Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 5-3

Episode V-iii

Good captain declines intrigues and enlistees learn benevolence

Carrier pigeons deliver a message and the traitors offer a head


Previously in Episode 5-2, Sadayuki couldn’t capture Tsumadate Togoroh riding back into Takita Castle. This must mean Maro and Anzai have already been talked into attacking Yoshizane’s army from behind to support Sadakane within the castle. Soon Yoshizane’s army will be surrounded by enemies. On top of that Yoshizane’s running out of food supplies for his men. How are Yoshizane, Sadayuki, and Takayoshi going to fight back?


Meanwhile Sadakane heard that Tsumadate Togoro had returned safely, so he summoned him hastily to ask about the outcome. Togoroh rubbed off the pouring sweat.

“Yes milord, Kagetsura and Nobutoki have agreed without hesitation. Also, those master and men of the Satomis were fools who entrusted themselves to Anzai at Tateyama but were mightily threatened and ran away sore losers. ‘How they raised a big army in such few days was hard to comprehend’ according to them. Both Kagetsura and Nobutoki were jealous. There is no doubt they will attack Tojo.”

Maro and Anzai, with Sadayuki, Ujimoto, Bokuhei and Mukuzo in the background. Courtesy of National Diet Library


Sadakane was even more pleased at this report, so he gifted Togoroh generously in appreciation for his work.

“Continue defending against the attack.”

With these words he waited for the aid from Tateyama and Hiratate in a complacent manner.
Thus days went by and the besiegers had exhausted their three days’ provision. Concerned, Sadayuki and Takayoshi said to Yoshizane,

“It’s been seven or eight days since we set off on campaign but Tojo has not sent over any supplies. I suspect that, whilst Sugikura Ujimoto is a seasoned warrior, the castle is our new acquisition. People may not be responding to our appeal and he may be having trouble collecting enough. ’Tis now the barley autumn. Look over there! The crop on those far-away hills is already ripe. Have it harvested sir.”

Yoshizane shook his head to this.

“Nay. I only attack Takita to save people from their misery. If we nevertheless rob them of their wares and steal their grains to turn them into our food, aren’t we the same as tigers and wolves who fatten themselves by eating humans?

Not only that, farmers in Nagasa do not respond to our appeal and as a result our ally over there ’s short of food, simply because I lack in virtue. I should directly retreat, cultivate virtue and caress my folk until such a time as it was fit for me to attack Takita. Isn’t that so?”

Hearing this, Sadayuki cocked his head for a while.

“Because you are deeply benevolent you blame yourself and are compassionate to your people so. It is rare in this world I dare say. However, if you retreat as it is now they will certainly come out to attack us and get us in trouble. I say if we increase the number of fire baskets to night to let them believe we’re about to attack, leave behind some men hidden in the thick of the trees and past midnight let our soldiers retreat with the rear guards first, with you staying in the centre and me taking the rear, whatever problem would there be even if they come out of the castle after us trying to hold us down?”

Takayoshi started as soon as Sadayuki finished.

“While Master Sugikura’s[1] plans are not impossible they’ll only protect ourselves and keep the enemy at bay. My humble idea is to give 300 – 400 stout men instructions to hold flags of Maro and Anzai and to dress all of them to look that way from the banner to the hat emblem. When it’s a little into the dusk and our main force shall be looking as if to enter the castle around the Dog-Bore side (north-west), the men in disguise shall bustle over, thwart and chase them back so that they’ll fight each other. The men in the castle will observe this and believe that ‘the reinforcement from Tateyama came to the rescue, don’t let them be shot’ and won’t be able to help pushing open the gate in order to coordinate with the aid and let them in. If we then have our troops in disguise lead the way to allow the three forces of ours to take advantage as we please, we’ll be able to seize the castle at one fell swoop. What if we did that?”

Takayoshi laid out his carefully planned idea. Yoshizane listened to this attentively and replied.

“Sadayuki’s plan offers no risk nor gains; Takayoshi’s scheme has craft and extreme precariousness. I believe when sacred kings and wise generals of olden days fought war of justice they didn’t choose to win by deception. Duke Wen of Jin in China[2] was admired as one of the Five Hegemons for employing no artifice and assisted the Jin dynasty well. The philosophy of Sun Tzu’s warfare strategy is deception. It is a wartime practice. Even when the plan is a good one, if you overthrew your enemy by deception and maintain their land how would you guide the people? This is the reason why I hesitate to accept your ideas.

