Prologue: The Origin – The Prince, the Princess, and the Dog 7-2

 

Volume IV, Episode VII-ii

 

Kagetsura with Cunning Plans Sells Nobutoki

Takayoshi for Fidelity Retires from Yoshizane

 

Yoshizane and his men finally freed people from Tamazusa and Sadakane’s rules. Now Awa Province is governed by Yoshizane and his former enemy, sly Anzai Saburo Kagetsura, and it seems like peace and happiness descended on earth. However, Tamazusa’s curse is still lurking to seek revenge on our heroes…

 

It soon came to the Star Festival of Tanabata in the month of July[1]. That evening Yoshizane was seen by the passageway outside. He had invited only the meritorious men, Sugikura Ujimoto, Horiuchi Sadayuki, Kanamari Takayoshi and such, and had just finished a tea ceremony. [Author’s note: The Satomi had a tradition of tea ceremony, as was mentioned in ‘Awa Province Archives (房総志料)’.]

 

(c) Pan Jama Lammy

 

Demonstration of tea ceremony much enjoyed by samurai (7 min) : https://youtu.be/_OVu_yBWfac

Documentary (30 min): https://youtu.be/gx59Y8VFse0

 

Yoshizane alternately talked of what had happened and let them talk to him. He said to them,

“Ever since I had the luck of acquiring the two counties, whilst it’s been peaceful, various duties have kept me too busy to thank the gods I had prayed to. The meritorious have not been awarded yet either, as if they’d been modern-day Ziezi[2].

“Ujimoto, Sadayuki. You accepted my late father’s order and have followed me in my hardships; indeed, your loyalty is only too obvious to mention. However, if we hadn’t met Kanamari Takayoshi by the river Shirahashi, how would we have accomplished the feat in this land? Similarly, had the pigeons not sent the letter, how would Sadakane give us his head? The man and the birds rendered the most eminent of the services to me. Without them, we’d have fallen victims to a trick Anzai’s company set up and been cut according to the martial law before all this, or might have run out of food, exhausted ourselves out of hunger and been taken prisoners by the enemy. Those two would have been our only other options.

It’s finally cooled down enough for empty words to draw dew. They say the two stars meet to compose verses and sing poems to night. There are lords and retainers amongst stars and human fortunes hang on this. I’ve already sworn to the heaven. We’ll build a Hachiman shrine in each of the eight corners of this castle and celebrate every autumn. I’ll also make an announcement to forbid killing pigeons in our land.

Kanamari Hachiro Takayoshi shall have a half of Nagasa County and be made Lord Tojo. Ujimoto and Sadayuki shall have 5000 Kan[3] worth of land each. That is all from me.”

Thus announced in his usual sincere manner[4], Yoshizane handed over a letter of appreciation he had written himself, first to Takayoshi, who bowed three times, returned it immediately and sat beside his own seat[5].

“There is no reason for me to refuse rewards when you repeatedly offer them to me over and above your long-serving retainers. However, my purpose has been anything but fame and fortune; it was to put the traitors to death for the sake of the late lord. Indeed I’ve been able to fulfill my wish all thanks to you, and there is nothing else that I desire.”

Yoshizane smiled to this.

“Free from fame and fortune, only to retire after performing an exploit. That is truly what a loyal retainer should be. However, take an example of Zhang Liang from China, who overthrew the Qin dynasty for his former master and was later enfeoffed and given the title of Lord Liu by Han. I am no comparison to the emperor in virtuousness but you’re just like Zhang Liang in your solitary loyalty.

“In that case, if we don’t reward the meritorious ones, who would aspire to virtues of integrity and of fidelity in public and private? Please let me implore you to accept my offer.”

Ujimoto and Sadayuki joined him and passed Yoshizane’s letter from hand to hand to Kanamari Hachiro, whose only option was to accept it. As he opened and read it,

“If I refused to accept this, it would make me an ungrateful man who will go his own way no matter what. On the other hand, accepting it after all this time makes me unfaithful to my late master. There is a way out of this for Takayoshi, who will both refuse and accept for his present and former masters.”

