Original Story A Story of the Otokodate of Yedo from A.B. Mitford's Tales of Old Japan
Afterword & Commentary by Justin Hagen
At this time there lived in the province of Yamato a certain Daimyo, called Honda Dainaiki, who one day, when surrounded by several of his retainers, produced a sword, and bade them look at it and say from what smith 's workshop the blade had come.
“I think this must be a Masamune blade," said one Fuwa Banzayemon
“No,” said Nagoya Sanza, after examining the weapon attentively, “this certainly is a Muramasa.”
A third Samurai, named Takagi Umanojo, pronounced it to be the work of Shidzu Kanenji; and as they could not agree, but each maintained his opinion, their lord sent for a famous connoisseur to decide the point; and the sword proved, as Sanza had said, to be a genuine Muramasa. Sanza was delighted at the verdict; but the other two went home rather crestfallen. Umanojo, although he had been worsted in the argument, bore no malice nor ill-will in his heart; but Banzayemon, who was a vain-glorious personage, puffed up with the idea of his own importance, conceived a spite against Sanza, and watched for an opportunity to put him to shame.
At last, one day Banzayemon, eager to be revenged upon Sanza, went to the Prince, and said, “Your lordship ought to see Sanza fence; his swordsmanship is beyond all praise. I know that I am no match for him; still, if it will please your lordship, I will try a bout with him,” and the Prince, who was a mere stripling, and thought it would be rare sport, immediately sent for Sanza and desired he would fence with Banzayemon
So the two went out into the garden, and stood up facing each other, armed with wooden swords. Now Banzayemon was proud of his skill, and thought he had no equal in fencing; so he expected to gain an easy victory over Sanza, and promised himself the luxury of giving his adversary a beating that should fully make up for the mortification which he had felt in the matter of the dispute about the sword. It happened, however, that he had undervalued the skill of Sanza, who, when he saw that his adversary was attacking him savagely and in good earnest, by a rapid blow struck Banzayemon so sharply on the wrist that he dropped the sword, and, before he could pick it up again, delivered a second cut on the shoulder, which sent him rolling over in the dust. All the officers present, seeing this, praised Sanza 's skill, and Banzayemon, utterly stricken with shame, ran away home and hid himself.
After this affair Sanza rose high in the favor of his lord; and Banzayemon, who was more than ever jealous of him, feigned sickness, and stayed at home devising schemes for Sanza's ruin.
Now it happened that the Prince, wishing to have the Muramasa blade mounted, sent for Sanza and entrusted it to his care, ordering him to employ the most cunning work men in the manufacture of the scabbard-hilt and ornaments; and Sanza, having received the blade, took it home, and put it carefully away.
When Banzayemon heard of this, he was overjoyed; for he saw that his opportunity for revenge had come. He determined, if possible, to kill Sanza, but at any rate to steal the sword which had been committed to his care by the Prince, knowing full well that if Sanza lost the sword he and his family would be ruined. Being a single man, without wife or child, he sold his furniture, and, turning all his available property into money, made ready to fly the country.
When his preparations were concluded, he went in the middle of the night to Sanza's house and tried to get in by stealth; but the doors and shutters were all carefully bolted from the inside, and there was no hole by which he could effect an entrance. All was still, however, and the people of the house were evidently fast asleep; so he climbed up to the second story, and, having contrived to unfasten a window, made his way in. With soft, cat-like footsteps he crept downstairs, and, looking into one of the rooms, saw Sanza and his wife sleeping on the mats, with their little son Kosanza, a boy of thirteen, curled up in his quilt between them .
The light in the night-lamp was at its last flicker, but, peering through the gloom, he could just see the Prince's famous Muramasa sword lying on a sword-rack in the raised part of the room; so he crawled stealthily along until he could reach it, and stuck it in his girdle. Then, drawing near to Sanza, he bestrode his sleeping body, and, brandishing the sword, made a thrust at his throat; but in his excitement his hand shook, so that he missed his aim, and only scratched Sanza, who, waking with a start and trying to jump up, felt himself held down by a man standing over him.