“Even if Sadakane maintains fertile land and barricades himself in a stronghold with three years’ worth food stocks, ‘tis not impossible to capture it as long as he defends it in an ordinary manner. However if we stormed the castle we’d be killing many of the innocent folk.

“As I often said earlier, Sadakane’s followers are not all wicked. Swayed by power and fearful of control they may be holding the castle for now without sharing joy. It would be tragic if they share grief at last and lose their life there. You need not mention Xiang Yu’s atrocity where he buried 80,000 surrendered Qin soldiers alive[3]. Wise and valiant generals such as Meng Tian of Qin or Huo Guang of Han[4] had no future after all. This is because they killed many a man. Our aim is Sadakane alone. If only we could punish him that’d be enough. There is no need to think any further.”

As Yoshizane carefully laid out the rationale, both Sadayuki and Takayoshi exclaimed with deep understanding and agreement and had nothing more to say. After a while they sighed despite themselves.

“Your wisdom is beyond us average men and I dare say sacred kings and wise generals of old might not have been better. Nevertheless, ‘tis now the age of decadence; numerous are those who gather around profit but extremely few approach virtue. You have no shallow ‘Jianai‘, universal love[5], and you wish to save even people barricading the enemy fortress. However both of these things cannot be fulfilled.

“Our food stock has run out but you daren’t capture a castle by deception nor would you consent to using tricks to retreat. The thing is if you waste your day after another, over a thousand men we have now might get too hungry not to betray and leave us. When that happens with whom would you undertake an endeavour? Didn’t you use to laugh at Duke Xiang of Song’s Chivalry and Wei Sheng’s honesty[6]? Shouldn’t it be thus, my lord, if you were to be more reasonable?”

Yoshizane smiled at this.

“It’s not that our food running out hasn’t been worrying me too. Lost in thought and with concern, I looked around at the skies and then over here and there, when I spotted flocks of carrier pigeons hunting for food in pea farms in the dragon-snake direction (south-east). I observed to find them actually coming from Takita Castle in the morning and going back there in the evening. Pigeons are said to be the guardian deity of the Gen-ji and messengers of Hachiman Shrine[7]. This unexpectedly gave me a bit of a tactic, so with some prayers I directly instructed some young men to secretly get some fishing nets out and caught 50 to 60 of those pigeons. If we wrote copies of a letter of appeal and tie them to those pigeons’ legs and release them, they will surely fly back to the castle. Some people should get suspicious and catch the pigeon to read the letter. Even if they didn’t catch the birds, some knots will get undone and fall off. If all those in the castle open up the letter to read and aspire to leave the wrong and follow the right, it shall cause disturbances and the castle will certainly fall without having to attack it.

“If this works out we only need discipline Sadakane the traitor to the country alone to fulfill people’s wishes. It may be that the soldiers in the castle don’t obey Sadakane at heart whilst they guard the castle for their own enemy because they fear they’ll be punished if they come forward to us. That’s also heartbreaking.

Indeed the plan’s like a child’s play of little consequence, but we had that good omen of the wild doves when I prayed to the God of White Banners by the side of Matsuzaki[8] earlier on our way. I can only wish for the help of home pigeons here again. Try it. God only knows how it comes out.”

Hearing this Sadayuki and Takayoshi were further impressed.

“Very cleverly worked out my lord. There’s no better way to count Sadakane’s sins and show them to the castle. Once the civilian recruits regard the letter they’ll strive to revolt and bring the traitor general’s head to you. Promptly proceed sir.”

So they replied in unison.

Kanamari Takayoshi received the order to write up a draft of the letter; meanwhile they put together scribes, who scribbled tens of copies instantly. The day was not yet over. Thus Yoshizane and his men burnt incense and poured out holy wine to pray to the chapel of Shirahata, the white banner, and went on to tie the letter of appeal on to the birds’ legs he’d had caught earlier. As expected, when they were released like this they hovered up in the air to flock together to return to the castle with no exception.

Because the letters were only loosely tied, none of the knots failed to naturally come undone when the birds flew into the castle. The strange thing was some of them chose to fall by the hut of the farmers from Heguri, who were recruited for the service this term, and drew their attention. They all picked up a letter each and quickly unfolded to read,


Water does not run upwards.