Even before he finished he pulled out a sword in a flash, wrapped it with Yoshizane’s letter and stuck it deep and fast into his own abdomen. The shocked lord and his lieutenants came to his side. Yoshizane gently lifted his elbow to closely observe the wound.

“The point has been driven too far in; the wound is fatal. Even then, if I let you die like this, they may say you went out of your mind. Bear the pain and tell me before you go all you wish to make known, whatever it is on your mind.

Takayoshi, as if he caught the voice that said so, looked up sharply and exhaled.

“When I heard of my former master’s tragic death, I should have cut this stomach of mine. Even though I lived only to defeat Sadakane, the act was impossible to achieve all by myself. At such a time I had the good fortune of meeting my lord, but just because I worked like a humble dog that I was, to accept the reward far exceeding my performance after all this time, it would be as if I was benefiting from the tragic death of my late lord whose family line died out[6]. This makes it hard for me to live on.

“Not only that, Somaki no Bokuhei and Mukuzo, who took the lord for Sadakane and harmed him in Ochiba-ga-oka, used to be our family servants. As for their martial art skills, I myself instructed them in the sword strokes. It makes me uneasy that it looks as though it were my own fault for handing out weapon to the naïve ones with consequences, even though it all happened outside my knowledge. That’s the other reason that makes it hard to be.

Whilst I do not know what Zhang Liang of the Han dynasty had in his mind, I rather admire another of the kind, Tian Heng[7], whose spirit remained resolute even after his death. Please forgive my sinfully bad manners of spoiling the party of comradeship.”

Takayoshi sat on his knee and tried to pull the blade towards his right.

“Stop that.”

As Yoshizane fretted, Sadayuki and Ujimoto clang on to his fists.

“At his lordship’s command. No matter what, you needn’t hurry on your journey to Hades[8] now.”

Whilst they attempted to persuade him with all the words at their command, Yoshizane repeatedly exhaled a breath.

“It is not that I wasn’t aware of his aspirations but never imagined it’d go this far. Thoughtlessly telling him of the rewards and bringing upon his death was the blunder of my life. Hachiro[9] there, let me offer you a parting gift on your departure. Kiso-no-suke, make haste and invite that elderly gentleman in.”

Ujimoto agreed and stood up to go out to the passageway and called out.

“Issaku from Kadzusa, come in now.”

“Understood sir.”

 

Courtesy of National Diet Library

 

The voice that said so sounded nasal, and from behind the folding doors to a thickly wooded back garden walked out a stooping figure of a teary eyed peasant over sixty. He had been there for some time in gaiters and spats of coarsely woven fabric, with the dress hem tucked up, holding a sedge hat in his right hand[10] and in his left a hand of an approximately five-year-old boy

“Directly over here.”

In response to Ujimoto’s invitation, the man straightened up with his hand on the passageway floor.

“Dear Hachiro sir, Master Takayoshi. I’ve come from Kadzusa, it’s Issaku here. This is the child you had with my daughter Kohagi[11]. On the very day I’ve finally reached you, you commit seppuku. What on earth is this! Can’t we have word with each other?”

 

[See Kohagi, Takayoshi’s secret love, at Tateyama City’s digital museum here. ]

 

Such lamenting and crying would have been felt inappropriate at such a place like a border checkpoint[12], which this is not, but still it felt awkward at an occasion for noble people. Hearing the man identify himself as Issaku, Takayoshi opened his eyes and stared but remained silent. Sugikura Ujimoto then faced Takayoshi.

“Take a look at him would you, Hachiro? On my way here the elderly stood at the crossroads and asked my servant,

‘Where would Mr Kanamari’s residence be?’
So it was hard to ignore. When I asked him as to his circumstances, he told me such and such, about the little boy too; it was not something to be laid aside.

‘Takayoshi won’t be at home today. Follow me if you wish to meet him.’

