Return to the Index of Hagakure: Book of the Samurai

Hagakure: Book of the Samurai: Chapter Nine

When Shimomura Shoun was on service at the castle, Lord Naoshige said, "How wonderful it is that Katsushige is so vigorous and powerful for his age. In wrestling with his peers he even beat those who are older than he is."

Shoun replied, "Even though I'm an old man, I'll bet I'm best at seated wrestling." So saying, he jerked up Katsushige and threw him so forcefully that it hurt. He then said, "To be prideful about your strength while your mettle is not yet established is likely to bring you shame in the midst of people. You are weaker than you look.'' Then he withdrew.

At the time when Matsuda Yohei was an intimate friend of Ishii Jinku's, there developed some bad feelings between the former and Nozoe Jinbei. Yohei sent word to Jinbei saying, "Please come and I will settle this matter once and for all." Then he and Jinku set out together and, coming to the Yamabushi mansion at Kihara, they crossed the only bridge there was and destroyed it. Talking over the circumstances of the discord, they examined them from all sides and found no reason to fight. But when they decided to turn around and go home, there was, of course, no bridge.

While they were looking for an appropriate way of crossing the moat, the men whom the two had challenged could be seen approaching stealthily. Yohei and Jinku saw this and said, "We have passed the point of no return, and may as well fight rather than be disgraced at a later date." The battle lasted for some time. Seriously wounded, Yohei fell down between two fields. Jinbei also received a deep wound, and with blood flowing into his eyes was unable to find Yohei. While Jinbei thus searched about blindly, Yohei was able to hold him off from his prone position and in the end cut him down. But when he attempted to deliver the finishing blow, having no strength left in his hand, he pierced Jinbei's neck by pushing the sword with his foot.

At this point, friends arrived and accompanied Yohei back. After his wounds healed he was ordered to commit seppuku. At that time he called his friend Jinku, and they drank a farewell cup together.

Okubo Toemon of Shioda ran a wineshop for Nabeshima Kenmotsu. Lord Okura, the son of Nabeshima Kai no kami, was a cripple and confined indoors in a place called Mine. He harbored wrestlers and liked rowdies. The wrestlers would often go to nearby villages and cause disturbances. One time they went to Toemon's place, drank sake and talked unreasonably, bringing Toemon into an argument. He met them with a halberd, but as there were two of them he was cut down.

His son, Kannosuke, was fifteen years old and was in the midst of studies at the Jozeiji when he was informed of the incident. Galloping off, he took a short sword about sixteen inches in length, joined combat with the two big men, and in a short time finished them both off. Although Kannosuke received thirteen wounds, he recovered. Later he was called Doko and is said to have become very adept at massage.

It is said that Tokunaga Kichizaemon repeatedly com- plained, "I've grown so old that now, even if there were to be a battle, I wouldn't be able to do anything. Still, I would like to die by galloping into the midst of the enemy and being struck down and killed. It would be a shame to do nothing more than to die in one's bed." It is said that the priest Gyojaku heard this when he was an acolyte. Gyojaku's master was the priest Yemen, who was Kichizaemon's youngest child.

When Sagara Kyuma was requested to become a chief retainer, he said to Nabeshima Heizaemon, "For some reason I have been increasingly well treated by the master and now have been requested to take a high rank. Not having a good retainer, my affairs are liable to be in disorder. It is my request that you give me your retainer, Takase Jibusaemon." Heizaemon listened to him and consented, saying, "It is very gratifying that you have kept an eye on my retainer. I will therefore do as you ask."

But when he related this to Jibusaemon, the latter said, "I should reply directly to Master Kyuma." He then went to Kyuma's place and talked with him. Jibusaemon told Kyuma, "I know it is a great honor that you have thought well of me and have made this request. But a retainer is a person who cannot change masters. As you are of high rank, if I were to become your retainer my life would be replete, but that repleteness would be a vexation to me. Because Her zaemon is of low rank and is hard pressed, we live by eating cheap rice gruel. Yet that is sweet enough. Please think this over.''

Kyuma was extremely impressed.

A certain man went of somewhere and on returning home late at night, found that a strange man had slipped into the house and was committing adultery with his wife. He thereupon killed the man. He then broke down a wall and propped up a bale of rice, and by this arrangement submitted to the authorities that he had killed a thief. Thus it went without mishap. After some time had passed he divorced his wife and the affair was finished.

When a certain person returned home from some place or other, he found his wife committing adultery with a retainer in the bedroom. When he drew near the two, his retainer fled through the kitchen. He then went into the bedroom and slew his wife.

Calling the maidservant, he explained what had happened and said, "Because this would bring shame to the children, it should be covered up as death by illness and I will need considerable help. If you think that this is too much for you, I may as well kill you too for your part in this serious crime.''

She replied, "If you will spare my life, I will go on as if I don't know anything. " She rearranged the room and set out the corpse in its nightclothes. Then, after sending a man to the doctor's place two or three times saying that there was a sudden illness, they sent a last messenger saying that it was too late and there was no longer any need to come. The wife's uncle was called in and told about the illness, and he was convinced. The entire affair was passed oft as death by illness, and to the end no one knew the truth. At a later date the retainer was dismissed. This affair happened in Edo.

