] and die like a bird on an arrow, especially at a time of war such as now. Nevertheless, I shall not take a refuge in the shade of crooked trees, nor shall I refuse your wishes as long as you will not give up on me, however short I may be of the virtues required in acting as your father and mother.

A great steed capable of running a thousand Li[14] may not run without its legs. Even a Garuda whose wings spread across a thousand Li cannot fly without its wings. While I’m a mere lone Ochiudo deserter, I‘ve now gained your support. The time has finally come! However, Takita is a stronghold which cannot be attacked without appropriate equipment, horse power nor provisions of food. How may this be made possible?”

Thus queried, everyone looked at each other and realised there was truth in what he had said. No one had the answer. After a while, a group of three old men, apparently village elders, presented themselves from amongst the crowd.

 

[1] The word ‘tanjou’ in Temple Tanjou (誕生寺) means birth.

[2] A’ekawa Village (敢川村) pronounced Ah-eh-kah-wah.

[3] The Japanese text says ‘became the benefactors (檀那 pronounced ‘dan-ner’ and originates in Sanskrit)’.

[4] 17 miles or 27.5 kilometres. Li is a measurement of distance equivalent to 2.44 miles or 3.927 kilometres.

[5] Nichiren sect is probably better known as Tendai sect but I chose this name to make clear the background. The original text refers to it as the Hokke (法華), which comes from the Lotus Sutra they study.

[6] This was written in Edo Period when large portion of the buildings were made of wood and paper and therefore arson was a serious offence punishable by a death sentence, which fact will explain a later incident in this episode.

[7] I’m not totally sure but the original text says 両三町 and since 両 means ‘a couple of’ and 三町 means 3 Cho, I guess Bakin means 6 Cho which is about 654.54 metres or 715.8 yards. Cho (町) is approximately 109.09 metres or 119.3 yards.

[8] Approximately 0.68 miles or 1 kilometre.

[9] 7.32-9.76 miles or 11.78-15.7 kilometres. People those days could run!

[10] Takayoshi is more likely than not exaggerating using examples from Chinese classics. As the reader might have guessed by now Chinese literature was and has been to Japan what Greek and Latin literature has been to the West.

[11] Refers to the same man from Episode 4-1. He painted himself lacquer to avenge his master.

[12] Refers to Fujiwara no Tadamitsu who tried to assassinate Minamoto no Yoritomo. He is said to have pretended to have lost eyesight by covering his left eye with fish scales.

[13] A Buddhism-inspired common belief was that samurai were to go to Asura Realm of hell after death because of all the acts of killing they engage themselves in the floating world, regardless of their (good or bad) intentions. By mentioning this Yoshizane, intentionally or not, is making a candid statement that a samurai such as himself is essentially a violent and therefore humble existence. Much later in the story you will see a similar contemporary attitude towards hunters who make living by killing animals.

[14] Approximately 2500 miles or 4000 kilometres.

 

 

© 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.

 

Thanks for all the support and the wait! Hope there’s enough for you to enjoy. The next bit has lots of exciting actions!!

 

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