CHAPTER IX. THE WAY OF THE "SAMURAI"
The Confucian philosophy in China is the guide of statesmen whose ideal is peace: in Japan it became the creed of soldiers-the same precepts bearing different meanings as the way of the Sages became the way of the samurai. The philosophers we have quoted are not the advocates of learned leisure or of philosophic retirement, but their lectures are filled with admiration for the "strenuous life." Devotion unto death is the chief of virtues for them-and only as we understand their ideals can we know the life of the people. Confucianism gave these scholars a completed system which made righteousness ultimate and supreme; their instincts interpreted and the history of the past illustrated the teaching -as Buddhism had incorporated the ancient gods in its own beliefs, so did the Chinese philosophy in Japan adopt as its own the heroes of the feudal wars. In both instances the native element transformed the foreign system.
An effeminate Court, intriguing nobles, debauched emperors, and ambitious soldiers supplied material for the tragedy of the Dark Ages. Fighting was the business of life and the strongest ruled. Confusion threatened the nation, but protected by the sea against all foreign foes it survived its perils.
In the uninteresting story of the feudal strife the Spirit of Old Japan stood revealed more clearly than in the indolent ages of effeminate peace. When the strongest and most ambitious rule, hero worship becomes the nation's cult, and such was the real faith of the Japanese. It fitted well his nature and inherited beliefs. The marvellous in man is the chief of nature's wonders; and desperate enterprise, the courage that bears the forlorn hope to victory, the strength that triumphs in the teeth of fate itself, the fire that flashes from the eyes of the leader and compels multitudes to give up life, not knowing why they die,-these are the qualities to be worshipped and deemed worthy of every sacrifice. The sword was the symbol of this Spirit of Old Japan, the weapon of offensive warfare and of self-destruction when all was lost, and against others or against self, the emblem of whole-hearted loyalty.
Nothing of pity stopped the warrior and no thought of self. Thus he was taught: "Be not a samurai through the wearing of two swords, but, day and night, see that you bring no reproach on the name. Ever cross your threshold and pass through your gate as men who never shall return again. Thus shall you be ready for every adventure you may meet."
Loyalty unto death was the treasure of great price; it summed up the law of righteousness. "To the samurai righteousness is first of all, then life, then silver and gold. These last are of value, but some put them in place of righteousness. To the samurai life itself is as dirt compared with righteousness!"
Righteousness was exemplified by men innumerable, and the writers on ethics praise the heroes of the faith, interpreting their deeds in accordance with the accepted philosophy. The following instances are from the writings of Kyuso Muro, one of the standard authorities.
"In the period Genko-Kemmu (1331-1335) many samurai were faithful unto death. I admire with tears a retainer of Hō-jō Takatoku named Andōzaimon Shoshu, the uncle of Nitta, Yoshisada's wife. When Kamakura was taken by Nitta, his wife secretly sent a letter to her uncle, who was in arms against her husband. His soldiers were killed, himself was wounded, and he was retreating when news came that Takatoku had burned his castle and fled to Tōshōji. Andōzaimon asked if many had killed themselves at the burning of the castle and was told, 'Not one.' 'Shamefull!' he replied; 'there we will die.' So with an hundred men he went on to the castle and wept as he beheld the smoking ruins. Just then came the letter from his niece. He opened it and read, -'Since Kamakura is destroyed come to me. I'll obtain your pardon with my life.' Very angrily he spoke, 'I have been favoured by my lord, as all know. Shall I be so shameless as to follow Yoshisada now! His wife wants to help her uncle; but if Yoshisada knows the duty of a samurai he will put a stop to such attempts. He did not send it or agree to it. But if he did, if he meant to test me, she should not have permitted such an attempt to destroy my name. He and his wife alike are worthy of contempt!' With grief and anger there before the messenger, he wrapped the letter around his sword and slew himself.
"Ah, what a man was that! How pure his purpose! Who can excel him?
"But in recent years, in the period Tenshō (A.D. 1573-1590) a retainer of Takeda Katsuyori named Komiyama Naizen is most to be admired. He was the favourite of his master, until at last they were separated by a quarrel, and Naizen, condemned through false witnesses, was dismissed from office. When the troops of Oda Nobunaga attacked the province of Kai, Katsuyori was defeated and fled with forty-two followers to Tenmokuzan. When Naizen heard of the disaster he wished to help and met Katsuyori on his retreat. All the false witnesses, all with whom Naizen had quarrelled, had fled, deserting their lord. Sorrowfully spoke Naizen: 'My lord dismissed me and now, should I die for my country it will be a reflection on his judgment; but if I do not die I shall injure the fidelity of the samurai. Though I hurt his fame I must not forsake virtue,' and he died with the forty-two faithful ones. As all the others had fled and these forty-two samurai alone held faithful to their lord without a thought of disobedience, they all illustrate samurai fidelity. But Naizen was pre-eminent among them, for he had been unjustly condemned and came expressly that he might die.
"When Katsuyori and all his party had been destroyed, Ieyasu much admired the fidelity of Naizen and regretted that his worship should cease, as he had no children. So Ieyasu employed Naizen's younger brother, and before the battle at Odawara gave him a high command, speaking at length of Naizen's fidelity: ' Naizen was a model samurai, and though his brother is so young I have given him this command in token of my admiration of such loyalty.' Truly that was praise after death, and the reward of loyalty."
