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Jitsuroku Hachi: A Deep Laid Plot

Original Story from Walter Dening's Japan in Days of Yore

Afterword & Commentary by Justin Hagen

Some twelve years before Tokugawa Yoshimune assumed the title of Shogun (became Shogun 1716 A.D.), while he was still in Kii, it happened that one of his concubines called Sawano, being about to give birth to a child, was sent off to her mother, who lived in the village of Hirasawa to be confined there. With her Yoshimune sent a letter, a sword, and fifty ryo in money of the two former articles more anon.

When Sawano reached her home she found no but her mother there. Not long after her arrival she gave birth to a son. But the mother and the child both died. They were buried in the cemetery attached to a temple known as the Kodenji, and Sawano's aged mother was left to bemoan their loss. She carefully laid by the things sent by the Shogun, reckoning them the greatest treasures she possessed.

In Hirasawa there was another temple called the Kwan-o-in; attached to which was student named Hotaku. Sawano's mother used to do the washing for this temple, so she knew the youth very well.

One day, about eleven years after the death of Sawano, Hotaku had occasion to go to the old woman's house on some business. She treated him very hospitably, bringing out some dumplings for him, and while he was eating them chatted with him in a most friendly manner. “How old are you?” asked the old woman.

“Eleven,” replied Hotaku.

“Just the age that my grandson would have been had he lived,”replied the old woman. “In that case, how different would have been my position! I should not have been working for my living as I am now.”

“It is no use your speaking in this way,” replied Hotaku, “to persons who know nothing about the matter. People will think you crazy if you talk so grandly.”

“I am not deceiving you,” replied the old woman. “You have been studying at the temple, so of course you can read. I will show you something that will prove to you that I should have been in very different circumstances had my grandchild lived."

Here she handed to Hotaku a letter which had the Shogun's seal on it , and the purport of which was, that if Sawano gave birth to a son , the said son should be exalted to rank and position and have all the privileges of a member of the Tokugawa family conferred upon him.

“There is no mistake about what you say,” said Hotaku; “but I advise you not to be showing this document to everybody that comes along, for fear it may get you into trouble. You had better keep this matter to yourself.”

As he said this, the thought crossed Hotaku's mind that if he could steal the document and the sword, he could by this means pass himself off as the Shogun's son without any difficulty; for who was to know that Sawano's son was dead? Here was a chance; and he was not the one to miss it. Hotaku went back to the temple full of the subject. That night visions of wealth, rank and pomp fitted before him; and he awoke the next morning fully determined to take the first opportunity of acting on the resolution he had made.

Not many days after, Hotaku had occasion to go with the rector of his temple to a medicine shop. There, while the priest was performing a religious service, the lad amused himself by looking over the medicines. A large jar on the shelf attracted his attention. “What medicine may this be?” inquired Hotaku of a man who was in the shop.

“It is called Hammyo Shiseki, ” said the man. “It is rank poison.” Some of this Hotaku stole while the shopman was engaged elsewhere.

Hotaku waited his time, and, one night, when it was snowing hard, he went to the house of Sawano's mother, and, after thanking her for her kindness to him in the past produced some sake and induced the old woman to take enough to make her quite tipsy; and then, when she was asleep, strangled her. Dragging the corpse over to the hearth, he placed the face in the fire, so as to make it look as though the old woman had fallen into it; and round the hearth he placed wine cups, making it appear as though the deceased had drunk her self tipsy and then in a state of unconsciousness had burnt herself to death. He then took the document, the sword and what money there was in the house and went away.

The neighbors came in the next day, and, seeing how things were, did not suspect foul play. “It was evident," they said, “that the old woman had burnt herself to death whilst tipsy.”

Hotaku thought to himself, “It will never do to leave any one alive who knows me well, or my identity will be discovered. So I must kill the priest with whom I am living.”

This he accomplished by putting some of the poison that he had stolen from the apothecary into the priest's rice.

So the old priest died, no one knowing how or why. The only thing that was conjectured was, that some food he had taken had disagreed with him, no uncommon occurrence in those days of ignorance of the properties of herbs. Probabilities go for much in such cases. And no one thought it likely that a student priest would kill his teacher and benefactor.

The next thing which Hotaku did was to represent to the villagers that, since his priest was dead, it would be necessary for him to continue his studies elsewhere, “I am too young and inexperienced to take charge of the temple,” said he, “therefore, with your leave, I will go away to some other place, and when I have completed my studies, I will return and be your pastor.”

The people were all much struck with the thoughtfulness and the zeal of the young priest. They collected money for him, and gave him presents of various kinds; and, on hearing that he was going to start on the following day, said they would come and see him off.