Stretching out his hands, he would have wrestled with his enemy; when Banzayemon, leaping back,kicked over the night-lamp, and throwing open the shutters, dashed into the garden. Snatching up his sword, Sanza rushed out after him; and his wife, having lit a lantern and armed herself with a halberd, went out, with her son Kosanza, who carried a drawn dirk, to help her husband. Then Banzayemon,who was hiding in the shadow of a large pine-tree, seeing the lantern and dreading detection, seized a stone and hurled it at the light, and, chancing to strike it, put it out, and then scram bling over the fence unseen, fled into the darkness.
When Sanza had searched all over the garden in vain, he returned to his room and examined his wound, which proving very slight, he began to look about to see whether the thief had carried off anything; but when his eye fell upon the place where the Muramasa sword had lain, he saw that it was gone. He hunted everywhere, but it was not to be found. The precious blade with which his Prince had entrusted him had been stolen, and the blame would fall heavily upon him. Filled with grief and shame at the loss, Sanza and his wife and child remained in great anxiety until the morning broke, when he reported the matter to one of the Prince's councilors, and waited in seclusion until he should receive his lord 's commands.
It soon became known that Banzayemon, who had fled the province,was the thief; and the councilors made their report accordingly to the Prince, who, although he expressed his detestation of the mean action of Banzayemon, could not absolve Sanza from blame, in that he had not taken better precautions to insure the safety of the sword that had been committed to his trust. It was decided, therefore, that Sanza should be dismissed from his service, and that his goods should be confiscated; with the proviso that should he be able to find Banzayemon, and recover the lost Muramasa blade, he should be restored to his former position. Sanza, who from the first had made up his mind that his punishment would be severe, accepted the decree without a murmur; and, having committed his wife and son to the care of his relations, prepared to leave the country as a Ronin and search for Banzayemon
Before starting, however, he thought that he would go to his brother-officer, Takagi Umanojo, and consult with him as to what course he should pursue to gain his end. But this Umanojo, who was by nature a churlish fellow, answered him unkindly, and said:
“It is true that Banzayemon is a mean thief; but still it was through your carelessness that the sword was lost. It is of no avail your coming to me for help: you must get it back as best you may.”
“Ah!” replied Sanza, “I see that you too bear me a grudge because I defeated you in the matter of the judgment of the sword. You are no better than Banzayemon yourself.”
And his heart was bitter against his fellow-men, and he left the house determined to kill Umanojo first and afterwards to track out Banzayemon; so, pretending to start on his journey, he hid in an inn, and waited for an opportunity to attack Umanojo
One day Umanojo, who was very fond of fishing, had taken his son Umanosuke, a lad of sixteen, down to the sea-shore with him; and as the two were enjoying themselves, all of a sudden they perceived a Samurai running towards them, and when he drew near they saw that it was Sanza. Umanojo, thinking that Sanza had come back in order to talk over some important matter, left his angling and went to meet him. Then Sanza cried out:
“Now, Sir Umanojo, draw and defend yourself. What! Were you in league with Banzayemon to vent your spite upon me? Draw, sir, draw! You have spirited away your accomplice; but, at any rate, you are here yourself, and shall answer for your deed. It is no use playing the innocent; your astonished face shall not save you. Defend yourself, coward and traitor!” and with these words Sanza flourished his naked sword.
“No, Sir Sanza,” replied the other, anxious by a soft answer to turn away his wrath, “I am innocent of this deed. Waste not your valor on so poor a cause.”
“Lying villain!” said Sanza, “think not that you can impose upon me. I know your treacherous heart,” and, rushing upon Umanojo, he cut him on the forehead so that he fell in agony upon the sand.
Umanosuke in the meanwhile, who had been fishing at some distance from his father, rushed up when he saw him in this perilous situation and threw a stone at Sanza, hoping to distract his attention; but, before he could reach the spot, Sanza had delivered the death-blow, and Umanojo lay a corpse upon the beach.
“Stop , Sir Sanza, murderer of my father!” cried Umanosuke, drawing his sword, “stop and do battle with me, that I may avenge his death.”
“That you should wish to slay your father's enemy,” replied Sanza, “is but right and proper; and although I had just cause of quarrel with your father, and killed him, as a Samurai should, yet would I gladly forfeit my life to you here; but my life is precious to me for one purpose, that I may punish Banzayemon and get back the stolen sword. When I shall have restored that sword to my lord, then will I give you your revenge, and you may kill me. A soldier's word is truth; but, as a pledge that I will fulfill my promise, I will give to you, as hostages, my wife and boy. Stay your avenging hand, I pray you, until my desire shall have been attained.”
