Return to the Index of Hagakure: Book of the Samurai

Hagakure: Book of the Samurai: Chapter Seven

Narutomi Hyogo said, "What is called winning is defeating one's allies. Defeating one's allies is defeating oneself, and defeating oneself is vigorously overcoming one's own body.

"It is as though a man were in the midst of ten thousand allies but not a one were following him. If one hasn't previously mastered his mind and body, he will not defeat the enemy.'' During the Shimabara Rebellion, his armor being still at the encampment, Shugyo Echizen no kami Tanenao participated in the fight dressed only in hakama and haori. It is said that he died in battle in this attire.

At the time of the attack on the castle at Shimabara, Tazaki Geki was wearing very resplendent armor. Lord Katsushige was not pleased by this, and after that every time he saw something showy he would say, "That's just like Geki's armor.''

In the light of this story, military armor and equipment that are showy can be seen as being weak and having no strength. By them one can see through the wearer's heart.

When Nabeshima wizen no kami Tadanao died, his attendant Ezoe Kinbei took his remains and had them consecrated at Mt. Kola. Then, confining himself in a hermitage, he carved a statue of his master and another of himself doing reverence before the master. On the first anniversary of Tadanao's death, he returned to his home and committed tsuifuku. Later the statue was taken from Mt. Koya and was placed at the Kodenji.

In the generation of Lord Mitsushige, Oishi Kosuke was at first a foot soldier serving at the side of his master. Whenever Lord Mitsushige was making the trip for his alternate- year residence in Edo, Kosuke would make the rounds around the sleeping quarters of his master, and if he thought a certain area to be insecure, he would spread a straw mat and pass through the night awake by himself. In rainy weather he would simply wear a bamboo hat and an oilpaper raincoat and would stand watch while being pelted by the rain. It is said that to the end he never spent a single night in negligence .

When Oishi Kosuke was an uchitonin, a mysterious person sneaked into the area of the maids' chambers late at night.' There was a great commotion from upstairs to down and men and women of all ranks were running about; only Kosuke was not to be seen. While the senior ladies-in- waiting were searching about, Kosuke yanked his sword from its scabbard and waited quietly in the room next to the master's bedchamber. As all was in confusion, he had felt apprehension for the master and was there to protect him. Because of this it was said that his viewpoint was quite different.

The man who had sneaked in was Narutomi Kichibei. He and his accomplice Hamada Ichizaemon were condemned to death for adultery.

Once when Lord Katsushige was hunting at Nishime, for some reason he got very angry. He drew his sword from his obi, scabbard and all, and began beating Soejima Zennojo with it, but his hand slipped and his sword fell into a ravine. Zennojo, in order to stay with the sword, fumbled down into the ravine and picked it up. This done, he stuck the sword in his lapel, crawled up the precipice, and just as he was, offered the sword to his master. In terms of quick- mindedness and reserve this was matchless resource.

Once when Master Sane Ukyo was crossing over the Takao River, the bridge was being repaired and there was one large piling that could not be pulled up. Master Ukyo dismounted, grasped the piling firmly, pave a shout, and began to pull it up. There was a tremendous sound, and although he was able to pull it up to his own height, it would go no further and thereupon sank. After he returned home he became sick and suddenly died.

At the time of the funeral at the temple in Jobaru, when the funeral procession crossed the Takao Bridge, the corpse leapt from the casket and fell into the river. A sixteen-year- old acolyte from the Shufukuji immediately jumped into the river and took hold of the dead body. Everyone then ran down into the river and pulled up the corpse. The head monk was very impressed and instructed the other acolytes to be guided by this young man. It is said that he later became a very famous monk.

Yamamoto Kichizaemon was ordered by his father Jin'-emon to cut down a dog at the age of five, and at the age of fifteen he was made to execute a criminal. Everyone, by the time they were fourteen or fifteen, was ordered to do a beheading without fail. When Lord Katsushige was young, he was ordered by Lord Naoshige to practice killing with a sword. It is said that at that time he was made to cut down more than ten men successively.

A long time ago this practice was followed, especially in the upper classes, but today even the children of the lower classes perform no executions, and this is extreme negligence. To say that one can do without this sort of thing, or that there is no merit in killing a condemned man, or that it is a crime, or that it is defiling, is to make excuses. In short, can it not be thought that because a person's martial valor is weak, his attitude is only that of trimming his nails and being attractive?

If one investigates into the spirit of a man who finds these things disagreeable, one sees that this person gives himself over to cleverness and excuse making not to kill because he feels unnerved. But Naoshige made it his orders exactly because this is something that must be done.

Last year I went to the Kase Execution Grounds to try my hand at beheading, and I found it to be an extremely good feeling. To think that it is unnerving is a symptom of cowardice.

