In the Japanese convention a surname comes before a given name, so that Satomi Yoshizane would be ‘Yoshizane Satomi‘ in the typical western convention. The fact is known to more and more people worldwide, especially to those either interested in or familiar with Japanese culture, so in this blog I put faith in the reader’s intellect and keep the order as in the original. Having said that, every master was once a beginner and the custom probably doesn’t come to many of you naturally, so as a precaution to avoid confusion surnames, wherever appropriate, are emphasized in bold letters. Though somewhat hesitantly, I chose this unconventional but smarter looking method over the more conventional but rather unsightly CAPITALIZATION.
As an additional note related to this story, before Japan adopted the westernized law which limits Japanese people’s names to a single surname and a single given name, it was not uncommon to use multiple names and/or titles. A samurai baby typically was given a child name which he will discard for another in his coming of age. Thus Inue Shibei, one of our eight dogs was born Inue Shinhei Yukimune and was normally called Daihachi as a child but was later named Inue Shinbei Masashi. Princess Fuse’s father Yoshizane’s full name is Satomi Jibu-no-Taifu Yoshizane Ason, in which Satomi is his surname, ‘Jibu-no-Taifu’ his title, Yoshizane (sometimes Yoshisane) his given name and ‘Ason’ something between a family name and a title in my understanding. He is also called Matataro by his father in their final battle together.
Before the adaptation of the western calendar every Japanese person got one year older at New Year. On top of that zeros – the great Indian invention – were yet to be introduced, so that a baby was born a year old and at its first New Year it became two. This means if Kyokutei Bakin says in the original text Fuse-hime (Princess Fuse) was only 16, she could be anywhere between 14 and (almost) 16 in our modern count. Because I believe people used to mentally grow up faster and assume social responsibilities earlier in age in Bakin’s time and because there is no way of knowing the characters’ age according to the modern system, I used the original counts without any modernization.
Because the original author Kyokutei Bakin wrote his entire story in 7 and 5 metres the text flows like catchy musical chants such as rap and makes great entertainment recited or just makes you want to read aloud. At first I thought it’d be a fun challenge to try to do the equivalent in English until it became obvious that I would not complete the work like that in 100 years.
Bakin also wrote in a what’s commonly called pseudoclassical language, which gave the story an ancient atmosphere. I believe this is quite commonly done in modern English fantasy writing too so I tried to follow his steps.
Updates and Edits
A new installment is released on the 1st day of each month starting on 1 September 2015, or at least I plan to for now. Please be warned that I will from time to time edit, or correct any mistakes in, already published texts.
As I’m preparing this blog for the first installment I’ve discovered there’s an anime entitled ‘Hakkenden’ (26/08/2015). My first instinct is to add a link to its formal website if there is any and watch the contents too but again, I’ve decided to keep a distance as I fear any influence.
Real life Hakkenden
Many of the images on this site belong to Tateyama City Municipal Museum, which houses a big collection of Nansou Satomi Hakkenden-related prints and other resources. Part of the museum called ‘Hakkenden Museum’ is located in the castle building – the last residence of the real-life Satomis. Here is some more information.
My heartfelt thanks
extends to all those who have helped me in the making, both directly and indirectly. I am especially indebted to Alan Hauk, Faculty of Medicine, Toho University who generously proofread and offered his astute insights into the text and valuable advice on language use, Tateyama City Municipal Museum who have kindly let me use the images from their precious collection, and last but not least, with my sincerest gratitude, below is the texts I referenced in translating:
There have also been those who read parts of text and commented, offered some useful information regarding language translation, or gave me words of encouragement. I intend to repay them by updating as constantly as I can.
Let me add a word of gratitude to The Association for the Research and Preservation of Japanese Helmets and Armor (一般社団法人 日本甲冑武具研究保存会) for generously offering me their expertise knowledge on their subject. -14/07/2016