Umanosuke, who was a brave and honest youth, as famous in the clan for the goodness of his heart as for his skill in the use of arms, when he heard Sanza's humble petition, relented, and said:
“I agree to wait, and will take your wife and boy as hostages for your return.”
“ I humbly thank you,” said Sanza. “When I shall have chastised Banzayemon, I will return, and you shall claim your revenge.”
So Sanza went his way to Edo to seek for Banzayemon, and Umanosuke mourned over his father's grave.
Now Banzayemon, when he arrived in Edo, found himself friendless and without the means of earning his living, when by accident he heard of the fame of Chobei of Bandzui, the chief of the Otokodate, to whom he applied for assistance; and having entered the fraternity, supported himself by giving fencing-lessons. He had been plying this trade for some time, and had earned some little reputation, when Sanza reached the city and began his search for him.
But the days and months passed away, and, after a year's fruitless seeking, Sanza, who had spent all his money without obtaining a clue to the whereabouts of his enemy, was sorely perplexed, and was driven to live by his wits as a fortune-teller. Work as he would, it was a hard matter for him to gain the price of his daily food, and, in spite of all his pains, his revenge seemed as far off as ever, when he bethought him that the Yoshiwara was one of the most bustling places in the city, and that if he kept watch there, sooner or later he would be sure to fall in with Banzayemon So he bought a hat of plaited bamboo, that completely covered his face, and lay in wait at the Yoshiwara.
One day Banzayemon and two of Chobei's apprentices Token Gombei and Shirobei, who, from his wild and indocile nature, was surnamed “the Colt,” were amusing themselves and drinking in an upper story of a tea-house in the Yoshiwara, when Token Gombei, happening to look down upon the street below, saw a Samurai pass by, poorly clad in worn-out old clothes, but whose poverty-stricken appearance contrasted with his proud and haughty bearing.
“Look there!” said Gombei, calling the attention of the others, “look at that Samurai. Dirty and ragged as his coat is, how easy it is to see that he is of noble birth! Let us wardsmen dress ourselves up in never so fine clothes, we could not look as he does.”
“Ay,” said Shirobei, “I wish we could make friends with him, and ask him up here to drink a cup of wine with us. However, it would not be seemly for us wardsmen to go and invite a person of his condition.”
“We can easily get over that difficulty,” said Banzayemon “As I am a Samurai myself, there will be no impropriety in my going and saying a few civil words to him, and bringing him in.”
The other two having joyfully accepted the offer, Banzayemon ran downstairs, and went up to the strange Samurai and saluted him, saying:
“I pray you to wait a moment, Sir Samurai. My name is Fuwa Banzayemon at your service. I am a Ronin, as I judge from your appearance that you are yourself. I hope you will not think me rude if I venture to ask you to honor me with your friendship, and to come into this tea-house to drink a cup of wine with me and two of my friends.”
The strange Samurai, who was no other than Sanza, looking at the speaker through the interstices of his deep bamboo hat, and recognizing his enemy Banzayemon, gave a start of surprise, and, uncovering his head, said sternly:
“Have you forgotten my face, Banzayemon?”
For a moment Banzayemon was taken aback, but quickly recovering himself, he replied, "Ah! Sir Sanza, you may well be angry with me; but since I stole the Muramasa sword, and fled to Edo I have known no peace: I have been haunted by remorse for my crime. I shall not resist your vengeance: do with me as it shall seem best to you; or rather take my life, and let there be an end of this quarrel.”
“Nay,” answered Sanza, “to kill a man who repents him of his sins is a base and ignoble action. When you stole from me the Muramasa blade which had been confided to my care by my lord, I became a disgraced and ruined man. Give me back that sword, that I may lay it before my lord, and I will spare your life. I seek to slay no man needlessly.”
“Sir Sanza, I thank you for your mercy. At this moment I have not the sword by me, but if you will go into yonder tea-house and wait awhile, I will fetch it and deliver it into your hands."