Among the pageboys in forelocks in Lord Mitsushige's retinue, one Tomoda Shozaemon was in attendance. A rather wanton fellow, he fell in love with a leading actor of the theater by the name of Tamon Shozaemon and changed both his name and his crest to that of the actor. Completely abandoning himself to this affair, he spent everything he had and lost all his clothing and furnishings. And at length, when he had exhausted all his means, he stole Mawatari Rokubei's sword and had a spearman take it to a pawnshop.

The spearman, however, spoke up about this matter, and in the investigation both he and Shozaemon were condemned to death. The investigator was Yamamoto Gorozaemon. When he read the report, he spoke in a loud voice and said, "The man who accuses the defendant is Spearman so-and-so.''

Mitsushige responded quickly, "Put him to death."

When it came time to announce his fate to Shozaemon, Gorozaemon came in and said, "There is now nothing left to be done for you. Prepare yourself for your place of death.''

Shozaemon settled himself and said, "Very well. I understand what you have said and am grateful for your words." Due to somebody's trickery, however, while a kaishaku was introduced to Shozaemon, it was arranged that a foot soldier, Naozuka Rokuuemon, was to step from the side and decapitate him.

Repairing to the execution grounds, where the kaishaku stood opposite him, Shozaemon saluted him with extreme calm. But just then, seeing Naozuka drawing his sword, he jumped up and said, "Who are you? I'll never let you cut off my head!" From that point on his peace of mind was shattered and he showed terrible cowardice. Finally he was brought to the ground, stretched out, and decapitated.

Gorozaemon later said secretly, ' 'If he hadn't been deceived, he would have probably met his death well."

Noda Kizaemon said about the function of kaishaku, "When a man who has come to his place of death loses his wits and is crawling about, it is likely seine damage will be done when it comes time to perform kaishak. At such a time first wait a bit and by some means gather your strength. Then if you cut by standing firm and not missing the chance, you will do well."

In the generation of Lord Katsushige there were retainers who, regardless of high or low rank, were requested to work before the master from the time they were young. When Shiba Kizaemon was doing such service, once the master was clipping his nails and said, "Throw these away." Kizaemon held them in his hand but did not stand up, and the master said, "What's the matter?" Kizaemon said, "There's one missing.'' The master said, ' 'Here it is,'' and banded over the one that he had hidden.

Sawabe Heizaemon was ordered to commit seppuku on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the second year of Tenna. As this became known to him on the night of the tenth, he sent a request to Yamamoto Gonnojo [Tsunetomo] to be kaishaku. The following is a copy of Yamamoto's reply. (Tsunetomo was twenty-four years old at this time.)

I am in accord with your resolution and accept your request for me to function as kaishaku. I instinctively felt that I should decline, but as this is to take place tomorrow there is no time for making excuses and I will undertake the job. The fact that you have chosen me from among many people is a great personal satisfaction to me. Please set your mind at ease concerning all that must follow. Although it is now late at night, I will come to your house to talk over the particulars.

When Heizaemon saw this reply, it is said that he remarked, "This is a matchless letter."

From ages past it has been considered ill-omened by samurai to be requested as kaishaku. The reason for this is that one pains no fame even if the job is well done. And if by chance one should blunder, it becomes a lifetime disgrace.

Once when Tanaka Yahei was attending to affairs in Edo, one of his menials was rather insolent and Yahei scolded him severely. Late that night Yahei heard the noise of someone coming up the stairs. He felt this to be suspicious and quietly got up. With short sword in hand he asked who was there, and it turned out to be the menial whom he had scolded previously, secretly holding a short sword. Yahei leapt down and with a single stroke cut the man down. I heard many people later state that he had had good luck.

A certain Master Tokuhisa was born quite different from other people and looked to be a bit moronic. Once, a guest was invited and mudfish salad was served. At that time everyone said, "Master Tokuhisa's mudfish salad," and laughed. Later when he was in attendance and a certain person made fun of him by quoting the above remark, Tokuhisa pulled out his sword and cut the man down. This event was investigated and it was stated to Lord Naoshige, "Seppuku is recommended because this was a matter of rashness within the palace."

When Lord Naoshige heard this, he said, ' 'To be made fun of and remain silent is cowardice. There is no reason to overlook this fact because one is within the palace. A man who makes fun of people is himself a fool. It was his own fault for being cut down."

Once when Nakano Mokunosuke boarded a small boat on the Sumida River to enjoy the coolness, a rogue got in too and committed all manner of rude acts. When Mokunosuke saw that the rogue was relieving himself over the side of the boat, he cut the man's head off and it fell into the river. So that people would not notice this, he quickly covered the body with various things. He then said to the boatman, "This matter should not become known. Row up to the upper reaches of the river and bury the corpse. I shall naturally pay you well."

The boatman did as he was told, but in the lagoon where the body was buried Mokunosuke cut off the head of the boatman and returned directly. It is said that this fact never became known publicly. At that time there was also one young homosexual male prostitute riding in the boat. Mekunosuke said, "That fellow was a man too. It is best to learn how to cut a man while one is still young," and so the man cut the corpse once. Because of that the young man said nothing later on.