The honest do not serve the dishonest.

Defeating Yao in their assistance,

Is like water that flows upwards,

And it goes against Heaven.

However long they wish

To prosper is not their due.

First of all the traitor Sadakane

Beguiled his lord only to best him,

The vermin now poisons people.

Wang Mang, Lushan,

Need I say more?

Our lord the honourable Ason of Minamoto

Visited south not long ago.

He defeated the dishonest for the masses,

And pulled them out of misery.

His virtue was like Cheng Tang’s,

And his grace like Wu of Zhou’s.

Also right here,

Having taken Tojo,

Conquered the two counties,

He’s about to break the nest.

You people deserve compassion,

For losing your life in your enemy’s den.

For these reasons we composed this.

Why wait to follow the just?

Why not serve us and redeem yourself?

If each one of you enlighten,

How should repentance not be enough?

Heaven’s mirror never errs.

Sovereigns never crumble.

Composed with honour upon his command,

Kakitsu Year 1, May in Shinyu summer

Messrs Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi on his behalf [9]



[1] Kanamari Takayoshi calls Horiuchi Sadayuki ‘Master Sugikura’ by mistake in the original text too.

[2] Yoshizane mentions Duke Wen of Jin when a fisherman’s child threw dirt at him in Episode 1.

[3] According to some Internet lore it was 200,000. I’m no historian and quite frankly have no idea about the truth. Xiang Yu (項羽) is pronounced ‘Kohwu’ in Japanese.

[4] Meng Tian (蒙恬, Mouten in Japanese) is a Qin dynasty general who contributed to building of the Great Wall of China. Sima Qian regarded the act as not humane.

[5] Jianai or Jian Ai (兼愛 or ken’ai in Japanese) is a concept proposed by a 5th century Chinese philosopher Mozi. It is somewhat similar to philanthropy.

[6] Duke Xiang of the Song Dynasty, in the belief that it is a gentlemanly way, allowed the outnumbering enemy time to prepare themselves and beat his own army as a result. Wei Sheng is a character, either real or imagined, who apprears in Chinese classic ‘Zhuangzi (荘子)’ which you can read at ‘The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu Translated by Burton Watson (Linked with permission). He is said to have waited for his date, who never showed up, until he eventually drowned in rising river water, as if he had believed his date would appreciate his rather pointless faithfulness when she’s learnt of his death.

[7] When you look it up on the Internet translation may tell you Hachiman-gu or Hachiman Shrine is a shrine dedicated to war god, which might have been so to Yoshizane at the time but which I also think is an oversimplification to the extent that it’s simply wrong. There were some historical backgrounds which made it to be one of the popular beliefs at least in certain time frames but it has not always been so throughout the history, and it’s certainly not the only definition modern-day Japanese people would come up with, as you can see from the fact that Hachiman-gu is so ubiquitous that almost every village has one because it was originally dedicated to god of agriculture.

[8] After a lot of searching I think I located this shirine to be in Kamogawa-shi in Chiba (click and see the map and the description I added to it). Even in Kamogawa-shi this is not the only one called Shirahata Jinja (shrine) which claims to be associated with Minamoto no Yoritomo , as Bakin described at the end of Episode 4. However, I assume this is the one Yoshizane visited for two good reasons: It’s the only one close to Matsuzaki (待崎) which uses a unique character for the part Matsu (待) and is seen nowhere else in Japan while there are numerous other Matsuzakis with a different set of characters (松崎), and it’s the only one between Hama’ogi and Ma’ehara(-ura) as Bakin describes. Please note that here it doesn’t matter whether it’s actually associated with Yoritomo or not. I’m talking about Bakin and Yoshizane.

[9] The letter’s written in Chinese, which was a common practice for samurai. It’s a bit like French during the Norman Conquest so I wondered whether I should write it in French for a fraction of a second before I remembered how bad my French was. Yao was a legendary Chinese emperor often regarded to be a sacred king. Wang Mang overthrew the Han Dynasty temporarily in the 1st century. An Lushan rebelled against Tang Dynasty in the 8th century. Cheng Tang is the first king of the Shang Dynasty. Wu of Zhou was the first king of the Zhou Dynasty. Shinyu is the 58th year of the sexagenary cycle.


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