Return to the Index of Hagakure: Book of the Samurai

Hagakure: Book of the Samurai: Chapter Eight

On the night of the thirteenth day of the ninth month in the fourth year of Teikyo, there was a group of ten No actors moon-viewing at the house of Nakayama Mosuke, a foot soldier, in Sayanomoto. Beginning with Naotsuka Kanzaemon they all began to make fun of the foot soldier Araki Kyozaemen because he was so short. Araki became angry, killed Kanzaemon with his sword, and then began striking at the others.

Though he suffered a severed hand, Matsumoto Rokuzaemon came down into the garden, seized Araki from behind with his other hand, and said, "As for the likes of you, I'll twist your head off with one hand!" Grabbing away Araki's sword, he pushed him to the doorsill and pressed him down with his knee, but as he seized him by the neck he became faint and was quickly overpowered.

Araki quickly sprang back and again began to strike at those around him, but now Master Hayata (later known as Jirozaemon) met him with a spear. In the end he was overpowered by a number of men. Following this, Araki was made to commit seppuku, and the others who were involved were all made ronin on account of their indiscretion, but Hayata was later pardoned.

As Tsunetomo does not remember this story clearly, one should ask around about it.

Some years ago there was a sutra reading at the Jissoin in Kawakami. Five or six men from Kon'yamachi and the area of Tashiro had gone to the service, and on their way home passed some time drinking. Among them was one of Kizuka Kyuzaemon's retainers who, having some reason for doing so, turned down his companions' invitation to join them and returned borne before nightfall. The others, however, later pot into a fight with some men and cut them all down.

Kyuzaemon's retainer heard of this late that night and went quickly to his companions' quarters. He listened to the details and then said, "In the end I suppose you will have to submit a statement. When you do, you should say that I was there also and assisted in cutting down those men. When I return, I will say as much to Kyuzaemon. Since a fight is a matter involving all concerned, I should meet the same death sentence as you. And that is my deepest desire. The reason is that even if I were to explain to my master that I had returned home early, he would never accept it as the truth. Kyuzaemon has always been a severe man, and even if I were cleared by the investigators, he would probably have me executed as a coward right before his eyes. In such a case, dying with the bad reputation of having run away from a place would be extremely regretful.

"Since the fate of dying is the same, I would like to die being blamed for having killed a man. If you are not in agreement with this, I will cut my stomach open right here.''

Having no alternative, his companions spoke as he had requested. Presently, during the inquiry, although the circumstances were explained in the above manner, it became known that the retainer had returned home early. All the investigators were impressed and in fact praised the man. This matter was transmitted to me only in outline, so I will look into the details at a later date.

Once when Nabeshima Aki no kami Shigetake was halfway through his meal, a guest suddenly came to see him and he left his tray just as it was. Later, a certain retainer of his sat down at the tray and began eating the fried fish that was on it. Just then Lord Aki came back and saw him, and the man became flustered and ran off. Lord Aki yelled out, "What a low-life slave you are to eat something that someone else has been eating!" and sat down and finished what was left.

This is one of Jin'emon's stories. It is said that this retainer was one of those who committed tsuifuku for the master.

Yamamoto Jin'emon always said to his retainers, "Go ahead and gamble and lie. A person who will not tell you seven lies within a hundred yards is useless as a man. " Long ago people spoke in this fashion because they were only concerned with a man's attitude towards military matters and considered that a man who was "correct" would never do great works. They also ignored the misconduct of men and dismissed such matters by saying, "They do good works, too...''

Men like Sagara Kyoma also excused retainers who had committed theft and adultery and trained them gradually. He said, "If it weren't for such persons, we would have no useful men at all."

Ikumo Oribe said, "If a retainer will just think about what he is to do for the day at hand, he will be able to do anything. If it is a single day's work, one should be able to put up with it. Tomorrow, too, is but a single day."

At the time when Lord Nabeshima Tsunashige had still not taken over as heir, he was converted by the Zen priest Kurotakiyama Choon and learned Buddhism from him. Since he had had an enlightenment, the priest was going to confer the seal upon him, and this became known throughout the mansion. At that time Yamamoto Gorozaemon had been ordered to be both Tsunashige's attendant and overseer. When he heard of this, he knew that it absolutely would not do and planned to make a request to Choon, and if he did not assent, kill him. He went to the priest's house in Edo and entered; the priest, thinking that he was someone on a pilgrimage, met him in a dignified manner.