It is said that every time Oki Hyobu's group gathered and after all their affairs were finished he would say, "Young men should discipline themselves rigorously in intention and courage. This will be accomplished if only courage is fixed in one's heart. If one's sword is broken, he will strike with his hands. If his hands are cut off, he will press the enemy down with his shoulders. If his shoulders are cut away, he will bite through ten or fifteen enemy necks with his teeth. Courage is such a thing."

Shida Kichinosuke said, "At first it is an oppressive thing to run until one is breathless. But it is an extraordinarily good feeling when one is standing around after the running. More than that, it is even better to sit down. More than that, it is even better to lie down. And more than that, to put down a pillow and sleep soundly is even better. A man's whole life should be like this. To exert oneself to a great extent when one is young and then to sleep when he is old or at the point of death is the way it should be. But to first sleep and then exert oneself . . . To exert oneself to the end, and to end one's whole life in toil is regrettable." Shimomura Rokurouemon told this story.

A saying of Kichinosuke's that is similar to this is, "A man's life should be as toilsome as possible."

When Ueno Rihei was overseer of accounting in Edo, he had a young assistant whom he treated in a very intimate way. On the first night of the eighth month he went drinking with Hashimoto Taemon, an overseer of foot soldiers, and got so drunk that he lost good sense. He accompanied his young assistant back home, babbling on in a drunken manner, and when they arrived there, Rihei said that he was going to cut the assistant down. The assistant pushed away the tip of Rihei's scabbard. They grappled and both fell into the gutter with the assistant on top pushing Rihei down. At this time, Rihei's servant ran up and asked, "Is Master Rihei on the top or on the bottom?"

When Rihei replied, ''I'm on the bottom !'' the servant stabbed the assistant once. The assistant got up and, as his wound was light, ran away.

When the affair was brought under investigation, Rihei was put into confinement at the Naekiyama prison and was condemned to capital punishment by beheading. Before this, when he was positioned in Edo and living in a rented house in the merchants' district, a servant had opposed him and he had cut him down. But he had acted in a good way at that time, and people said that he had acted like a man. This time, however, his actions were outrageous and were certainly unnecessary.

If one thinks about this well from beginning to end, to get so drunk as to draw one's sword is both cowardice and lack of resolve. Rihei's servant was a man from Taku, but his name is not remembered. Though he was a member of the lower classes, he was a brave man. It is said that Taemon committed suicide during the investigation.

In the twelfth section of the fifth chapter of the Ryoankyo there is this story:

In the Province of Wizen there was a certain man from Take who, although he had contracted smallpox, was considering joining the forces attacking the castle at Shimabara. His parents earnestly tried to get him to desist, saying, "With such a grave illness, even if you should get there, how could you be of any use?"

He replied, "It would be to my satisfaction to die on the way. After having received the warm benevolence of the master, should I tell myself that I will be of no use to him now?" And he left for the front. Although it was winter camp and the cold was extreme, he did not pay any attention to his health, and neither put on many layers of clothing nor took off his armor day or night. Moreover, he did not avoid uncleanliness, and in the end recovered quickly and was able to fulfill his loyalty completely. So to the contrary of what you would expect, it cannot be said that one is to despise uncleanliness.

When the teacher, Suzuki Shozo, heard this, he said, "Was it not a cleansing act to throw away his life for his master? For a man who will cut of his life for the sake of righteousness, there is no need to call upon the god of smallpox. All the gods of heaven will protect him. " Lord Katsushige said, "Whether a man of Hizen holds death in regret or not is not a matter of concern. What I worry about is that people will not take to heart the command to keep the rules of manners and etiquette correctly. I am afraid that the entire clan, our relatives and elders, out of too much earnestness, will feel that the command to keep correct etiquette is an exaggeration. Up to now there have existed men who were used to these things, and even if etiquette was slightly wrong, they could remember the correct way, and the matter was settled. I have given this command because people are negligent in affairs of this sort."

During the Genroku period there was a samurai of low rank from the Province of Ise by the name of Suzuki Rokubei. He was ill with a severe fever, and his consciousness became dim. At that time a certain male nurse was unexpectedly stricken with greed and was about to open up the inkbox and steal the money that was kept in it. Just then the sick man suddenly stirred, took the sword from the base of his pillow, and in a sudden attack cut the man down with one blow. With that, the sick man fell back and died. By this act, Rokubei seemed to be a man of principled disposition.

I heard this story in Edo, but later when I was serving in the same province with a Dr. Nagatsuka, who was also from the Province of Ise, I asked him about it, and indeed he knew the story and said that it was true.

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai The Hagakure: Yamamoto Tsunetomo Legends of the Samurai Code of the Samurai: A Modern Translation of the Bushido Shoshinsu
Purchase Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai and related works at
Bookmark Hagakure: Book of the Samurai: Chapter Seven

© 2009 Liberty References | Privacy Policy