Sanza having consented to this, the two men entered the tea-house, where Banzayemon's two companions were waiting for them.' But Banzayemon, ashamed of his own evil deed, still pretended that Sanza was a stranger, and introduced him as such , saying:
“Come, Sir Samurai, since we have the honor of your company, let me offer you a wine-cup."
Banzayemon and the two men pressed the wine-cup upon Sanza so often that the fumes gradually got into his head and he fell asleep; the two wardsmen, seeing this, went out for a walk, and Banzayemon, left alone with the sleeping man, began to revolve fresh plots against him in his mind.
On a sudden, a thought struck him. Noiselessly seizing Sanza's sword, which he had laid aside on entering the room, he stole softly downstairs with it, and, carrying it into the back yard, pounded and blunted its edge with a stone, and having made it useless as a weapon, he replaced it in its scabbard, and running upstairs again laid it in its place without disturbing Sanza, who, little suspecting treachery, lay sleeping off the effects of the wine. At last, however, he awoke, and, ashamed at having been overcome by drink, he said to Banzayemon:
“Come, Banzayemon, we have dallied too long; give me the Muramasa sword, and let me go.”
“Of course," replied the other, sneeringly, “I am longing to give it back to you; but unfortunately, in my poverty, I have been obliged to pawn it for fifty ounces of silver. If you have so much money about you, give it to me and I will return the sword to you.”
“Wretch!” cried Sanza, seeing that Banzayemon was trying to fool him, “have I not had enough of your vile tricks? At any rate, if I cannot get back the sword, your head shall be laid before my lord in its place. Come,” added he, stamping his foot impatiently, “defend yourself.”
“With all my heart. But not here in this tea-house. Let us go to the Mound, and fight it out.”
“Agreed! There is no need for us to bring trouble on the landlord. Come to the Mound of the Yoshiwara.”
So they went to the Mound, and drawing their swords, began to fight furiously. As the news soon spread abroad through the Yoshiwara that a duel was being fought upon the Mound, the people flocked out to see the sight; and among them came Token Gombei and Shirobei, Banzayemon's companions, who, when they saw that the combatants were their own friend and the strange Samurai, tried to interfere and stop the fight, but, being hindered by the thickness of the crowd, remained as spectators. The two men fought desperately, each driven by fierce rage against the other; but Sanza, who was by far the better fencer of the two, once, twice, and again dealt blows which should have cut Banzayemon down, and yet no blood came forth. Sanza, astonished at this, put forth all his strength, and fought so skilfully, that all the bystanders applauded him, and Banzayemon, though he knew his adversary's sword to be blunted, was so terrified that he stumbled and fell.
Sanza, brave soldier that he was, scorned to strike a fallen foe, and bade him rise and fight again. So they engaged again, and Sanza, who from the beginning had had the advantage, slipped and fell in his turn; Banzayemon, forgetting the mercy which had been shown to him, rushed up, with bloodthirsty joy glaring in his eyes, and stabbed Sanza in the side as he lay on the ground. Faint as he was, he could not lift his hand to save himself; and his craven foe was about to strike him again, when the bystanders all cried shame upon his baseness. Then Gombei and Shirobei lifted up their voices and said:
“Hold, coward! Have you forgotten how your own life was spared but a moment since? Beast of a Samurai, we have been your friends hitherto, but now behold in us the avengers of this brave man.”
With these words the two men drew their dirks, and the spectators fell back as they rushed in upon Banzayemon, who, terror-stricken by their fierce looks and words, fled without having dealt the deathblow to Sanza. They tried to pursue him, but he made good his escape, so the two men returned to help the wounded man. When he came to himself by dint of their kind treatment, they spoke to him and comforted him, and asked him what province he came from, that they might write to his friends and tell them what had befallen him.
Sanza, in a voice faint from pain and loss of blood, told them his name and the story of the stolen sword, and of his enmity against Banzayemon “But,” said he, “just now, when I was fighting, I struck Banzayemon more than once, and without effect. How could that have been?”
Then they looked at his sword, which had fallen by his side, and saw that the edge was all broken away. More than ever they felt indignant at the baseness of Banzayemon's heart, and redoubled their kindness to Sanza; but, in spite of all their efforts, he grew weaker and weaker, until at last his breathing ceased altogether. So they buried the corpse honorably in an adjoining temple, and wrote to Sanza’s wife and son, describing to them the manner of his death.