“You need not do this,” replied Hotaku, “A pilgrim-priest, you know, is one who must inure himself to trial, so it is better that I should go away alone.”

The next morning, Hotaku rose very early and went down to the sea-shore. Here he saw a dog wandering about in search of food. With a little rice he tempted the animal to approach him, and then killed it with a sword. Taking the animal's blood, he bespattered his clothes with it, and having cut holes in them to make it appear as though they had been pierced with a sword, he threw the dead carcass of the dog into the sea and went off in the opposite direction to that which he had told the people he should take.

The villagers discovered the clothes and immediately concluded that some robber had heard of the money that Hotaku had received from them and for its sake had killed the lad and cast his body into the sea. The clothes and other articles that belonged to him found on the beach were, by order of the district officer, collected and carefully preserved.

Hotaku assumed the garb of a pilgrim and gave out that he was going to Ise. Instead of this, he went in the direction of Higo. He obtained food on the road by begging, lodging at night where he could, and thus reached Kumamoto.

Shortly after his arrival there, he entered a mochi shop and bought some mochi. The seller of the mochi asked him whence he had come. “You have it marked on your hat,” said the shopman, “that you are on the road to Ise. Are you traveling alone or in company with some one?”

“I am alone,” said Hotaku “I have come from Kii, from the village of Hirasawa.”

“How is it that you left your home alone?”

“It was on account of a step-mother who treated me cruelly.”

“How did it happen that you came all around here to go to Ise?”

“Well,” said Hotaku, with tears in his eyes, “after setting out, I felt so miserable that I thought I would return to my home, but I heard that my step-mother was so enraged by my running away that she would not think of receiving me back again. So I went on, begging from place to place, not knowing what else to do, and at last I have reached this town; may I ask its name?”

The mochi man was moved by the story. “As I am in want of a boy in the house,” said he, “ if you like to stop with me, I will make use of you.”

Hotaku gladly accepted the offer; his chief aim being to pass the time and to make preparations for the realizing of the great object of his life; and this he could do as well here as elsewhere. He agreed there fore to serve the mochi man.

In order to obtain the favor and confidence of his master, Hotaku exerted himself to the very utmost, sitting up late at night and rising early in the morning. Though his master often left money about, he did not attempt to take any, thus creating the impression that he was a thoroughly honest lad.

He served the mochi man for two years. At the end of this time, his master thought that Hotaku's diligence and perseverance ought to be rewarded in some better way than he had it in his power to do. So he recommended him to a man who had a larger business than himself. He sent him to a friend who kept a large coarse-ware shop.

Here too Hotaku made himself very useful, soon winning the confidence of his master, so much so that the master was quite careless about the way in which he allowed Hotaku to handle his money. He empowered Hotaku to pay his accounts and receive money on his behalf almost every day.

When he saw how he was trusted, Hotaku thought to himself, “I could take twenty or thirty ryo at any time, but this would be entirely insufficient for my purpose: I must manage to get about a hundred, and then I will be off. This I can easily do by forgery of some kind.”

Soon after this Hotaku had occasion to go to the baron of the Kumamoto castle to collect the money due to his master. The account only amounted to four ryo. Hotaku altered the figure four into a hundred, and the forgery being undiscovered, he carried off this amount.

He immediately shaved his head, and, assuming the costume of a priest, set out for Bingo. He was just twenty years of age.

One evening Hotaku got benighted, and, not knowing the way, was thinking of sleeping in the open plain in the middle of which he found himself, when he discovered a small building that had been used as a shrine. Into this building he crept, and was settling himself to sleep, when he saw a man come up, light a fire in front of the building, and sit down on the balcony that surrounded it. He was very tall and wore two swords, each of which was encased in a red sheath. By his looks he appeared to be a robber; and such indeed he was.

Hotaku gave a cough, to let the man know that he was there, and then asked, “Are you a samurai who, like myself, is on a journey? Will you kindly allow me to warm myself by your fire?”

“Whence does the priest come? ” asked the robber.

“I am a pilgrim-priest,” replied Hotaku “I wander about the country hither and thither. I do not belong to one place more than to another. But may I ask whence you come? You do not look like a man who belongs to this part of the country.”

“I too am a man who has no fixed abode, " replied the robber. “With the sky for my roof and the whole country as my dwelling-place, with the clothes and money of the passers-by to supply my needs, I do not know what it is to want. But, by the way, I have just come to the end of my stock of money and should like to borrow a little of you.”

Without appearing in any way alarmed, Hotaku took three ryo out of his pocket and gave them to the robber.