Gorozaemon drew near him and said, ' 'I have some secret thing to tell you directly. Please send out your attendant priests.

"It is said that you will soon award Tsunashige the seal because of his cleverness in Buddhism. Now as you are from Hizen, you should know in large part the customs of the Ryuzoji and Nabeshima clans. Our country is ruled with harmony between high and low because, unlike others, it has had continuous heirs for successive generations. There has never been the taking of a Buddhist seal by the daimyo for ages past. If you present the seal now, Tsunashige will probably think of himself as enlightened and regard what his retainers say as so much dirt. A great man will become vain. Absolutely do not give this award. If you do not agree to this, I too am resolved. This he said with determination.

The priest's color changed, but he said, "Well, well. You have trustworthy intentions, and I see that you under- stand the affairs of your clan well. You are a loyal retainer . . ."

But Gorozaemon said, "No! I understand that ploy. I didn't come here to be praised. Without adding anything else, let me hear clearly whether you plan to cancel the seal or not.''

Choon said, "What you say is reasonable. I will definitely not award the seal."

Gorozaemon made sure of this and returned. Tsunetomo heard this story directly from Gorozaemon.

A group of eight samurai all took the same road for some merrymaking. Two of them, Komori Eijun and Otsubo Jin'-emon, went into a teahouse in front of the Kannon temple at Asakusa, got into an argument with the male employees there, and were soundly beaten. This could be heard by the others, who were in an excursion boat, and Mute Rokuemen said, "We should go back and take revenge." Yoshii Yoichiemon and Ezoe Jinbei both agreed to this.

The others, however, dissuaded them, saying, "This will cause trouble for the clan," and they all returned home. When they arrived at the mansion, Rokuemon again said, ''We should definitely take revenge!'' but the others disuaded him. Although they sustained heavy wounds on their arms and legs, Eijian and Jin'emon cut the teahouse men down, and those who had returned were taken to task by the master.

In due course some thought was given to the details of this event. One person said, "By waiting to ;get the agreement of others, a matter like taking revenge will never be brought to a conclusion. One should have the resolution to go alone and even to be cut down. A person who speaks vehemently about taking revenge but does nothing about it is a hypocrite. Clever people, by using their mouths alone, are taking care of their reputations for a later date. But a real stalwart is a man who will go out secretly, saying nothing, and die. It is not necessary to achieve one's aim; one is a stalwart in being cut down. Such a person will most likely achieve his purpose.''

lchiyuken was a low class servant in the kitchen of Lord Takanobu. Because of some grudge he had over a matter of wrestling, he cut down seven or eight men and was hence ordered to commit suicide. But when Lord Takanobu heard of this he pardoned the man and said, "In these strife-torn times of our country, brave men are important. This man would seem to be a man of bravery." Consequently, at the time of the action around the Uji River, Lord Takanobu took Ichiyuken along, and the latter earned unrivaled fame, advancing deep into the lead and plundering the enemy every time.

At the battle of Takagi, Ichiyuken went so far into the enemy lines that Lord Takanobu felt regret and called him back. Since the vanguard had been unable to advance, only by quickly dashing out was he able to grab Ichiyuken by the sleeve of his armor. At that time Ichiyuken's head had suffered many wounds, but he had stopped them up with preen leaves which he bound with a thin towel.

On the first day of the attack on Hara Caste, Tsuruta Yashichibei went as a messenger from Lord Mimasaka to Oki Hyobu, but as he was delivering the message, he was shot through the pelvic region by a bullet fired from the castle and instantly fell on his face. He got up again and delivered the rest of the message, was felled a second time, and died. Yashichibei's body was carried back by Taira Chihyoei. When Chihyoei was returning to Hyobu's camp, he too was struck by a rifle ball and died.

Dense was born in Taku , and the members of his family living at this time were his elder brother Jirbei, his younger brother and his mother. Around the ninth month Denko's mother took Jirobei's son with her to hear a sermon. When it was time to go home, the child, as he was putting on his straw sandals, accidentally stepped on the foot of the man next to him. The man rebuked the child, and in the end they pot into a vehement argument and the man unsheathed his short sword and killed him. Jirobei's mother was dumb struck. She clung to the man, and he killed her too. Having done this, the man returned to his house.