Now when Sanza 's wife, who had long been anxiously expecting her husband's return, opened the letter and learned the cruel circumstances of his death, she and her son Kosanza mourned bitterly over his loss. Then Kosanza, who was now fourteen years old, said to his mother:
“Take comfort, mother; for I will go to Edo and seek out this Banzayemon, my father's murderer, and I will surely avenge his death. Now, therefore, make ready all that I need for this journey.”
And as they were consulting over the manner of their revenge, Umanosuke, the son of Umanojo, whom Sanza had slain, having heard of the death of his father's enemy, came to the house. But he came with no hostile intent. True, Sanza had killed his father, but the widow and the orphan were guiltless, and he bore them no ill-will; on the contrary, he felt that Banzayemon was their common enemy. It was he who by his evil deeds had been the cause of all the mischief that had arisen, and now again, by murdering Sanza, he had robbed Umanosuke of his revenge. In this spirit he said to Kosanza:
“Sir Kosanza, I hear that your father has been cruelly murdered by Banzayemon at Edo I know that you will avenge the death of your father, as the son of a soldier should: if, therefore, you will accept my poor services, I will be your second, and will help you to the best of my ability. Banzayemon shall be my enemy, as he is yours.”
“Nay, Sir Umanosuke, although I thank you from my heart, I cannot accept this favor at your hands. My father Sanza slew your noble father: that you should requite this misfortune thus is more than kind, but I cannot think of suffering you to risk your life on my behalf.”
“Listen to me,” replied Umanosuke, smiling, “and you will think it less strange that I should offer to help you. Last year, when my father lay a bleeding corpse on the sea-shore, your father made a covenant with me that he would return to give me my revenge, so soon as he should have regained the stolen sword. Banzayemon, by murdering him on the Mound of the Yoshiwara, has thwarted me in this; and now upon whom can I avenge my father's death but upon him whose baseness was indeed its cause? Now, therefore, I am determined to go with you to Edo, and not before the murders of our two fathers shall have been fully atoned for will we return to our own country.”
When Kosanza heard this generous speech, he could not conceal his admiration; and the widow, prostrating herself at Umanosuke's feet, shed tears of gratitude. The two youths, having agreed to stand by one another, made all ready for their journey, and obtained leave from their prince to go in search of the traitor Banzayemon
They reached Edo without meeting with any adventures, and, taking up their abode at a cheap inn, began to make their inquiries; but, although they sought far and wide, they could learn no tidings of their enemy. When three months had passed thus, Kosanza began to grow faint-hearted at their repeated failures; but Umanosuke supported and comforted him, urging him to fresh efforts. But soon a great misfortune befell them: Kosanza fell sick with ophthalmia, and neither the tender nursing of his friend, nor the drugs and doctors upon whom Umanosuke spent all their money, had any effect on the suffering boy, who soon became stone blind. Friendless and penniless, the one deprived of his eyesight and only a clog upon the other, the two youths were thrown upon their own resources.
Then Umanosuke, reduced to the last extremity of distress, was forced to lead out Kosanza to Asakusa to beg sitting by the roadside, whilst he himself, wandering hither and thither, picked up what he could from the charity of those who saw his wretched plight. But all this while he never lost sight of his revenge, and almost thanked the chance which had made him a beggar, for the opportunity which it gave him of hunting out strange and hidden haunts of vagabond life into which in his more prosperous condition he could not have penetrated. So he walked to and fro through the city, leaning on a stout staff, in which he had hidden his sword, waiting patiently for fortune to bring him face to face with Banzayemon
Now Banzayemon, after he had killed Sanza on the Mound of the Yoshiwara, did not dare to show his face again in the house of Chobei, the Father of the Otokodate; for he knew that the two men, Token Gombei and Shirobei “the loose Colt,” would not only bear an evil report of him, but would even kill him if he fell into their hands, so great had been their indignation at his cowardly conduct; so he entered a company of mountebanks, and earned his living by showing tricks of swordsmanship, and selling tooth-powder at the Okuyama, at Asakusa.