“As I am receiving,” said the robber, “I may as well take all you have.” Here he stretched out his hand and took the purse from Hotaku's pocket, and then, drawing the sword that Hotaku had in his belt, he examined it closely, and, seeing the Tokugawa crest on it , exclaimed, “Ah! You seem to have some fine things about you. This I will relieve you of too. When I become prosperous, I will make some return to you for what I am taking.”

The robber was about to depart; but Hotaku seized the sheath of one of his swords and stopped him. “You have taken my money,” said Hotaku, “and now you want to carry off this sword; if you persist in attempting this, I will throw away my life rather than lose the weapon. But come and listen to what I have to say. It is no use my attempting to hide anything from you. I will tell you all.”

Here Hotaku related to the robber the whole history of his early life and the designs which he had concocted. “Now,” said he at the conclusion, “having come thus far in my career, if I find that you are deter mined to stand in the way of progress by attempting to carry off the weapon upon the possession of which my success in the future depends, then, I tell you plainly, I will sell my life dearly rather than lose it; and though our fight may end in my death, unless I am very much mistaken you will not come off scot-free. I shall leave my mark on you; a mark that will probably lead to your arrest. If, on the other hand, you will promise to help me in realizing my great purpose, then I solemnly promise that, on its realization, you shall be exalted to rank and enriched with emoluments. Choose what you will do. If you fight, remember that you fight against one who is desperate and who will not lose his life for a trifle.”

The robber suddenly knelt at Hotaku's feet, and said, “I am Akagawa Daizen, a knight-errant of Mito. I am astounded by the disclosures you have made to me. If you have such a grand purpose as this in your mind, then I shall be most happy to give you my assistance. In return I shall look to you to reward me by creating me a baron.” Here Daizen returned the sword and the money that he had taken.

The two men consulted together as to how they should act to compass the end they had in view. “It seems to me,” said Hotaku, “that previous to giving out that I am the Shogun's son, it is essential that I should collect money and obtain certain number of followers; and it will be necessary also for me to be able to tell how I was brought up. While this is being done, will you not hide yourself somewhere in the neighborhood? When I have obtained the necessary accessories to the position I am about to assume, I will send for you.”

“There is no need to act in this way,” replied the robber. “I have about one hundred and fifty ryo that I took from a woman whom I killed a short time ago. Then I have a cousin who is the yamabushi of a temple called the Joraku-in, situated in Nagahora, Mino. This man can be taken into the plot and made to say that you were brought up under his care. We can collect a number of followers in Nagahora. It will make little matter who they are; robbers, farmers, or what not. When we have men enough to make a good show, we will go up to Osaka; and when we get there, I know how to make any amount of money. So the first thing we will decide on is to go to the Joraku-in”

Hotaku was pleased with this idea. So the two went to Nagahora; and as soon as they had collected some fifty-five followers, they thought it high time to make preparations for appearing in public. They ordered a number of articles to be made, such as clothes, swords, curtains, and the like: each article being marked with the Tokugawa crest. Hotaku assumed the name of Tokugawa Ten-ichibo. Daizen became his chief councilor; and two sharp-witted men called Watanabe Jidayu and Honda Gondayu became knights in attendance. When all the preparations were complete the party traveled by easy stages to Osaka

On reaching Osaka, through the assistance rendered by a friend of Daizen's, Ten-ichibo succeeded in hiring a large house, where he took up his quarters. In front of the house a notice-board was placed, on which the words: “The temporary residence of Tokugawa Ten-ichibo," were inscribed.

Shortly after their arrival, the head of the ward in which Ten-ichibo's temporary residence was situated sent to the house to say that such a great personage as the Shogun's son should not have taken up his quarters in the ward without giving notice to the ward officers, and added that he would be found fault with for not having promptly reported Ten-ichibo's arrival to the Mayor of the city.

“There is no reason for complaint,” replied Gondayu “You should be very grateful for the honor of having such an august personage in your ward. If anyone finds fault with you, send them to me. You townsfolk, I suppose, are at a loss how to act on such occasions, not having a Shogun's son here every day.” The head of the ward in which the house was situated reported what had taken place to the Mayor of Osaka, and the latter sent two messengers to the house in which Ten-ichibo was residing. The messengers complained that curtains bearing the Tokugawa crest were hung round his dwelling without the authorities being informed that a member of the Tokugawa family was coming. “And,” added the messengers, “the Mayor says that you are to come to see him about this at once.”

“Tell him that I am not going to see him,”replied Ten-ichibo. “Is the Shogun's son, do you think, going to the Mayor like one who has committed an offense? If the Mayor has any business with me, he will have to come here to see me.”

