Yei Theodora Ozaki.

Romances of old Japan online

. (page 1 of 15)
Online LibraryYei Theodora OzakiRomances of old Japan → online text (page 1 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


E-text prepared by Madeleine Fournier and Marc D'Hooghe
( from page mages generously made available
by Internet Archive (


Rendered into English from Japanese Sources



Brentano's New York

[Illustration: brentano]

[Illustration: What was his breathless amazement to see
that the picture he so much admired had actually taken life
... and was gliding lightly towards him - see here.]




What was his breathless amazement to see that the picture he so much
admired had actually taken life ... and was gliding lightly towards him

Mortally wounded, both men fell to the ground, and so fatal had been
Jurobei's thrusts that in a few minutes they breathed their last

The unhappy mother sadly followed with her eyes the pathetic little
figure disappearing on her unknown path

Gunbei had watched the execution of his cruel order from the veranda

Yendo draws his sword, when between him and the victim of his vengeance
there darts the lovely Kesa

Wataru little dreams that it is the last cup his wife will ever drink
with him

To his unspeakable horror and amazement the moonlight reveals the head
of Kesa - his love!

His grandfather had been a retainer of Ota Dokan ... and had committed
suicide when his lord fell in battle

He glared fiercely at the apparition, and then, half unconsciously,
turned for the _samurai's_ only safeguard, his sword

Tama's father was delighted when Hayashi proved to be an expert at
_go_, and often asked him to come and spend the evening

He was suddenly startled to see a girlish form coming towards him in
the wavering shadows

Hayashi visits the temple where his lost love was buried and dedicates
his whole life to praying for the repose of her soul

"When I was eighteen years of age, bandits ... made a raid on our
village and ... carried me away"

When the bride was led into the room and seated opposite Toshika, what
was his bewildering delight to see that she was ... the lady-love of
his picture

Urasato's escape from the Yamana-Ya

As she spoke, Urasato leaned far out over the balcony, the picture of
youth, grace and beauty

O Tatsu ... took her stand behind Urasato, and with deft fingers put
the disordered coiffure to rights

Sawaichi, turning his sightless face towards the altar, repeated the
Buddhist invocation: "_Namu Amida Butsu!_"

There in the grey light of the breaking dawn, she could see the
lifeless form of her husband stretched upon the ground

"Listen, Sawaichi!" said the Heavenly Voice, "Through the faith of your
wife and the merits of her accumulated prayers, your lives shall be

"This is the head of Kanshusai, the son of the Lord Sugawara!"

The box, which served her as a shield, was speedily cut in two, and
there appeared, unfolding and fluttering in the breeze, a little
winding-sheet and a sacred banner for the dead

"No, no," said Matsuo ... "this is not the body of my boy. We are going
to bury our young lord!"

From earliest times Kinu and Kunizo were accustomed to play together

Her ghastly face and blood-stained garments struck terror to the souls
of the petrified spectators

Kunizo, almost beside himself with happiness, did his utmost to
minister to his beloved lady

Suddenly a young girl appeared from the gloom as if by magic!

His beautiful hostess, seating herself beside the _koto_, began to sing
a wild and beautiful air

An old priest suddenly appeared ... staff in hand and clad in ancient
and dilapidated garments

What was the young man's astonishment to see a pretty young girl
standing just within the gate

Suddenly he saw that the three performers had become _headless_!...
Like children playing a game of ball, they tossed their heads from one
to the other

In one of the dark corners of the temple-chamber, they came upon the
dead body of an old, old badger


His old widowed mother would not die happy unless he were
rehabilitated, and to this end he knew that she and his faithful wife,
O Yumi, prayed daily before the family shrine.

How often had he racked his brains to find some way by which it were
possible to prove his unchanging fidelity to Shusen; for the true
big-hearted fellow never resented his punishment, but staunchly
believed that the ties which bound him to his lord were in no wise
annulled by the separation.

At last the long-awaited opportunity had come. In obedience to the
mandate of the Shogun Ieyasu that the territorial nobles should reside
in his newly established capital of Yedo during six months of the
year, the Daimio of Tokushima proceeded to Yedo accompanied by a large
retinue of _samurai_, amongst whom were his chief retainers, the rivals
Shusen Sakurai and Gunbei Onota.