I directly brought him here, and told the news to Krando[13] for a start and then to the lord, who said,

“That sounds interesting. If he’s Hachiro’s love child he’ll have a promising future. I’m going to arrange a meeting myself. Don’t let Kanamari know till then.”

This is how we had Issaku, together with the little one, hide behind the folding double doors to the back garden and waited for the lord’s instructions, but contrary to our expectations, before telling you you commit suicide. It is quite beyond my imagination what might have gone through the elderly gentleman’s mind who witnessed it from outside.

‘At least let the father and son meet each other before the departure.’

So wished our kind lord, eh, Hachiro.”

Revived by his name being called out[14], Takayoshi barely lifted his head.

“Claiming to be his father after all this time, I doubt if there’s any sense in it.

At the time I failed to admonish my lord and left Takita, there was a peasant called Issaku in the village of Seki, of County Amawa in Kadzusa[15]. That is the man you see in front of you.

“He used to be a young attendant in my father’s time, so I stopped over at his residence for a period. During my brief stay I wandered into the thick of the beautiful wet bush clover of his daughter Kohagi (see Note 11 on her name). We dreamt a dream for a dew’s moment[16], promising a thousand autumns together, but after oft-times of pillowing side by side she told me she was not alone. It’d taken me by surprise. Indeed lusts are an unwitting sin[17] as they say, and it bore on me[18].

“On my journey to nowhere, at a house that could not be my eternal love nest, I hurt the good daughter of a sincere gentleman by making her gossip stock about a woman and a man[30] with their knots not tied. Even if her parents did not mind, I hadn’t the heart to see her. What a deplorable thing I’d done. There was no use being filled with remorse a hundred or thousand times, because repentance always comes too late. All I could do was to suggest abortion to Kohagi.

“Having no other thoughts, I ran away from Seki Village leaving a futile apology letter to Issaku in vain and wandered about here and there for five years until this summer, when I heard the rumour of my late lord’s tragic death and decided to shoot Sadakane. Setting off homeward discretely, even on its long journey I dared not visit Issaku’s place nor write to ask how it fared with Kohagi.

“Whereas you gave birth to such a healthy child and have raised him for all these years. Faced by such good faith I feel even more ashamed.”

Said the feeble voice. ‘Indeed’, Issaku understood his feelings too much to console him and blew his nose.

“Even valorous warriors are vulnerable to love at heart, and let alone you, who had no wife nor child. Comforting your idleness whilst being away from home, my daughter Kohagi may appear to be promiscuous but is not so.

Needless to mention that it was the child to our former master she bore.

‘Truly a splendid feat our girl achieved, born under a lucky star, with a good husband too,’

Thus my wife and I privately took pleasure in this.

Whether perceiving our awareness under pretense of unawareness, Master went away not to return. Whilst we were wasting away our efforts to find your wherabouts, our daughter shortly became due and gave birth to a baby boy.

“With very little time to celebrate the happy occasion however, due to deepening lovesickness Kohagi departed for the myriad Buddha lands never to return[20].

“The first seventh day came and the second seventh after that[21], we were awfully busy with the services, offering alms of rice, and procuring mother’s milk. Of the two lives, a birth and a death, transmigrating between the Three Realms[22], suffering and sorrows cannot be expressed fully in my hoarse words.

“For all that however, the baby was in good health. The fact that it was entrusted to us by our master and daughter made the baby all the more delightful and precious to us, so much so that it stayed in our breast pocket all day long and slept by the side of either its grandad or granny taking turns all night long. When he crawled he was encouraged to stand up[23]; when he laughed he was urged to speak. It was only our minds that grew too fast.

“Being drawn by our grandchild riding on a cotton gin horse [24] with straw rope attached in place of reins, we forgot to do pre-harvest weeding of the barren rice paddies, and oh the scarecrow! Year after year passed in repetition until it was the fourth, which was last year, and the time was autumn, when my wife fell ill. Nursing single-handedly, the hand could not reach the medicine pot on the shelf[25], and when your hands were tied to the crying child by bonds of affection, the pot would boil down to chars and so did the year to the last day, when she finally exited this life.