One day, as he was going towards Asakusa to ply his trade, he caught sight of a blind beggar, in whom , in spite of his poverty-stricken and altered appearance, he recognized the son of his enemy. Rightly he judged that, in spite of the boy's apparently helpless condition, the discovery boded no weal for him; so mounting to the upper story of a tea house hard by, he watched to see who should come to Kosanza's assistance. Nor had he to wait long, for presently he saw a second beggar come up and speak words of encouragement and kindness to the blind youth; and looking attentively, he saw that the new-comer was Umanosuke
Having thus discovered who was on his track, he went home and sought means of killing the two beggars; so he lay in wait and traced them to the poor hut where they dwelt, and one night, when he knew Umanosuke to be absent,he crept in. Kosanza, being blind, thought that the footsteps were those of Umanosuke, and jumped up to welcome him; but he, in his heartless cruelty, which not even the boy's piteous state could move, slew Kosanza as he helplessly stretched out his hands to feel for his friend. The deed was yet unfinished when Umanosuke returned, and, hearing a scuffle inside the hut, drew the sword which was hidden in his staff and rushed in; but Banzayemon, profiting by the darkness, eluded him and fled from the hut. Umanosuke followed swiftly after him; but just as he was on the point of catching him, Banzayemon, making a sweep backwards with his drawn sword, wounded Umanosuke in the thigh, so that he stumbled and fell, and the murderer, swift of foot, made good his escape.
The wounded youth tried to pursue him again, but being compelled by the pain of his wound to desist, returned home and found his blind companion lying dead , weltering in his own blood. Cursing his unhappy fate, he called in the beggars of the fraternity to which he belonged, and between them they buried Kosanza, and he himself being too poor to procure a surgeon's aid, or to buy healing medicaments for his wound, became a cripple.
It was at this time that Shirai Gompachi, who was living under the protection of Chobei, the Father of the Otokodate, was in love with Komurasaki, the beautiful courtesan who lived at the sign of the Three Sea-shores, in the Yoshiwara. He had long exhausted the scanty supplies which he possessed, and was now in the habit of feeding his purse by murder and robbery, that he might have means to pursue his wild and extravagant life. One night, when he was out on his cut-throat business, his fellows, who had long suspected that he was after no good, sent one of their number, named Seibei, to watch him. Gompachi, little dreaming that any one was following him, swaggered along the street until he fell in with a wardsman, whom he cut down and robbed; but the booty proving small, he waited for a second chance, and, seeing a light moving in the distance, hid himself in the shadow of a large tub for catching rain-water till the bearer of the lantern should come up.
When the man drew near, Gompachi saw that he was dressed as a traveler, and wore a long dirk; so he sprung out from his lurking-place and made to kill him; but the traveler nimbly jumped on one side,and proved no mean adversary, for he drew his dirk and fought stoutly for his life. However, he was no match for so skillful a swordsman as Gompachi, who, after a sharp struggle, killed him , and carried off his purse, which contained two hundred ryos. Overjoyed at having found so rich a prize, Gompachi was making off for the Yoshiwara, when Seibei, who, horror stricken, had seen both murders, came up and began to upbraid him for his wickedness. But Gompachi was so smooth-spoken and so well liked by his comrades, that he easily persuaded Seibei to hush the matter up, and accompany him to the Yoshiwara for a little diversion. As they were talking by the way, Seibei said to Gompachi:
“I bought a new dirk the other day, but I have not had an opportunity to try it yet. You have had so much experience in swords that you ought to be a good judge. Pray look at this dirk, and tell me whether you think it good for anything."
“We'll soon see what sort of metal it is made of," answered Gompachi. “We'll just try it on the first beggar we come across.”
At first Seibei was horrified by this cruel proposal, but by degrees he yielded to his companion's persuasions; and so they went on their way until Seibei spied out a crippled beggar lying asleep on the bank outside the Yoshiwara. The sound of their footsteps aroused the beggar, who seeing a Samurai and a wardsman pointing at him, and evidently speaking about him, thought that their consultation could bode him no good. So he pretended to be still asleep, watching them carefully all the while; and when Seibei went up to him, brandishing his dirk, the beggar, avoiding the blow, seized Seibei's arm, and twisting it round, flung him into the ditch below. Gompachi, seeing his companion's discomfiture, attacked the beggar, who, drawing a sword from his staff, made such lightning-swift passes that, crippled though he was, and unable to move his legs freely, Gompachi could not overpower him; and although Seibei crawled out of the ditch and came to his assistance, the beggar, nothing daunted, dealt his blows about him to such good purpose that he wounded Seibei in the temple and arm. Then Gompachi, reflecting that after all he had no quarrel with the beggar, and that he had better attend to Seibei's wounds than go on fighting to no purpose, drew Seibei away, leaving the beggar, who was too lame to follow them, in peace.