Like a faithful watchdog, alert and anxious, jurobei had followed
Shusen at a distance, unwilling to let him out of his sight at this
critical time, for Gunbei Onota was the sworn enemy of Shusen Sakurai.
Bitter envy of his rival's popularity, and especially of his senior
rank in the Daimio's service, had always rankled in the contemptible
Gunbei's mind. For years he had planned to supplant him, and Jurobei
knew through traitors that the honest vigilance of his master had
recently thwarted Gunbei in some of his base schemes, and that the
latter had vowed immediate vengeance.

Jurobei's soul burned within him as this sequence of thoughts rushed
through his brain. The tempest that whirled round him seemed to be in
harmony with the emotions that surged in tumult through his heart.

More than ever did it devolve on him to see that his master was
properly safeguarded. To do this successfully he must once more become
his retainer. So Jurobei with vehement resolution clenched his hands
over the handle of his umbrella and rushed onwards.

Now it happened that same night that Gunbei, in a sudden fit of jealous
rage and chagrin, knowing that his rival was on duty at the Daimio's
Palace, and that he would probably return alone after night-fall,
ordered two of his men to proceed to Shusen's house and to waylay and
murder Shusen on his road home. Once and for all he would remove Shusen
Sakurai from his path.

Meanwhile Jurobei arrived at Shusen's house, and in the heavy gloom
collided violently with the two men who were lying in ambush outside
the gate.

"Stop!" angrily cried the assassins, drawing their swords upon him.

Jurobei, recognizing their voices and his quick wit at once grasping
the situation, exclaimed:

"You are Gunbei's men! Have you come to kill my lord?"

"Be assured that that is our intention," replied the confederates.

"I pray you to kill me instead of my lord," implored Jurobei.

"We have come for your master and we must have his life as well as
yours. I have not forgotten how you cut me to pieces seven years ago. I
shall enjoy paying back those thrusts with interest," returned one of
them sharply.

Jurobei prostrated himself in the mud before them. "I care not what
death you deal me, so long as you accept my life instead of my lord's.
I humbly beg of you to grant my petition."

Instead of answering, one of the miscreants contemptuously kicked him
as he knelt there.

Jurobei, whose ire was now thoroughly provoked, seized the offending
leg before its owner had time to withdraw it, and holding it in a
clutch like iron, inquired:

"Then you do not intend to grant my request?"

"Certainly not!" sneered the wretches.

Jurobei sprang to his feet and faced them. Without more ado they both
set upon him with their weapons.

Overhead the storm increased in violence. The floodgates of heaven
were opened, peals of heavy thunder shook the earth with their dull
reverberations, and the inky skies were riven with blinding flash upon
flash of forked lightning, which lit up the dark forms and white faces
of the combatants, and glinted on their swords as they parried and
clashed together in mortal strife.

Now Jurobei was an expert swordsman of unusual and supple strength.
He defended himself with skill and ferocity, and soon his superiority
began to tell against the craven couple who were attacking him. It
was not long before they realized that they were no match for such a
powerful adversary, and turned to flee. But Jurobei was too quick for
them, and before they could escape he cut them down.

Mortally wounded, both men fell to the ground, and so fatal had been
Jurobei's thrusts that in a few minutes they breathed their last.

By this time, the fury of the storm having spent itself, the sky
gradually lifted and the moon shone forth in silver splendour between
the masses of clouds as they rolled away, leaving the vast blue vault
above clear and radiant and scintillating with stars.

Jurobei raised a jubilant face heavenwards and thanked the gods for
the victory. He had rescued his master from death. He felt that the
sacrifices that he and O Yumi had made in the past - the breaking up
of the old home and the parting from their baby-daughter and the old
mother - had not been in vain. The prescience, which had warned him
that evil was hanging over Shusen, and which had made him so restless
and uneasy of late, had been fulfilled, and he had forestalled the
dastardly intention of the treacherous Gunbei and his two scoundrels.

In the stillness after the tumult of the fray, Jurobei's ear caught the
sound of approaching footsteps. Turning in the direction from whence
they came, there in the bright moonlight he clearly discerned the form
of his beloved master, crossing the bridge.