This was reported to the Mayor, and he determined to go and see the visitor himself. On his arrival Ten-ichibo received him with a good deal of pomp, and showed him the sword and the document which the Shogun had given Sawano. After inspecting these, the Mayor thought there could be no mistake about Ten-ichibo's being the real son of the Shogun.

Ten-ichibo was in want of money; to obtain this, he issued notes of hand, which promised that every person lending money should be repaid with land, at the rate of one hundred koku for every hundred ryo lent. In this way, in Osaka alone, he collected eighty-five thousand ryo. He went to Kyoto and adopted the same plan, collecting about sixty thousand ryo in that city.

While this was going on, the Mayors of Osaka and Kyoto sent in post haste to Edo to report what had happened and to ask whether the personage traveling under the name of Ten-ichibo was in reality the son of the Shogun

On the arrival of the messengers, the Shogun was asked whether he had any recollection of giving such a document to any one as that which Ten-ichibo was. He replied that he had a distinct recollection of so doing.

Messages were therefore dispatched to Kyoto and Osaka to warn the Mayors of those cities not to treat Ten-ichibo rudely, since there was every probability of his being the son of the Shogun

The effect of the messages was to add to the honors paid to Ten-ichibo. When he saw this, he thought that he could not do better than start for Edo at once. This resolve he immediately put into execution. He traveled slowly after the manner of great personages in those days, and with great pomp. Long before he reached the Shogun's capital, the news of his approach had spread all over Edo, and the townsfolk were waiting in anxious suspense for his arrival. One day, it was in everybody's mouth that Tokugawa Ten-ichibo had actually reached the city and had taken up his quarters in Yatsuyama, Shiba.

On the matter being reported to the Shogun, he said he could not of course consent to see the new arrival till his identification as his own son was placed beyond a doubt, and he therefore appointed Ooka Tadasuke Echizen-no-Kami and Matsudaira Izu-no-Kami, the Mayors of the city, to investigate the case.

Tadasuke, on hearing what had occurred, said at once that he was positive that the personage so much talked about not the real son of the Shogun “For,” said he, “if he had been, instead of obtaining money in the way he has, he would have sent up to the Shogun and received from him all the money he required, and would have had State officials dispatched to escort him to Edo.”

Tadasuke sent two messengers to Ten-ichibo. They were instructed to inquire why, without reporting his arrival, he had made use of the Shogun's crest on the drapery that surrounded his dwelling, and to inform him that, as one of the City Bugyo, Tadasuke had certain questions to put to him, and that therefore he was to come to the Bugyo's office.

Ten-ichibo made the same reply as lie had done at Osaka “The Bugyo's gate,” said he, “is a gate through which persons who are suspected of some crime pass in and out. The son of the Shogun is not one who can make himself so cheap as to go to the Bugyo's office like an ordinary person. If the Bugyo has any business with Ten-ichibo, it is his place to come here.”

To this Tadasuke answered that whoever he might be it made little matter; he was now quartered in the city of Edo and therefore was under the jurisdiction of its Mayors. He might be the son or the brother of the Shogun, but that did not absolve him from appearing at court when summoned. He added that if he refused to appear he should be obliged to send officers to bring him.

Ten-ichibo thought it best under these circumstances to go. On his arriving at the entrance of the Court of Justice, Daizen, who walked in front of him, said that his master could not enter the Court by the small gate, it would be beneath his rank to do so; he therefore wished the large gate opened.

The officers in charge of the gate refused to comply with this request. “Whether your master is guilty of any offense or not, makes little matter to us,” said they. “He has come here to be examined, and therefore he must enter by the same gate by which other people enter.”

Daizen consented, and his master entered the building. He was making his way to the chief seat, when, with a loud voice, Tadasuke called out, “Ten-ichibo! Take the lowest seat. You may deceive others, but you cannot deceive Echizen, you crafty fellow!”

Smiling, Ten-ichibo replied, “Is Echizen gone out of his mind? Is it that his receiving three thousand koku a year, instead of three hundred bags that he used to receive, and his being made one of the Bugyo of this city, is too much for him, and that he is off his head with pride? Were I to take notice of all your rudeness, Sir, it would end in your having to commit suicide. But this I do not intend to do.”

“To me you appear no other than an impostor,” replied Tadasuke.

Here the examination commenced; and the tale concocted by Ten-ichibo and Daizen was given in all its details. After this was finished, the sword and the document which the Shogun had given to Sawano were shown to Tadasuke as a conclusive proof of the identity of their possessor.

Tadasuke had reckoned on frightening Ten-ichibo into a confession of his imposture as he had often done before when the persons examined were conscious of guilt. But this not succeeding, and he being unable to produce any evidence worthy of being confronted with the minute details furnished by Ten-ichibo and his followers, the Chief Magistrate felt that no other course was open to him than to confess himself in the wrong and for the time being ask Ten-ichibo to pardon his insolence.

