top of page

Jitsuroku Roku: Chobei of Bandzuin

Original Story A Story of the Otokodate of Edo from A.B. Mitford's Tales of Old Japan

Afterword & Commentary by Justin Hagen

Chobei of Bandzui was the chief of the Otokodate of Edo1 He was originally called Itaro, and was the son of a certain Ronin who lived in the country. One day, when he was only ten years of age, he went out with a playfellow to bathe in the river; and as the two were playing they quarreled over their game, and Itaro, seizing the other boy, threw him into the river and drowned him.

Then he went home, and said to his father:

“I went to play by the river today, with a friend; and as he was rude to me, I threw him into the water and killed him.”

When his father heard him speak thus, quite calmly, as if nothing had happened, he was thunderstruck, and said.

“This is indeed a fearful thing. Child as you are, you will have to pay the penalty of your deed; so tonight you must fly to Edo in secret, and take service with some noble Samurai, and perhaps in time you may become a soldier yourself.”

With these words he gave him twenty ounces of silver and a fine sword, made by the famous swordsmith Rai Kunitoshi, and sent him out of the province with all dispatch. The following morning the parents of the murdered child came to claim that Itaro should be given up to their vengeance; but it was too late, and all they could do was to bury their child and mourn for his loss.

Itaro made his way to Edo in hot haste, and there found employment as a shop-boy; but soon tiring of that sort of life, and burning to become a soldier,he found means at last to enter the service of a certain Hatamoto called Sakurai Shozayemon, and changed his name to Tzunehei. Now this Sakurai Shozayemon had a son, called Shonosuke, a young man in his seventeenth year, who grew so fond of Tsunehei that he took him with him wherever he went, and treated him in all ways as an equal.

When Shonosuke went to the fencing-school Tsunehei would accompany him, and thus, as he was by nature strong and active, soon became a good swordsman.

One day, when Shozayemon had gone out, his son Shonosuke said to Tsunehei:

“You know how fond my father is of playing at football: it must be great sport. As he has gone out today, suppose you and I have a game?”

“That will be rare sport,” answered Tsunehei “Let us make haste and play, before my lord comes home.”

So the two boys went out into the garden, and began trying to kick the football; but, lacking skill, do what they would, they could not lift it from the ground. At last Shonosuke, with a vigorous kick, raised the football; but, having missed his aim, it went tumbling over the wall into the next garden, which belonged to one Hikosaka Zempachi, a teacher of lance exercise, who was known to be a surly, ill-tempered fellow.

“Oh, dear! What shall we do?” said Shonosuke “We have lost my father's football in his absence; and if we go and ask for it back from that churlish neighbor of ours, we shall only be scolded and sworn at for our pains.”

“Oh, never mind," answered Tsunehei; “I will go and apologize for our carelessness, and get the football back.”

“Well, but then you will be scolded, and I don 't want that.”

“Never mind me. Little care I for his cross words.” So Tsunehei went to the next-door house to reclaim the ball.

Now it so happened that Zempachi,the surly neighbor, had been walking in his garden whilst the two youths were playing; and as he was admiring the beauty of his favorite chrysanthemums, the football came flying over the wall and struck him full in the face. Zempachi, not used to anything but flattery and coaxing, flew into a violent rage at this; and while he was thinking how he would revenge himself upon any one who might be sent to ask for the lost ball, Tsunehei came in, and said to one of Zempachi's servants:

“I am sorry to say that in my lord's absence I took his football, and, in trying to play with it, clumsily kicked it over your wall. I beg you to excuse my carelessness, and to be so good as to give me back the ball.”

The servant went in and repeated this to Zempachi, who worked himself up into a great rage, and ordered Tsunehei to be brought before him, and said,

“Here, fellow, is your name Tsunehei?”