"Oh, my lord! Is it you? Are you safe?" he exclaimed.

"Who is it?" demanded the startled _samurai._"Ah - it is Jurobei! What
brings you here at this hour?" Then noticing the two lifeless bodies
lying across the path, he sharply interrogated, "What does this mean?
Has there been a fight? What was the cause of the quarrel?"

"They are Gunbei's assassins. They were waiting in ambush for your
return, by Gunbei's order. I found them here. They attacked me and I
killed them both, the cowards!"

Shusen started. An exclamation of dismay escaped him.

"It is a pity that you should have killed those particular men at this
juncture." He mused for a few seconds, gazing at the dead faces of his
would-be murderers. "I knew these rascals. My purpose was to let them
go free, and to lure them over to our side: they could soon have been
persuaded to confess the crimes of their master."

Jurobei realized that he had blundered. Overcome with disappointment,
he sank upon the ground in a disconsolate heap.

"The intelligence of inferior men cannot be relied upon," said Jurobei
with chagrin. "Alas, they unwittingly err in their judgment. I did not
give the matter enough consideration. My sole idea was to save your
life at all costs, my lord! I have committed a grave error in slaying
them. With the intention of tendering abject apologies for my past
misconduct, which has lain upon me like a heavy yoke all these years, I
came here to-night. I killed these men to save your life - hoping that
for this service you would reinstate me. I beg of you to forgive my

[Illustration: Mortally wounded, both men fell to the ground, and so
fatal had been Jurobei's thrusts that in a few minutes they breathed
their last.]

With these words he drew his sword and was about to plunge it into
himself and rashly end his life by _hara-kiri_, by way of expiation.

Shusen seized his arm and stopped him in the act. "This is not the
time to die! It would be a dog's death to kill yourself here and now.
Perform some deed worthy of a _samurai_ and then I will recall you as
my retainer. You are a rash man, Jurobei! In future think more before
you act."

"Oh, my lord, do you really forgive me? Will you indeed spare a life
forfeited by many errors committed in your service?" and Jurobei gave a
sigh of relief.

"Certainly I will," replied Shusen, aware that the affinity existing
between lord and retainer is a close relationship not to be lightly

"You were about to throw away your life," he continued, "for what you
considered a _samurai's_ duty. I commend that, anyhow! I tell you now
to wait until you have accomplished some real work in the world. Listen
to what I have to say.

"From generation to generation the Lords of Tokushima have entrusted
to the care of our house one of their most valuable treasures and
heirlooms, a talisman of the family, the Kunitsugu sword. At the end of
last year we gave a banquet and entertained a large number of friends.
While the attention of every one was absorbed in waiting upon the
guests, some robber must have entered the house and stolen the sword,
for on that night it disappeared.

"In my own mind I have strong suspicions as to who the guilty party
may be, but as yet there is no proof. While I was pondering in secret
over possible ways and means of bringing the theft to light, another
complication has arisen.

"It has come to my knowledge that Gunbei, our enemy, is organizing a
conspiracy to make an attack upon the life of my lord, the Daimio of
Tokushima. My whole attention must be concentrated on this plot, to
circumvent which requires very subtle and adroit handling, so that it
is impossible for me to take any steps in the matter of the sword at
the present time. There is no one to whom I can entrust this important
mission except yourself, Jurobei. If you have any gratitude for all
that I have done for you, then stake your life, your all, in the search
for the lost sword.

"There is no time to lose! This is January and our Daimio's birthday
falls on the third of March. The sword must be laid out in state on
that festive occasion in the palace. I shall be disgraced and my
house ruined if the sword be not forthcoming that day. My duties at
the palace make it impossible for me to undertake the search. Even
supposing that I were at liberty to go in quest of the sword, to do
so would bring about my undoing, which is just what our enemy Gunbei
desires. You are now a _ronin_ [a masterless _samurai_], you have
no master, no duty, no appearances to maintain. Your absence from
our midst will cause embarrassment to no one. Therefore undertake
this mission, I command you, and restore the sword to our house. If
your search is crowned with success, I will receive you back into my
household, and all shall be as it was between us in former times."

With this assurance Sakurai took his own sword from his girdle and
handed it to Jurobei as a pledge of the compact between them.