This course Tadasuke took, galling as it was to his pride. He confessed that he had been mistaken and said that, as there seemed to be no doubt about Ten-ichibo's identity, a meeting with his father should be arranged shortly.

This brought that day's examination to a close. Tadasuke's decision was reported to the Shogun; and he, fully persuaded that Ten-ichibo was his real son, was anxious that arrangements should be made for their meeting without delay.

Tadasuke was informed of this. He demurred. He said he was unwilling to take any part in bringing about a meeting of which he highly disapproved. “I am not convinced,” said the Mayor, “that Ten-ichibo is the real son of Yoshimune. I therefore wish to investigate the case further.”

To this the lords in attendance on the Shogun objected. “You have given your decision in favor of Ten-ichibo's identity,” said they, “and is it not preposterous of you to ask for time to consider the case more thoroughly?”

On this request of Tadasuke's being reported to the Shogun, he was so annoyed that he ordered his confinement in his private house.

Tadasuke was fully convinced that were time allowed him to send men to Kii to collect evidence, he would have no difficulty in proving that Ten-ichibo was a daring impostor. But how could the Shogun be prevented from holding the interview on which his heart was so much set?

Ever fruitful in resources, Tadasuke at once recollected that there was one man in the Shogun's capital whose advice Yoshimune would hardly venture to spurn. This was no other than Mito Chunagon, a near relation of the Shogun's. This baron was a special friend of Tadasuke's. But the question was, how could he make known what had occurred to this lord and solicit his help? To do it by letter while his house was so strictly guarded night and day was an utter impossibility. After a few minutes' consideration, Tadasuke called one of his chief retainers and requested him to get ready a coffin, and to give out that his (the retainer's) mother was dead and was about to be buried.

After nightfall Tadasuke entered the coffin and was borne out through what was called the Fujo-mon, or the Unclean Gate, a gate which was seldom opened except when corpses had to be conveyed through it. He reached the residence of the Mito baron, in Koishikawa, without being discovered.

Tadasuke obtained an audience with Chunagon; to whom he related all that had occurred, and at its close said:

“Ten-ichibo is not the Shogun's son, notwithstanding that he has in his possession articles which seem to prove his identity. His face plainly indicates that he is of plebeian origin. But I stand alone in holding this opinion. Every man of influence in this city is in favor of the Shogun's giving Ten-ichibo an immediate audience. Unless you can do something to prevent this, and can induce Yoshimune to give me time to send down to Kii to make inquiries about Ten-ichibo's real history, I am confident that the Shogun will treat this impostor as a true man: and in that case, when the real facts of the case are disclosed, as they most certainly will be, Yoshimune will deeply regret that he should have allowed himself to be so easily duped. Though my protest against an immediate interview being arranged may cost me my life, no other course is open to me than to make it, unless, indeed, I consent to violate my conscience and to act disloyally to my superior officer.”

The Mito baron had a heart which promptly responded to such noble sentiments as these, and he determined to intercede with the Shogun on Tadasuke's behalf.

His intercession was successful, and the Shogun gave orders that time for further investigation of the case should be given prior to its final settlement. Through assistance rendered by Chunagon, Tadasuke returned to his house. The next day he examined several of Ten-ichibo's followers, but without discovering anything that could be used as evidence of their master's imposture. He saw that there was nothing for it but to dispatch messengers to Kii and wait quietly till they returned. Consequently, he gave out that he was ill and unable to attend to the duties of his Court.

Tadasuke now called two of his most trusted retainers, Hirai Heijiro and another, whose name has not been handed down, whom, after fully impressing with the gravity of the occasion, he bade go to Kii and make minute inquiries into the matter. He told them that they were to spare no money either on the road or in collecting information at Hirasawa, and that on no account were they to be away longer than ten days.

The two messengers set out, and, by traveling day and night, succeeded in reaching the village of Hirasawa, in two days and a half.

They made minute inquiries, but for some time could get no information whatever bearing on the case. As hour after hour passed, a feeling of despair began to settle down on their minds, and they thought that, since they never could go back to Edo and confess their failure, they would have to commit suicide. But day and night they continued their search. The Kodenji cemetery was examined in every part in the hope of finding some trace of the death of the real son of the Shogun. At first they discovered nothing, but one day they came across two graves which hitherto had escaped their notice. They were covered over with grass, and though there was an inscription on them, it had become illegible. By examining the temple records, however, the messengers found out that on the 15th of March of the year Tori, in the period of Hoei, a woman and her infant son had died on the same day and had been buried there; and that an old woman called San had erected the tombstone. They inquired about this old woman, and were informed that she had burnt herself to death while tipsy.