This man's name was Gorouemon, and he was the son of a ronin by the name of Nakajima Moan. His younger brother was the mountain ascetic, Chuzobo. Moan was an advisor to Master Mimasaka, and Gorouemon had been given a stipend also.

When the circumstances became known at Jirobei's home, his younger brother set out for Gorouemon's place. Finding that the door was locked from within and that no one would come out, he disguised his voice, pretending to be a visitor. When the door was opened, he shouted his real name and crossed swords with his enemy. Both men fumbled into the rubbish heap, but in the end Gorouemon was killed. At this point, Chuzobo dashed in and cut down Jirobei's younger brother.

Hearing of this incident, Dense went immediately to Jirobei's place and said, "Of our enemies only one has been killed, while we have lost three. This is extremely regret- table, so why don't you strike at Chuzobo?" Jirobei, however, would not comply.

Denko felt that this was indeed shameful, and although a Buddhist priest, he decided on striking at the enemy of his mother, younger brother and nephew. He knew, nevertheless, that since he was simply an ordinary priest, there was likely to be a reprisal from Master Mimasaka and therefore worked hard, finally gaining eminence as the chief priest of the Ryuunji. He then went to the sword maker Iyonojo and asked him to make both a long and a short sword, offered to be his apprentice, and was even allowed to take part in the work.

By the twenty-third day of the ninth month of the follow- ing year, he was ready to make his departure. By chance a guest had come at this time. Giving orders for food to be served, Denko secretly slipped out of the chief priest's headquarters disguised as a layman. He then went to taku and, upon asking about Chuzobo, learned that he was with a large group of people who had gathered to watch the moonrise, and that therefore nothing much could be done. Unwilling to let time pile up, he felt that it would be fulfilling his basic desire to strike at the father, Moan. Going to Moan's house, he forced his way into the sleeping chambers, announced his name, and when the man began to get up, stabbed and killed him. When the people of the neighborhood came running and surrounded him, he explained the situation, threw away both long and short swords, and returned home. News of this preceded him to Saga, and a good number of Denko's parishioners came out quickly and accompanied him on his return.

Master Mimasaka was quite outraged, but as Denko was the chief priest of a Nabeshima clan temple, there was nothing to be done. Finally, through the offices of Nabeshima Toneri, he sent word to Tannen, the chief priest of the Kodenji, saying, "When a priest has killed a man, he should be given a sentence of death." Tannen's reply was, "The punishment for one within the religion will be in accordance with the feelings of the Kodenji. Kindly do not interfere."

Master Mimasaka became even angrier and asked, "What sort of punishment will this be?" Tannen replied, "Although it is profitless for you to know, you are forcing the question, so I will give you an answer. The [Buddhist] Law is that an apostate priest is deprived of his robes and driven out."

Denko's robes were taken from him at the Kodenji, and when he was to be driven out, some novices put on their long and short swords, and a great number of parishioners came to protect him, accompanying him as far as Todoroki. On the road a number of men who looked like hunters appeared and asked if the party had come from Taku. Thereafter Denko lived in Chikuzen, was well received by all, and was on friendly terms with samurai as well. This story was widely circulated, and it is said that he was treated kindly everywhere.

Horie San'emon's misdeed was robbing the Nabeshima warehouse in Edo of its money and fleeing to another prov ince. He was caught and confessed. Thus it was pro nounced , ''Because this is a grave crime he should be tortured to death, " and Nakano Daigaku was ordered to be the official who verified the execution. At first all the hairs on his body were burner off and his fingernails were pulled out. His tendons were then cut, he was bored with drills and sub jected to various other tortures. Throughout, he did not flinch once, nor did his face change color. In the end his back was split, he was boiled in soy sauce, and his body was bent back in two.

Once when Fukuchi Rokurouemon was leaving the castle, the palanquin of what appeared to be a rather upper class woman was passing in front of Master Taku's mansion, and a man who was standing there made the proper salutation. A halberd carrier who was with the palanquin procession, however, said to the man, "You didn't bow low enough," and struck him on the head with the handle of his halberd. When the man wiped his head, he found that he was bleeding. In just that condition he stood up and said, "You have committed an outrageous act, even though I was courteous. A regrettable piece of luck." So saying, he cut the halberd carrier down with a single blow. The palanquin continued on to wherever it was going, but Rokurouemon unsheathed his spear, stood before the man, and said. "Put away your sword. Within the castle grounds it is forbidden to go about holding a naked blade.'' The man said, "What happened now was unavoidable, and I was compelled by the circumstances. Certainly you could see that this was so. Although I would like to sheathe my sword, it is difficult to do so due to the tone of your words. It is unpleasant, but I shall be glad to accept your challenge.''