Jurobei stretched out both hands, received it with joy, and reverently
raised it to his forehead.

"Your merciful words touch my heart. Though my body should be broken to
pieces I will surely not fail to recover the sword," replied Jurobei.

He then began to examine the dead men hoping to find their purses, for
in his new-formed resolution he realized the immediate need of money in
his search for the lost treasure.

"Stop, stop!" rebuked Shusen, "take nothing which does not belong to
you, not even a speck of dust."

"_Kiritori goto wa bushi no narai_" [Slaughter and robbery are a
knight's practice], answered Jurobei, "has been the _samurai's_ motto
from ancient times. For the sake of my lord I will stop at nothing.
I will even become a robber. In token of my determination, from this
hour I change my name Jurobei to Ginjuro. Nothing shall deter me in my
search for the sword. To prosecute my search I will enter any houses,
however large and grand they may be. Rest assured, my lord. I will be
responsible for the finding of the sword."

"That is enough," returned his master. "You have taken the lives
of these two men - escape before you are seized and delivered up to

"I obey, my lord! May all go well with you till I give you a sign that
the sword is found."

"Yes, yes, have no fear for me. Take care of yourself, Jurobei!"
answered Shusen.

Jurobei prostrated himself at his master's feet.

"Farewell, my lord!"


And Shusen Sakurai and his faithful vassal separated.


On the quest of the lost sword Jurobei and his wife left Yedo buoyant
with high hope and invincible courage.

The sword, however, was not to be found so easily. Jurobei was
untiringly and incessantly on the alert, and week followed week in his
fruitless search; however, his ardour was unabated, and firm was his
resolution not to return until he could restore the missing treasure
upon which the future of his master depended. Possessing no means of
support, Jurobei became pirate, robber, and impostor by turns, for the
_samurai_ of feudal times considered that all means were justified in
the cause of loyalty. The obstacles and difficulties that lay in his
path, which might well have daunted weaker spirits, merely served to
inflame his passion of duty to still greater enthusiasm.

After many adventures and hairbreadth escapes from the law, the
vicissitudes of his search at last brought him to the town of Naniwa
(present Osaka) where he halted for a while and found it convenient to
rent a tiny house on the outskirts of the town. Here Jurobei met with a
man named Izæmon who belonged to the same clan - one of the retainers of
the Daimio of Tokushima and colleague of Shusen Sakurai.

Now it happened that an illegitimate half-sister of the Daimio by a
serving-woman had sold herself into a house of ill-fame to render
assistance to her mother's family which had fallen into a state of
great destitution. As proof of her high birth she had in her possession
a _Kodzuka_[1] which had been bestowed on her in infancy by her father,
the Daimio. Izæmon, aware of her noble parentage, chivalrously followed
her, and in order to redeem the unfortunate woman borrowed a sum of
money from a man named Butaroku, who had proved to be a hard-hearted
wretch, continually persecuting and harassing Izæmon on account of the
debt. Jurobei was distressed by Butaroku's treatment of his clansman,
and magnanimously undertook to assume all responsibility himself. The
day had come when the bond fell due and the money had to be refunded.
Jurobei was well aware that before nightfall he must manage by some way
or another to obtain the means to satisfy his avaricious creditor or
both himself and Izæmon would be made to suffer for the delay.

At his wit's end he started out in the early morning, leaving his wife,
O Yumi, alone.

Shortly after his departure a letter was brought to the house. In those
remote days there was, of course, no regular postal service, and only
urgent news was transmitted by messengers. The arrival of a letter
was, therefore, looked upon as the harbinger of some calamity or as
conveying news of great importance. In some trepidation, therefore,
O Yumi tore open the communication, only to find that her fears were
confirmed. It proved to be a warning from one of Jurobei's followers
with the information that the police had discovered the rendezvous of
his men - some of whom had been captured while others had managed to
escape. The writer, moreover, apprehended that the officers of law
were on the track of Jurobei himself, and begged him to lose no time
in fleeing to some place of safety. This intelligence sorely troubled
O Yumi. "Even though my husband's salary is so trifling yet he is a
_samurai_ by birth. The reason why he has fallen so low is because he
desires above all things to succeed in restoring the Kunitsugu sword.
As a _samurai_ he must be always prepared to sacrifice his life in his
master's service if loyalty demands it, but should the misdeeds he has
committed during the search be discovered before the sword is found,
his long years of fidelity, of exile, of deprivation, of hardship will
all have been in vain. It is terrible to contemplate. Not only this,
his good qualities will sink into oblivion, and he will be reviled as
a robber and a law-breaker even after he is dead. What a deplorable
disgrace! He has not done evil because his heart is corrupt - oh, no,