As the date of the death of the child and its mother corresponded with the time at which Sawano had been sent away by the Shogun, they had little doubt that the remains which the two neglected graves contained, were no other than those of Yoshimune's son and his mother. But they had still to find out who this Ten-ichibo was.

They thought that the best way of discovering who had lived in the village about the time of the death of these persons, and what had become of this person or persons, would be to examine the official register. On doing this, they found that there was one Hotaku, who had lived with a yamabushi in a temple known as the Kwan-o-in; and that, on the priest's dying suddenly, this individual had set out to go to some other village, but had been attacked and killed by robbers on the sea-shore near at hand.

“The articles that were found scattered about on the beach the morning after the murder are still with us," said the authorities who showed the register to the retainers.

On the retainers asking to see these things, a man was sent to a neighboring storehouse and the following articles were placed before the messengers:

One cloth.

One shirt.

One wool-lined garment.

A basket hat with Hotaku's name on it.

One basket.

A bamboo walking-stick.

These the messengers took. On inquiry they found out that there was a man who knew Hotaku, one Kyusuke His services they procured, and they flew back to Edo as fast as kago and horses would carry them.

In the meantime, Yoshimune, still being of opinion that Ten-ichibo was his real son, was very anxious to see him, and one day, in the hearing of several of his associates, he gave a sigh, and said, “Is Echizen not well yet? How is Ten-ichibo's case going on?”

His attendants seeing how troubled he was, sent to Tadasuke telling him that he must settle the case by the following morning, and that if he could not do this, he was to resign his position of Bugyo) that same night.

Tadasuke on hearing this said to himself, “It is now only seven days since my messengers left: it is utterly impossible that they can be back at the earliest before the day after tomorrow, and I am told that I had better resign if I cannot settle the case between this and tomorrow morning. If I do as they direct, whoever is appointed to succeed me will be sure to bring about a meeting between Ten-ichibo and the Shogun tomorrow morning, and so all the labor that I have expended on the case will be thrown away. No, rather than resign I will die. Tomorrow morning I will commit suicide, and my son shall do the same. Before I do so, however, I will write a letter in which I will declare it to be my solemn conviction at the point of death that Ten-ichibo is an impostor, and I will warn my successor not to consent to his having an audience with the Shogun. In that case, when they find I have laid down my life rather than act contrary to my convictions, they will not be in a hurry to arrange for the interview. And while they are considering what to do, my messengers will arrive, and, unless I am very much mistaken, will bring with them conclusive evidence of Ten-ichibo's imposture.”

So that night Tadasuke, after preparing the document containing his dying testimony, called his son, then only eleven years old, and told him to be in readiness to commit suicide in the morning. Then, summoning one of his favorite retainers, a man called Ikeda Daisuke, to his side, he addressed him as follows:

“Before I die I have a word I wish to say to you. After I am gone you and the two faithful men who will arrive from Kii are not to pay any regard to the precept which teaches that a faithful servant should not serve two masters. Before three days have elapsed you are to endeavor to obtain employment under the new Bugyo. Be sure and acquaint the two men who have gone to Kii with this wish of mine.”

Tadasuke now called all his followers, and exhorted them to seek service under other masters after his decease. “Let not my name be disgraced,” said he, “do not wander about the country like men who have no ties and no responsibilities.” He then gave them each a cup of sake and solemnly took his leave of them.

When this ceremony was over, his wife came forward and said, “My husband's having to lay down his life in this way is nothing extraordinary. Having married a samurai, of course I have always anticipated that such a thing as this might happen. Did I choose to do so, I might fortify my mind and decide to survive my husband and my son, but with those whom I most love in the other world, what inducement would there be for me to remain in this world? I therefore beg to be allowed to die with my husband and my son.”

“To be sure, ” replied Tadasuke, “nothing could be more reasonable than such a request. Then we will all die together. The lad shall disembowel himself first, and you shall cut off his head; then you shall cut your own throat, and I will cut off your head; after which I will disembowel myself, and Daisuke shall cut off my head.”

The necessary preparations were all made, and the party solemnly waited for the day to dawn.

When the time for the carrying out of their dire resolution was approaching, and they were all ready to lay down their lives in the calm and ceremonious manner which the custom of those days prescribed and which was looked on as a sign of noble breeding, it was reported that the two messengers who had been sent to Kii had arrived.

In rushed those two noble men, almost dead with fatigue, their persons bearing marks of the speed with which they had traveled: their hair tied in knots behind and allowed to hang uncombed and disheveled down their backs, with tight belts round their waists to hold them together and to enable them to stand the tremendous shaking of the rough sedan used for rapid journeys in those days. They had no sooner entered the house than with a loud voice they exclaimed, “Ten-ichibo is an impostor.”