When he examined Seibei's wounds, he found that they were so severe that they must give up their night's frolic and go home. So they went back to the house of Chobei, the Father of the Otokodate, and Seibei, afraid to show himself with his sword-cuts, feigned sickness, and went to bed. On the following morning Chobei, happening to need his apprentice Seibei's services, sent for him, and was told that he was sick; so he went to the room, where he lay abed, and, to his astonishment, saw the cut upon his temple. At first the wounded man refused to answer any questions as to how he had been hurt; but at last, on being pressed by Chobei, he told the whole story of what had taken place the night before.
When Chobei heard the tale, he guessed that the valiant beggar must be some noble Samurai in disguise, who, having a wrong to avenge, was biding his time to meet with his enemy; and wishing to help so brave a man, he went in the evening, with his two faithful apprentices, Token Gombei and Shirobei “the loose Colt,” to the bank outside the Yoshiwara to seek out the beggar. The latter, not one whit frightened by the adventure of the previous night, had taken his place as usual, and was lying on the bank, when Chobei came up to him, and said:
“Sir, I am Chobei, the chief of the Otokodate, at your service. I have learnt with deep regret that two of my men insulted and attacked you last night. However, happily, even Gompachi, famous swordsman though he be, was no match for you, and had to beat a retreat before you. I know, therefore, that you must be a noble Samurai, who by some ill chance have become a cripple and a beggar. Now, therefore, I pray you tell me all your story; for, humble wardsman as I am, I may be able to assist you, if you will condescend to allow me.”
The cripple at first tried to shun Chobei's questions; but at last, touched by the honesty and kindness of his speech, he replied:
“Sir, my name is Takagi Umanosuke, and I am a native of Yamato,” and then he went on to narrate all the misfortunes which the wickedness of Banzayemon had brought about.
“This is indeed a strange story,” said Chobei, who had listened with indignation. “This Banzayemon, before I knew the blackness of his heart, was once under my protection. But after he murdered Sanza, hard by here, he was pursued by these two apprentices of mine, and since that day he has been no more to my house.”
When he had introduced the two apprentices to Umanosuke, Chobei pulled forth a suit of silk clothes befitting a gentleman, and having made the crippled youth lay aside his beggar's raiment, led him to a bath, and had his hair dressed. Then he bade Token Gombei lodge him and take charge of him, and, having sent for a famous physician, caused Umanosuke to undergo careful treatment for the wound in his thigh.
In the course of two months the pain had almost disappeared, so that he could stand easily; and when, after another month , he could walk about a little, Chobei removed him to his own house, pretending to his wife and apprentices that he was one of his own relations who had come on a visit to him.
After a while, when Umanosuke had become quite cured, he went one day to worship at a famous temple, and on his way home after dark he was overtaken by a shower of rain, and took shelter under the eaves of a house, in a part of the city called Yanagiwara, waiting for the sky to clear. Now it happened that this same night Gompachi had gone out on one of his bloody expeditions, to which his poverty and his love for Komurasaki drove him in spite of himself, and, seeing a Samurai standing in the gloom, he sprang upon him before he had recognized Umanosuke, whom he knew as a friend of his patron Chobei Umanosuke drew and defended himself, and soon contrived to slash Gompachi on the fore head; so that the latter, seeing himself outmatched, fled under the cover of the night. Umanosuke, fearing to hurt his recently healed wound, did not give chase, and went quietly back to Chobei's house. When Gompachi returned home, he hatched a story to deceive Chobei as to the cause of the wound on his forehead. Chobei, however, having over heard Umanosuke reproving Gompachi for his wickedness, soon became aware of the truth; and not caring to keep a robber and murderer near him, gave Gompachi a present of money, and bade him return to his house no more.