“A wooden puppet with an arm torn, the young child and I were the only three who watched the coffin over the New Year[26]. The freshly cut Kadomatsu pine trees[27]  were a milestone for her journey to Hades. Despite my effort at philosophising it like a Zen monk, it was hard for a mere mortal.

“Thus began this 68th year of my life with the biggest hardships and distress yet. Try as you might it cannot be summed up as once; twice, and then thrice came misfortunes. This old man cried unabashedly in front of his grandson, not caring if the spring mountains beyond laughed at me, whence icicles of tears thawed.  The plum branches we picked for the departed in the back garden had flower buds with petals counting up to five, just as the age of the child who was innocently chanting a prayer by imitation whilst yawning early on from the dusk.

“Short winter nights skipped to spring, and from the late April the news about our neighbouring country, about you dear Master, and about the war, all was heard throughout Kadzusa to the edges. At first it disconcerted me but then it brought me courage.

‘I’m travelling to visit him,’

Thought I, but it was too perilous for a wobbly old man piggybacking a little child to head for a battlefield, so I changed my mind and waited. Now that I heard the news of the conquest I am here today to no avail, only to see you breathe the last breath. As for the sadness I feel due to the karma of my own past lives – which I can only cast a thought to – it doesn’t even amount to a spec of dust. How much grief would this little one experience for not knowing the faces of both his parents when he’s grown up. Katami, eh, that is your daddy. Learn his face.”

As Issaku points to him the young boy stretched up and uttered,

“Daddy, eh.”

The so-addressed father could only look. The lips he moved as if to say something had changed colour. It was obvious he was nearing his death. Yoshizane invited the boy by his side and while looking at him attentively,

“You look very much like your daddy Hachiro. What’s the little person called?”

To his question Issaku bent his knees and looked up to say,

“He hasn’t a name for sure. Because he’s what our former master and daughter left us, we got in the habit of calling him Katami (Keepsake).”

“Indeed you would. Entrust him to me, will you?

“His father Takayoshi aided me and achieved outstanding merit. Let us spell this fact in the child’s name. Let him call himself Kanamari Daisuke Takanori and follow his devoted father’s footsteps. Once he comes of an age, following the formalities  he shall be Lord Tojo and be given half Nagasa County. Issaku is a maternal relative. Remain here with the boy and be his guardian. The little one shall be provided with a reward of 500 Kan[28] for now.

“Hachiro, travel to Hades with this knowledge and attain Buddhahood.”

Takayoshi, having been animated by this, raised his bloody left hand to praise the lord, pulled the sword round hard and grabbed the gut coming out in its wake together, and uttered his last words of,

“Gentlemen, I trust you for the last assistance.”

And stretched his neck out.

So as to spare him from further pain, Yoshizane pulled his own sword, stood behind him, and poor Hachiro’s head had fallen in front all too soon.

Even though he had been bracing himself, Issaku could not tolerate it and bawled unavashedly whilst repeating an old man’s lament, to which Ujimoto and Sadayuki listened with sympathetic ears and gave him warm words of consolation. It was heartbreaking to see the puzzled little child too, not understanding what had just happened, looking a little teary and peeping into the face of his dead father.

Just as Kanamari Hachiro had died, the stars hid themselves and the seventh day moon exited westward. There floated a single ball of gloomy flame, which flickered, formed a shape of a woman and nestled itself against Daisuke’s body as if it were a shadow, before vanishing completely, which Yoshizane alone observed. No one else knew.

 

Like so, Yoshizane invited Ujimoto and Sadayuki close by and carefully instructed them on matters regarding Takayoshi’s burial rite and rearing of Daisuke, until some time later when he retired. The water clock bell was heard ringing clearly. It was already mid-bore (10 PM)[29].

 

Author’s note: this episode falls on early July but the illustration appears to show winter clothes. Indeed sheer silk dresses are difficult to portray unless fully coloured. I leave all that to the artists’ tastes and choose not to worry about seasons. These are common occurrences. I hope it will not bother you too much.