Tadasuke was wild with delight. He ordered the messengers to come to him at once. They were loath to do this, thinking it improper for them to appear before their master in the plight they were in; but Tadasuke insisted, so they came in, and gave a full account of all that they had discovered.

Tadasuke said that he should no longer look on the two men as his retainers, but as his brothers. He told his children that henceforth they were to call each of the men by whose exertions their father's life had been saved uncle.

Tadasuke now removed his death robes and put on his ordinary court dress, and forthwith sent to say that he had recovered from his illness and was prepared to resume his duties. At the same time he communicated to the Shogun the information which he had obtained.

Yoshimune, after hearing all the particulars, said that Tadasuke was to be allowed to deal with the case in the way he thought best. So, the same day, Tadasuke sent a messenger to Ten-ichibo, informing him that he had recovered from his illness and that, after conferring with Matsudaira Izu -no Kami, he had resolved to make arrangements for his having an audience with the Shogun. He added that he intended to have delivered this message in person, but that he did not feel quite well enough to undertake the task, “Tomorrow,” said he, “if you will come to my house, I will instruct you in the ceremonies to be observed at your first interview with the Shogun, and afterwards will accompany you to his palace.”

On hearing this, Ten-ichibo's joy knew no bounds; he felt as elated as if he were about to ascend to the third heaven. The next day he put on his very best clothes, and, taking a number of followers with him, went in great state to the Mayor's residence, which was situated near the Sukiya Bridge.

Tadasuke had made up his mind to arrest Ten-ichibo. Consequently he had given orders beforehand that when Ten-ichibo passed within the precincts of his residence, all the gates should be closed and barred after him. At the same time, to allay suspicion, the followers of Tadasuke were directed to pay the greatest respect to Ten-ichibo up to the last.

On his arrival, Tadasuke went out to the front door to meet him, and conducted him into the guest's chamber. After he was seated, “Izu-no-Kami will be here directly,” said Tadasuke. “In the meanwhile, please sit down and rest a little.” Thus saying, he left the room.

Kyusuke had previously been instructed to act as a waiter, and, on entering the room where Ten-ichibo was sitting, to look well at him: if there was no mistake about his being Hotaku, Kyusuke was to watch his chance and pull Tadasuke's sleeve. Tadasuke also gave directions that the articles which had been brought from Kii should be hung up round the hall through which Ten-ichibo was to pass on his way out of the house.

As soon as these preparations were complete, Tadasuke went again into the room where Ten-ichibo was sitting and ordered refreshments to be served up for him. After he had been there some little time, a messenger arrived from Matsudaira to say that, owing to his being obliged to attend to some public business, he was unable to come to Tadasuke's house to meet Ten-ichibo, and to avoid the risk of being considered impolite, he must ask Ten-ichibo to come to Tadasuke's residence on the following day at 10 o'clock.

“You hear what the messenger says,” said Tadasuke to Daizen. “Please to inform your lord that we will have him come again tomorrow morning.”

“As it is official business,” remarked Ten-ichibo, “which has prevented Izu-no-Kami from coming, there no help for it.”

Ten-ichibo now gave directions to his attendants prepare for his return. Then slowly and deliberately rose and descended from the dais on which he had been sitting and gradually made his way towards the entrance hall. While he was doing this, Kyusuke glided forward and pulled Tadasuke's sleeve.

As Ten-ichibo approached the hall, his eyes rested on the articles which he had left on the sea-shore at Hirasawa as they hung round the entrance. His countenance changed and he became ghastly pale. He stepped back two or three paces as though afraid to proceed.

In the midst of his embarrassment, he heard Tadasuke's voice stern and loud, “Hotaku, wait!” Hotaku stood still, trembling with fear.

“ Arrest him,” shouted the Bugyo; and suddenly a score of armed men who had been lying in ambush sprung out from the place of their concealment, surrounded the impostor, bound him and led him away.

Daizen saw in an instant to what a pass things had come and determined to sell his life dearly. He slashed away right and left at the soldiers who attempted to arrest him, killing and wounding a large number of them. But at last, by surrounding him with ladders, they succeeded in capturing him.

Hotaku saw that there was no use in attempting to hide anything, so he confessed the whole of his crimes.

Daizen at first refused to make any disclosures whatever, but after undergoing torture, relented, and gave the whole history of his past life.

Hotaku was beheaded, and his head was exposed to view in a public place for some days.

Daizen and all the impostor's chief followers were put to death. Others who had taken part in the plot were banished.