And now Chobei, seeing that Umanosuke had recovered his strength, divided his apprentices into bands, to hunt out Banzayemon, in order that the vendetta might be accomplished. It soon was reported to him that Banzayemon was earning his living among the mountebanks of Asakusa; so Chobei communicated this intelligence to Umanosuke, who made his preparations accordingly; and on the following morning the two went to Asakusa, where Banzayemon was astonishing a crowd of country boors by exhibiting tricks with his sword. Then Umanosuke, striding through the gaping rabble, shouted out:
“False, murderous coward, your day has come! I, Umanosuke, the son of Umanojo, have come to demand vengeance for the death of three innocent men who have perished by your treachery. If you are a man, defend yourself. This day shall your soul see hell"
With these words he rushed furiously upon Banzayemon, who, seeing escape to be impossible, stood upon his guard. But his coward 's heart quailed before the avenger, and he soon lay bleeding at his enemy's feet. But who shall say how Umanosuke thanked Chobei for his assistance; or how, when he had returned to his own country, he treasured up his gratitude in his heart, looking upon Chobei as more than a second father?
Thus did Chobei use his power to punish the wicked , and to reward the good -giving of his abundance to the poor, and succoring the unfortunate, so that his name was honored far and near.
Fuwa Banzayemon vs Nagoya Sanzaburoii
This story of revenge seems to be a variation of a classic kabuki play originally titled Fuwa, an adaptation surrounding rivalry between Nagoya Sanzaburo (Nagoya Sanza in our story) and Fuwa Banzaemon. While it is possible that the story is based on a real event, as with much of the Jitsuroku stories we have encountered, whatever element of truth may be evident has been largely embellished and the British Museum of Art has categorized the main character of Nagoya Sanza as a literary character.1 This kabuki play was adapted multiple times up even to the modern era, with various titles including: Yujoron, Daifukucho Sankai Nagoya, Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma, Sayaate and Sankai Nagoya.2As such,anytruthful elements have been difficult to detect other than understanding that there was perhaps an issue between two samurai who had served a common Daimyo that has resulted in the story we have here.
In many cases the play was adapted to include more literary characters rather than actual historical personages such as changing out the Daimyo of Honda Dainaiki with Minister “Kokuun” which translates to “black cloud.” In contrast, Honda Dainaiki in our tale seems to be based on an actual historical figure, Honda Dainaiki Masakatsu, who had been a daimyo of the Koriyama domain supposed to be a renown swordsman believed to have been taught by Araki Mataemon (from Kazuma's Revenge).3
There are a few variations of the story, some in which Sanzaburo and Banzaemon are teamed up together to retrieve a sword stolen from their master with a rivalry brewing between them on their journey. In most versions, there is a common theme of fighting over a courtesan by the name of Katsuragi and their rivalry culminates in a duel outside of a yoshiwara courtesan hall with Sanzaburo coming out the victor. This whole plot line was left out of our tale, however the scene at the tea house where Sanza is killed seems to reflect a variation of this theme, however with Sanza losing rather than winning.4
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 Chomonjū
3) Hudson, Marion. FUWA, Kabuki21, www.kabuki21.com/fuwa.php#exp1.
4) Jones, Stanleigh H. “3. Vengeance at Iga Pass.” De Gruyter, University of Hawaii Press, 31 Dec. 2012, www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9780824837259-005/html.
5) 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
6) “Nagoya Sanza.” Collections Online | British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG4198.
7) Sansom, George (1963). A History of Japan: 1615–1867. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
1 “Nagoya Sanza.” Collections Online | British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG4198.
3 Jones, Stanleigh H. “3. Vengeance at Iga Pass.” De Gruyter, University of Hawaii Press, 31 Dec. 2012, https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9780824837259-005/html.
4 Hudson, Marion. FUWA, Kabuki21, https://www.kabuki21.com/fuwa.php#exp1.
i Kuniyoshi, Utagawa, Honcho Mitsuoshi, 1852. Source File: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Honcho_Mitsuoshi_%E6%9C%AC%E6%9C%9D%E4%B8%89%E5%8B%87%E5%A3%AB_(BM_2008,3037.19211_2).jpg
ii Kunisada, Utagawa II, Actors Ichimura Kakitsu IV as Fuwa Bansaku (R) and Sawamura Tosshô II as Nagoya Kosanza (L), 1865 Source File: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MET_DT4511.jpg