On a different note, the above image shows only Ujimoto and misses Sadayuki. He is one of the central characters but performed no special role in this scene so it saved woodblock carvers trouble.

Let me also mention that it’s been only four months since the Battle of Yuki in the very first Episode up to this scene. It all began in April in Kakitsu Year 1 and it ended in July the same year. Only up to 80 and few days passed during this period. However, a long time passes between now and Episode Eight, in fact, 16-17 years altogether. Nothing much happens except for Princess Fuse growing up day after another. Let us skip it all to where actions take place. It depends on the context whether to go into details or leaving things off; it is nothing new and needless to say. However, just in case the reader casually misses the next chapter’s foreword, I add a note on that too.

 

[1] Referring to the lunar calendar. According to a myth, when a weaving princess and a cowherd fell in love, the princess’s father forbid them to meet except on the Star Festival night, when two stars, Vega (princess) and Alter (cowherd), meet once a year the weather permits. The linked page explains it further and mentions a real life festival held in Kew Garden last year. I wonder if they’ll do it this year too?

[2] Jiezi (介子) or Jiezhitui(介之推), Kaizan(介山)in the original text [link to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jie_Zhitui#Legend%5D, served Duke Wen of Jin in the 7th Century China. He is said to have refused to be rewarded when Duke Wen ascended to power.

[3] According to some net lore, 5000 Kan would be worth \150 million, a little short of a million Pounds or well over a million dollars.

[4] The word ‘usual’ was added by the translator as the word sincere is consistently attributed to describe Yoshizane.

[5] About bowing three times, it is done whilst holding the object high in both hands higher than your own head. Takayoshi didn’t go back to be seated on his cushion to express his modesty as in he was not worth it.

[6] Here I interpreted ‘後なくなりし’ as a reference to his family line but according to Tokuda Takeshi (2017), it means to have disappeared without a trace.

[7] Tian Heng killed himself rather than serving Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu of Han). Wikipedia (09/02/2018) says it was because he himself was once king and equal to Liu Bang, and Tokuda Takeshi (2017) quotes 通俗漢楚軍談, a Japanese translation of a Chinese history novel ‘西漢通俗演義’ to say that Tian Heng was ashamed to serve Liu Bang who killed his former master King Qi. All his 500 retainers followed him in death. Takayoshi probably means these men by . King Qi, or Tian Guang, was his nephew. Gosh that took me awefully lot of time to dig up!

[8] The English word may contain a connotation of hell but it represents a mythological Greek idea of the land after death, to which some Japanese myths have strange similarities, so I’ve decided the was a better fit than more familiar alternatives. I may later opt this out for another more fit expression because of its apparent non-Japanese-ness but the last bit inevitably goes with many other English words.

[9] Hachiro is Takayoshi’s middle name, and similarly Kiso-no-suke Ujimoto’s.

[10] He was in travel attire.

[11] Kohagi (濃萩) is a beautiful name. Hagi, or Japanese bush clover , is a common bush you can find in mounainous areas that produces pink flowers in autumn, very much like the common bush clover. The name Kohagi means its flowers in deep pink. Pretty.

[12] See a later note.

[13] Krando is Horiuchi Sadayuki’s middle name.

[14] ‘To revive by calling out a name’ is one word in Japanese (呼び活くる), made up by combining two separate words of ‘call’ and ‘revive’. To my knowledge I could not find its literary translation in English nor have I heard it used in modern Japan, and perhaps knowledgible reader may be able to assist me here, but all the same it is interesting to imagine that the warring period must have provided frequent use of the word.

[15] The place name in the original text is上総国 (Kadzusa, refer to Episode 2-1), 天羽郡 (Amawa County – each of the Chinese characters meaning Heaven, feather and county), and 関村 (Seki Village – seki meaning a border checkpoint, thus, the earlier mention of the word. Another instance of Bakin’s craft. This is an additional reason why Issaku mentions border checkpoint earlier, besides it was used as a wordplay like a Cockney’s rhyming slang.