At New Year's in the third year of Keicho at a place in Korea called Yolsan, when the armies of the Ming appeared by the hundreds of thousands, the Japanese troops were amazed and watched with bated breath. Lord Naoshige said, "Well, well. That's a great number of men ! I wonder how many hundreds of thousands there are?''

Jin'emon said, "In Japan, for something that's numberless we say 'as many as the hairs on a threeyear- old calf.' This would certainly live up to the number of hairs on a three-year-old calf!" It is said that everybody laughed and regained their spirits.

Later, Lord Katsushige was hunting at MI. Shiroishi and told Nakano Matabei about this. ' 'Except for your father who spoke in such a way, there was no one who said even a word.''

Nakano Jin'emon constantly said, "A person who serves when treated kindly by the master is not a retainer. But one who serves when the master is being heartless and unreasonable is a retainer. You should understand this principle well.''

When Yamamoto Jin'emon was eighty years old, he be- came ill. At one point, he seemed to be on the verge of groaning, and someone said to him, "You'll feel better if you groan. Go ahead. *' But he replied, "Such is not the case. The name of Yamamoto Jin'emon is known by everyone, and I have shown up well throughout a whole lifetime. To let people hear my groaning voice in my last moments would never do." It is said that he did not let out a groan to the very end.

A certain son of Mori Monbei got into a fight and returned home wounded. Asked by Monbei, "What did you do to your opponent?" his son replied, "I cut him down."

When Monbei asked, "Did you deliver the coup de grace?" his son replied, "Indeed I did."'

Then Monbei said, "You have certainly done well, and there is nothing to regret. Now, even if you fled you would have to commit seppuku anyway. When your mood improves, commit seppuku, and rather than die by another's hand, you can die by your father's." And soon after he performed kaishaku for his son.

A man in the same group as Aiura Genzaemon committed some nefarious deed, and so the group leader gave him a note, condemning him to death, which was to be taken to Genzaemon's place. Genzaemon perused the note and then said to the man, "It says here that I should kill you, so I will do away with you on the eastern bank. Previously you have practiced such things as swordsmanship . . . . Now fight with all you've got."

The man replied, "I will do as you say," and with Genzaemon alone accompanying him, they left the house. They had gone about twenty yards along the edge of the moat when a retainer of Genzaernon's yelled out, "Hey, Hey!" from the other side. As Genzaemon was turning around, the condemned man attacked him with his sword. Genzaemon ducked backwards, drew his sword, and cut the man down. He then returned home.

He put the clothes he had been wearing at that time into a chest and locked them up, never showing them to anyone for the rest of his life. After he died the clothes were examined, and it was seen that they were rent. This was told by his son, Genzaemon.

Okubo Doko is said to have remarked:

Everyone says that no masters of the arts will appear as the world comes to an end. This is something that I cannot claim to understand. Plants such as peonies, azaleas and camellias will be able to produce beautiful flowers, end of the world or not. If men would give some thought to this fact, they would understand. And if people took notice of the masters of even these times, they would be able to say that there are masters in the various arts. But people become imbued with the idea that the world has come to an end and no longer put forth any effort. This is a shame. There is no fault in the times.

While Fukahori Magoroku was still living as a dependent second son, he once went hunting at Fukahori, and his retainer, mistaking him for a wild boar in the darkness of the undergrowth, fired the rifle, wounding him in the knee and causing him to fall from a great height. The retainer, greatly upset, stripped himself to the waist and was about to commit seppuku. Magoroku said, "You can cut your stomach open later. I don't feel well, so bring me some water to drink." The retainer ran about and obtained some water for his master to drink and in the process calmed down. After that the retainer was again about to commit seppuku, but Magoroku forcibly stopped him. Upon returning they checked in with the man on guard, and Magoroku asked his father, Kanzaemen, to forgive the retainer.

Kanzaemon said to the retainer, "It was an unexpected mistake, so do not be worried. There is no need for reservation. Continue with your work.''

A man by the name of Takagi got into an argument with three farmers in the neighborhood, was soundly beaten out in the fields, and returned home. His wife said to him, "Haven't you forgotten about the matter of death?" "Definitely not!" he replied.

His wife then retorted, "At any rate, a man dies only once. Of the various ways of dying -dying of disease, being cut down in battle, seppuku or being beheaded--to die ignominiously would be a shame," and went outside. She soon returned, carefully put the two children to bed, prepared some torches, dressed herself for battle after nightfall, and then said, "When I went out to survey the scene a bit earlier, it seemed that the three men went into one place for a discussion. Now is the right time. Let's go quickly!" So saying, they went out with the husband in the lead, burning torches and wearing short swords. They broke into their opponents' place and dispersed them, both husband and wife slashing about and killing two of the men and wounding the other. The husband was later ordered to commit seppuku.

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 Nine

© 2009 Liberty References | Privacy Policy