Rokurouemon immediately threw down his spear and said courteously, "What you have said is reasonable. My name is Fukuchi Rokurouemon. I will bear witness that your conduct was quite admirable. Moreover, I will back you up even if it means forfeiting my life. Now put away your sword.''

"With pleasure," the man said, and sheathed his sword. On being asked where he was from, the man replied that he was a retainer of Taku Nagato no kami Yasuyori. Therefore Rokurouemon accompanied him and explained the circumstances. Knowing that the woman in the palanquin was the wife of a nobleman, however, Lord Nagato ordered his retainer to commit seppuku.

Rokurouemon came forward and said, "Because I have given the promise of a samurai, if this man is ordered to commit seppuku, then I will commit seppuku first."

It is said that the affair was thus finished without mishap.

Lord Shima sent a messenger to his father, Lord Aki, saying, "I would like to make a pilgrimage to the Atago Shrine in Kyoto." Lord Aki asked, "For what reason?" and the messenger replied, "Since Atago is the pod of archery, my intentions are for the sake of fortune in war." Lord Aki became angry and answered. "That is absolutely worthless! Should the vanguard of the Nabeshimas be making requests to Atago? If the incarnation of Atago were fighting on the enemy's side, the vanguard should be equal to cutting him neatly in two."

Dohaku lived in Kurotsuchibaru. His son was named Gorobei. Once when Gorobei was carrying a load of rice, a ronin of Master Kumashiro Sakyo's by the name of Iwamura Kyunai was coming from the other direction. There was a grudge between the two of them from some former incident, and now Gorobei struck Kyunai with his load of rice, started an argument, beat him and pushed him into a ditch, and then returned home. Kyunai yelled some threat at Gorobei and returned to his home where he related this event to his older brother Gen'emon. The two of them then went off' to Gorobei's to take revenge.

When they got there the door was open just a bit, and Gorobei was waiting behind it with drawn sword. Not knowing this, Gen'emon entered and Gorobei struck at him with a sweep from the side. having received a deep wound, Gen'emon used his sword as a staff and hobbled back outside. Then Kyunai rushed in and struck at Dohaku's son-in-law Katsuemon, who was sitting by the hearth. His sword glanced off the pot hanger, and he cut off half of Katsuemen's face. Dohaku, together with his wife, grabbed the sword away from Kyunai.

Kyunai apologized and said, "I have already achieved my purpose. Please give me back my sword and I will accompany my brother home. But when Dohaku banded it back to him, Kyunai cut him once in the back and severed his neck halfway through. He then crossed swords with Gorobei again and both went outside and fought an even match until he cut off Gorobei's arm.

At this point Kyunai, who also suffered many wounds, shouldered his elder brother Gen'emon and returned home. Gen'emon, however, died on the way back.

Gorobei's wounds were numerous. Although he stopped the bleeding, he died on account of drinking some water. Dohaku's wife suffered some severed fingers. Dohaku's wound was a severed neck bone, and since only his throat remained intact, his head hung down in front. Now boosting his head up with his own hands, Dohaku went off to the surgeons.

The surgeons treatment was like this: First he rubbed a mixture of pine resin and oil on Dohaku's jaw and bound it in ramie. He then attached a rope to the top of his head and tied it to a beam, sewed the open wound shut, and buried his body in rice so that he would not be able to move.

Dohaku never lost consciousness nor did he change from his everyday attitude, nor did he even drink ginseng. It is said that only on the third day when there was a hemorrhage did he use a little medicinal stimulant. In the end the bones mended, and he recovered without incident.

When Lord Mitsushige contracted smallpox at Shimonoseki, Ikushima Sakuan gave him some medicine. It was an exceptionally heavy case of smallpox, and his attendants both high and low were rather tense. Suddenly his scabs turned black. The men who were nursing him lost heart and secretly informed Sakuan, who came immediately. He said, "Well, this is something to be thankful for. The scabs are healing. He should soon make a complete recovery with no complications. I give you my guarantee."