[16] Meaning a short-lived, fleeting moment, ‘tsuyu no ma (露の間)’ or a dew’s morment is a freequently used poetic expression which I believe will have its place in English so I’ve decided to keep the original phrasing.

[17] One interpretation says that this means ‘desire cannot be judged by common sense’ part. The original text is ‘現色情は意外の悪事’ – literary, ‘after all desire is an unexpected sin’. As I couldn’t quite see how it fits into the context, I used the more literary interpretation as you see here.

[30] ‘A woman and a man’ is not such a common word order as its reversed version is in English, but it is a naturally preferred word order used in the original text; it’s pronounced ‘imo to se’, with two syllables preceding one and one, exactly as with its counterpart in English, so this is an attempt at reversing the word order on the English side to start getting used to it and more importantly at conveying the atmosphere. After all, isn’t there a song which goes ‘women and me-eh-ehhh-eeen, women and me-eh-ehhh-eeen’ by They Might Be Giants?

[18] Similarly, the expression ‘it bore on me’ has some connotation with child births. Since the original text, especially in this part, is full of insinuations and crafty pans which are hard to catch up with in its entirety, this and some others are my meagre attempt at peppering the English with connotations and insinuations.

[19] ‘A woman and a man’ is not such a common word order as its reversed version is in English, but it is a naturally prefered word order in the original text, ‘imo to se’, with two syllables proceeding one and one, exactly as with its counterpart in English, so this is an atempt at reversing the word order on the English side to start getting used to it and more importantly at conveying the atmosphere. After all, isn’t there a song which goes ‘women and me-eh-ehhh-eeen, women and me-eh-ehhh-eeen’ [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwX2P0x9lu8] by They Might Be Giants? (Sorry I couldn’t find their official vid to link to.)

[20] People often mistake the expression “juman’ okudo (十万億土)”, or literary ten trillion lands, for the heaven that resides myriad miles away but it is wrong. It actually denominates ‘countless worlds that exist between this world and the heaven where Amitābha resides’, and it is a concept based on Buddhism mixed with anciant Indian philosophy. ‘Juman (ten million)’ is merely an expression for an unimaginably huge number and another reminder of hugeness of ancient Indian view of the world. Here, the expression means Kohagi would travell through myriad Buddha lands to get to heaven and it tells you of Issaku’s belief that his daughter deserved nothing but heaven.

[21] It refers to Buddhist services to be carried out on the ‘seventh’ day after death. The date of death counts as the first.

[22] As in Episode 6-2 https://legendofeightdogs.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/prologue-the-origin-the-prince-the-princess-and-the-dog-6-2-end-of-episode-6-with-original-illustration/#_ftn2, the three realms are those of desire, form and formless, where life reincarnates and drift aimlessly through.

[23] The original text says ‘when he stood up he was told to crawl’ – probably an unintended error.

[24] Do not confuse this with a relatively modern invention [https://www.eliwhitney.org/7/museum/eli-whitney/cotton-gin] made at the end of the 18th century because it won’t be made into a children’s toy horse. This one [http://www.rekimin-sekigahara.jp/main/exhibition/mingu100/mingu-sensyoku/100_73.html] is very much like those traditional types seen throughout Asia, possibly originating in Idia, like many other things do.

[25] The medicine pot here refers to a pot to boil herbal remedies in.

[26] Wooden puppets (木偶 – ‘deku’) have a connotation of being useless. Issaku insinuates his own state by talking about a toy the child had.

[27] New Year decoration made of some bamboo and pine tree branches, to be placed at each side of the doors to form a gate. It’s actually mostly made of bamboo but the added pine tree gives out a fresh purifying scent. From this scene the reader can easily guess Issaku prepared for the New Year in the hope that his wife will live to see it because he would not cerebrate it during mourning.

[28] As above, 500 Kan would be about \1.5 million, less than £10,000 or more than $10,000.

[29] About 10 PM.

 

 

 

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