Overcome with these sad reflections, she turned to the corner where
stood the little shrine dedicated to Kwannon, the Goddess of Mercy and
Compassion, and sinking upon her knees she prayed with the earnestness
of a last hope, that the holy Kwannon would preserve her husband's life
until his mission should be accomplished and the sword safely returned
to its princely owner.

As she was kneeling before the shrine there floated into the room from
outside the sound of a pilgrim's song chanted in a child's sweet treble.

_Fudaraku ya!_
_Kishi utsu nami ya_
_Mi Kumano no_
_Nachi no oyama ni_
_Hibiku takitsuse_.

Goddess of Mercy, hail!
I call and lo!
The beat of surf on shore
Suffers a heaven-change
To the great cataract's roar
On Nachi's holy range
In hallowed Kumano.[2]

O Yumi arose from her knees and went out to ascertain who the singer
could be. A little girl about nine years of age was standing in the
porch. On her shoulders was strapped a pilgrim's pack. Again she sang:

_Furusato wo_
_Harubaru, kokoni_
_kii - Miedera_
_Hana no Miyako mo_
_Chikaku naruran_.

From home and birth
Far ways of earth
Forwandered here
Kii's holy place
A sojourn's space
Receives me, ere
Anon thy bowers,
City of Flowers,[3]
(Life's goal) draw near.

When she saw that some one had appeared, her song ceased, and she
plaintively added:

"Be kind enough to give alms to a poor little pilgrim."

"My pretty little pilgrim," answered O Yumi, "I will gladly give you
some alms," and placing a few coins in a fold of paper she handed it
out to her.

"I thank you from my heart!" responded the child in grateful accents.
By the manner in which these words were uttered, and in spite of the
travel-stained dress and the dust of the road, it was apparent to
O Yumi that the little girl before her was no common beggar, but a
beautiful and well-born child. Naturally of a fair complexion, her eyes
were clear and bright, her dishevelled hair was long and jet black. The
hardships of the pilgrimage had left their mark upon the child, she was
thin and seemed so weary, that it filled the heart with pity. O Yumi
found her thoughts carried back to the infant she had been compelled
to leave behind in the old home seven long years before, when she and
Jurobei had followed their lord Shusen Sakurai to Yedo.

For some inexplicable reason she felt strangely touched by the plight
of the little girl before her, and reflected sadly that her own
child - so far away, and deprived at such an early age of her mother's
love and care - would now be somewhat of the same age and size as the
little pilgrim.

"Dear child," said O Yumi, "I suppose you are travelling with your
parents. Tell me what province you came from?"

"My native province is Tokushima of Awa," was the reply.

"What?" exclaimed O Yumi. "Did you say Tokushima? That is where I was
born, too! My heart thrills at hearing the beloved name of the place of
my birth. And so you are making a pilgrimage with your parents?"

The woman's question was a reasonable one, for a Buddhist pilgrim
wanders around from temple to temple all over the country to worship
the founder of their faith and patron saints, and it was most unlikely
that a child of such tender years should set out alone upon so long and
arduous a journey. It was, indeed, a great distance from Tokushima, in
the Island of Shikoku, to the town of Naniwa. But the little girl shook
her head and answered in forlorn accents:

"No, no. I have not seen my parents for seven years. I have left my
home in Awa and come upon this long pilgrimage entirely in the hope of
finding them."

On hearing these words O Yumi became agitated in mind. Perchance this
child might prove to be her own daughter! Drawing near the little
pilgrim and scanning her features eagerly, she asked:

"Why do you go on this pilgrimage to seek your parents? Tell me their

"When I was only two years of age my parents left our native place. I
have been brought up entirely by my grandmother. For several months

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryYei Theodora OzakiRomances of old Japan → online text (page 1 of 15)