The people who were at Lord Mitsushige's side heard this and thought, "Sakuan looks a little deranged. This has become all the more hopeless."

Sakuan then set folding screens around, came out after a while, and fed Lord Mitsushige one packet of medicine. Very quickly the patient's scabs healed, and he made a complete recovery. Sakuan later confided to someone, "I gave the master that one packet of medicine resolved that, as I was undertaking this treatment alone, if he did not recover I would quickly cut open my stomach and die with him.''

When Nakano Takumi was dying, his whole house gathered and he said, "You should understand that there are three conditions to the resolution of a retainer. They are the condition of the master's will, the condition of vitality, and the condition of one's death.''

Once when a number of men had gathered on the platform of the inner citadel of the castle, a certain man said to Uchida Shouemon, "It is said that you are a teacher of the sword, but judging by your everyday attitude, your teaching must be very wild indeed. If you were requested to perform kaishaku, I can imagine that instead of cutting the neck you'd probably cut the top of the man's head.''

Shouemon rejoined, "Such is not the case. Draw a little ink spot on your own neck, and I'll show you that I can cut without being off by a hair."

Nagayama Rokurozaemon was going down the Tokaido and was at Hamamatsu. As he passed by an inn, a beggar faced his palanquin and said, "I am a ronin from Echigo. I am short of money and in difficulties. We are both warriors. Please help me out."

Rokurozaemon got angry and said, "It is a discourtesy to mention that we are both warriors. If I were in your state of affairs, I'd cut my stomach open. Rather than being out of money for the road and exposing yourself to shame, cut your stomach open right where you are!'' It is said that the beggar moved off.

In Makiguchi Yohei's life he was kaishaku for many men. When a certain Kanahara was to commit seppuku, Yohei consented to be kaishaku. Kanahara thrust the sword into his belly, but at the point of pulling it across he was unable to go further. Yohei approached his side, yelled "Ei!" and stamped his foot. From this impetus, Kanahara was able to pull his sword straight across his belly. After finishing the kaishaku, it is said that Yohei shed tears and said, "Even though he was formerly a good friend of mine . . ." This is a story of Master Sukeemon's.

At the time of a certain person's seppuku, when the kaishaku a cut off his head, a little bit of skin was left hanging and the head was not entirely separated from the body. The official observer said, "There's some left." The kaishaku got angry, took hold of the head, and cutting it completely off, held it above eye level and said, ''Take a look!'' It is said that it was rather chilling. This is a story of Master Sukeemon's.

In the practice of past times, there were instances when the head flew off'. It was said that it is best to cut leaving a little skin remaining so that it doesn't fly oft in the direction of the verifying officials. However, at present it is best to cut clean through.

A man who had cut off fifty heads once said, "According to the head, there are cases when even the trunk of a body will bring some reaction to you. Cutting off just three heads, at first there is no reaction and you can cut well. But when you get to four or five, you feel quite a bit of reaction. At any rate, since this is a very important matter, if one always plans on bringing the head to the ground there should be no mistakes."

When Lord Nabeshima Tsunashige was a child, Iwamura Kuranosuke was ordered to the position of elder. On one occasion Kuranosuke saw that there were gold coins before the young Tsunashige and asked the attending retainer, "For what reason have you brought these out before the young master?" The attendant replied, "The master just now heard that a gift had been brought for him. He said that he had not yet seen it, so I brought it out for him .'' Kuranosuke scolded the man severely, saying, "To place such base things before a person of importance is the extremity of careless ness. You may also consider them something not to be put before the lord's son. Attending retainers should henceforth be very mindful of this."

Another time, when Lord Tsunashige was about twenty years old, he once went to the mansion at Naekiyama for some diversion. As the party neared the mansion, he asked for a walking stick. His sandal carrier, Miura Jibuzaemon, fashioned a stick and was about to give it to the young lord.

Kuranosake saw this, quickly took the stick from Jibuzaemon, and scolded him severely, saying, ' 'Will you make our important young lord a sluggard? Even if he should ask for a stick , it should not be given to him. This is carelessness on the part of the attending retainer."

Jibuzaernon was later promoted to the rank of teakiyari, and Tsunetomo heard this story directly from him.

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 Eight

© 2009 Liberty References | Privacy Policy