Yoshimune was very much gratified by the pains that Tadasuke took to find out the truth on this occasion. “Had it not been for the superior intelligence of Echizen,” said he, “I should have been deceived by this rogue, and my name would have been dishonored.”

The Shogun ordered that as a reward for his services on this occasion Tadasuke's income should be increased from three thousand koku a year to seven thousand, and that he should be promoted to the office of Jisha-Bugyo, or Governor of Temples.

Thus ended one of the most subtle and daring attempts at imposture that Japanese history records.


Scene from the movie Shinban Ooka Seidan by Buntaro Futagawaii

As we know, Matsudaira Nobutsuna Izu-no-Kami was indeed a very prominent figure in feudal Japan and made an appearance in this story and played major roles in our previous Jitsuroku tales. The main magistrate in this tale however, Ooka Tadasuke, was also a prominent magistrate in Edo, taking up his post in 1717. As magistrate, Tadasuke was very efficient in conducting his business and helped implement Tokugawa economic and cultural polices in Edo known as the Kyoho Reforms. His fame grew as magistrate and he became characterized as a wise magistrate who oversaw countless court cases. These cases became entwined with legend and a series of tales developed surrounding his exploits arose titled the Ooka Seiden. These tales were however quite embellished and often ignored all historical basis.1

None the less, this particular tale of ours is indeed loosely based n a historical event that occurred in 1729 and was adapted and embellished over time for kabuki plays. The story is based on the historical account of a priest-swordsman by the name of Kaigyo from Kii left for Edo with his mother under the name Genji Botenichi (Ten-ichibo) and made bold claims of being the illegitimate son of Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune. This was done in order to try to cheat money out of local Ronin to pay homage to him as seen in our story when Hotaku asked for the locals to give him money promising to give them a return of 100 koku for every 100 ryo received.

Like Hotaku, the real Kaigyo's underhanded dealings were exposed and he was tried and executed for his crime of impersonating the Shogun's son. Kaigyo however was tried by a different magistrate of the time, not Ooka Tadasuke, and it appears that Tadasuke, Izu-no-Kami as well as many other aspects of the story were added for embellishment purposes and the story was recreated countless times through Kabuki plays and even in the modern era in popular Japanese TV series and movies.2


Sensei Justin Hagen, has been practicing martial arts since the age of 5 years old and is currently a martial arts instructor as well as an educator for the Pennsylvania public school system. In 2011 he received his Bachelor's degree in history with a minor in philosophy with emphasis on East Asian studies and religion from the University of Rhode Island. Continuing his education, Sensei Hagen also received his Masters degree from DeSales University in Education in 2018 with his final thesis exploring research on the effects martial arts programs have on behavior in the educational setting. Sensei Hagen now seeks to share the knowledge he has accrued through his experiences in life with the world. Currently he teaches Olympic style Tae Kwon Do at BucksMont Tae Kwon Do in Hatfield, PA as well as independently runs a Kyokushin Karate club under the direction of Shihan Roman Herman's KUSA organization. Sensei Hagen also has courses available on Udemy open to the public to take in order to learn more about martial arts philosophy and culture.

In conjunction to martial arts, Sensei Hagen is also a woodburning artist, the subject for his art often inspired by martial arts and Japanese culture.

To browse his catalog of Hannya Mask, Ukiyo-E & Kanji woodburns, please visit:


1) Baron Redesdale, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford. Tales of Old Japan. United Kingdom, Macmillan and Company, 1871.

2) Dykstra, Yoshiko: Notable Tales Old and New. Tachibana Narisue's Kokon Chomonju

3) Kornicki, P. F. “Manuscript, Not Print: Scribal Culture in the Edo Period.”Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 32, no. 1, 2006, pp. 23–52. JSTOR

4) Sansom, George (1963). A History of Japan: 1615–1867. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

5) Shiro, Hamao, and Jeffrey Angles. “The Execution of Ten'ichibo.” Critical Asian Studies, 2005, pp. 305–321., doi:10.1080/14672710500106424.

1 Shiro, Hamao, and Jeffrey Angles. “The Execution of Ten'ichibo.” Critical Asian Studies, 2005, pp. 305–321., doi:10.1080/14672710500106424.

2 Shiro, Hamao, and Jeffrey Angles. “The Execution of Ten'ichibo.” Critical Asian Studies, 2005, pp. 305–321., doi:10.1080/14672710500106424.

i Chikashige, Kabuki actor Suketakaya Takasuke as Ooka Tadasuke, 1880. Source File:

ii Futagawa, Buntaro, Reisaburō Yamamoto and Kanjūrō Arashi in Shinban Ōoka seidan, 1928. Source File:

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