Jitsuroku Yon: Kazuma's Revenge
Original Story from A.B. Mitford's Tales of Old Japan
Afterword & Commentary by Justin Hagen
About two hundred and fifty years ago Ikeda Kunaishoyu was Lord of the Province of Inaba. Among his retainers were two gentlemen, named Watanabe Yukiye and Kawai Matazayemon, who were bound together by strong ties of friendship, and were in the habit of frequently visiting at one another's houses. One day Yukiye was sitting conversing with Matazayemon in the house of the latter, when, on a sudden, a sword that was lying in the raised part of the room caught his eye. As he saw it, he started and said:
“Pray tell me, how came you by that sword? ”
“Well, as you know, when my Lord Ikeda followed my Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu to fight at Nagakude, my father went in his train; and it was at the battle of Nagakude that he picked up this sword.”
“My father went too, and was killed in the fight, and this sword, which was an heirloom in our family for many generations, was lost at that time. As it is of great value in my eyes, I do wish that, if you set no special store by it, you would have the great kindness to return it to me.”
“That is a very easy matter, and no more than what one friend should do by another. Pray take it.”
Upon this Yukiye gratefully took the sword, and having carried it home put it carefully away.
At the beginning of the ensuing year Matazayemon fell sick and died, and Yukiye, mourning bitterly for the loss of his good friend, and anxious to requite the favor which he had received in the matter of his father's sword, did many acts of kindness to the dead man's son-a young man twenty two years of age, named Matagoro
Now this Matagoro was a base-hearted cur, who had begrudged the sword that his father had given to Yukiye, and complained publicly and often that Yukiye had never made any present in return; and in this way Yukiye got a bad name in my Lord's palace as a stingy and illiberal man.
But Yukiye had a son, called Kazuma, a youth sixteen years of age, who served as one of the Prince's pages of honor. One evening, as he and one of his brother pages were talking together, the latter said,
“Matagoro is telling everybody that your father accepted a handsome sword from him and never made him any present in return, and people are beginning to gossip about it. ”
“Indeed,” replied the other, “ my father received that sword from Matagoro's father as a mark of friendship and goodwill, and, considering that it would be an insult to send a present of money in return, thought to return the favor by acts of kindness towards Matagoro I suppose it is money he wants.”
When Kazuma's service was over, he returned home, and went to his father's room to tell him the report that was being spread in the palace, and begged him to send an ample present of money to Matagoro Yukiye reflected for a while, and said:
“You are too young to understand the right line of conduct in such matters. Matagoro's father and myself were very close friends; so, seeing that he had ungrudging given me back the sword of my ancestors, I, thinking to requite his kindness at his death, rendered important services to Matagoro It would be easy to finish the matter by sending a present of money; but I had rather take the sword and return it than be under an obligation to this mean churl, who knows not the laws which regulate the intercourse and dealings of men of gentle blood.”
So Yukiye, in his anger, took the sword to Matagoro's house, and said to him:
“I have come to your house this night for no other purpose than to restore to you the sword which your father gave me;” and with this he placed the sword before Matagoro.
“Indeed,” replied the other, “I trust that you will not pain me by returning a present which my father made you.”
“Amongst men of gentle birth,” said Yukiye, laughing scornfully, “It is the custom to requite presents, in the first place by kindness, and afterwards by a suitable gift offered with a free heart. But it is no use talking to such as you, who are ignorant of the first principles of good breeding; so I have the honor to give you back the sword.”
As Yukiye went on bitterly to reprove Matagoro, the latter waxed very wroth, and, being a ruffian, would have killed Yukiye on the spot; but he, old man as he was, was a skillful swordsman, so Matagoro, craven-like, determined to wait until he could attack him unawares. Little suspecting any treachery, Yukiye started to return home, and Matagoro, under the pretense of attending him to the door, came behind him with his sword drawn and cut him in the shoulder. The older man, turning round, drew and defended himself; but having received a severe wound in the first instance, he fainted away from loss of blood, and Matagoro slew him.
The mother of Matagoro, start