Women, too, may show true righteousness:
"When in Kaga I heard a man remark: 'All sins, great and small, may be forgiven on repentance and no scars remain, except two; the flight of a samurai from the post where he should die, and theft. These leave a lifelong wound which never heals. All born as samurai, men and women, are taught from childhood that fidelity must never be forgotten.' Thereupon I continued: 'Of course, and woman is ever taught that submission is her chief duty, and if in unexpected strait her weak heart forsakes fidelity, all other virtues will not atone. In Japan and China alike have been women whose virtue has exceeded that of man.'"The wife of N agoka Itchu no Kami Tadaoki was the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide, the retainer of Oda Nobunaga, who killed both his lord and his lord's son. In turn he was destroyed by Hideyoshi. Later Tadaoki, at the time of Sekiga-hara, went to join Ieyasu in the east. During his absence Ishida Mitsunari sent troops to Tadaoki's castle to seize his wife, but she exclaimed, 'I'll not disgrace my husband's house through my desire for life,' and killed herself before the enemy got in. Excited by her virtue, the two or three samurai who were with her fired the mansion and slew themselves, and her women took hold of hands, jumped into the fire, and died. Even yet shall we praise that deed! The rebel Mitsuhide had such a child, scarcely equalled in China or Japan! As the proverb says: 'The general has no seed,' so I'll add, - The heroic woman has no seed.
"But a guest remarked: 'Not so; not having seed is still to have it. Fidelity makes the nature of benevolence and righteousness its seed. Then without place or ancestor, without race, without the distinction of high or low, male or female, without family connection, good children come from evil parents, and evil children from the good.'
"The teacher was greatly pleased and said: 'True! I had thought only of man's nature, not of Heaven's. Such virtue of women and the vulgar must be praised as Heaven's nature. Thus will the samurai be excited to virtue and virtuous hearts will be produced.'
"Let me speak of Shidzuka, the uneducated concubine of Minamoto Yoshitsune. She was a famous dancer in Kyōto, talented, beautiful, and beloved of Yoshitsune. When he fled she went with him to Mt. Yoshino and then returned. Called to Kamakura and examined she replied: 'I know so far as Mt. Yoshino. No further.' She lingered there until the birth of Yoshitsune's child. Yoritomo desired to see her dance and commanded her presence. She refused repeatedly but was forced to comply at last. Yoritomo expected a song and dance for his feast, but she sang:
To and fro like the reel' Would that old times might return! I long for the trace of the man Who entered Yoshino's snow-white peak.'Yoritomo cried out in anger: 'You sing of that rebel Yoshitsune instead of celebrating the present time! It is a crime!' But at the request of his wife he forgave the girl. She cared not, but returned straight to Kyōto and lived in seclusion.
Yoritomo's great power bent trees and grass, but she feared it not. Her heart was wholly set on Yoshitsune and she excelled the samurai who died with him."
The righteous samurai will not serve himself by taking a new master.
"Pure-hearted samurai cease not to appear. In Kwan-ei-Shō-hō (A.D. 1624-1647) was a branch temple of Tentokuji, in Shiba, Edo, where always without intermission prayers were said. One day, at evening, as the priest went out of the temple gate he observed a man with a bundle. He seemed a traveller and not a common man. When the priest returned from his errand there was the man still in the gateway. Thinking that strange, the priest asked, 'Who are you? Come in and rest.' 'I am listening to the temple prayers,' the man replied, 'for I like to hear them said. On your invitation I'll go in and have a cup of tea.' So in they went, and the priest inquired whence he came and whither he journeyed.
"The man replied, 'From Oshu. I once had a friend in Yedo, but cannot find him. So I must find some place.' And the priest rejoined, 'Stay here to-night, it is so late.' So he stayed, and the next day the priest asked him to remain until he should find some occupation. He thanked the priest and remained. It soon appeared that he was an educated man, and the head of Tentokuji called him and helped him and gave him various tasks about the temple, which were all diligently performed. By and by he was made a superintendent of many priests and became a person of importance.
"At that time it happened that a nobleman who had retired from active life was making researches into the history of the past and sought scholarly samurai to help him, paying them good salaries. The people of the temple told him of this man, Yuge, and highly recommended him as especially informed about the past. Yuge thanked the head of the temple and said, 'I do not intend to enter service again, but your kindness entitles you to know my past.' So he told the priest his real name and that he had been a retainer of Gamo Ujisato, and continued: 'Since Gamo was destroyed I have no heart for service under any other and purposed to spend my life as a beggar. With no design on my part I have become a recipient of the blessings of the temple, and now my one desire is to repay what I have received. But I find no means to do it.' Then he showed the testimonial Gamo had given him for his services in the battle of Kunohe, and elsewhere, and the letters he had received from many nobles offering him employment. 'All are useless now,' he said, and put them in the fire.
"So he lived long in the temple. And in the year A.D. 1657, when Tentokuji was burned, Yuge said: 'Permit me to help,' and worked on after the chief priest and all the other priests had fled, saving the images, furniture, and books.
When all were safe he sent off the men who had been helping him.
"Afterwards in the ruins of the main hall was found the body of a man, sitting with clasped hands like a priest. It was Yuge, and all the temple folk wept and grieved for him. But he had no desire to abide in the temple; he had merely waited for an opportunity to return the favours he had received. At the fire he found the opportunity he sought, and after working to the end purposely perished in the flames. How pure and holy was his heart!"
The minister may show righteousness in time of peace equal to the soldier's in time of war.
"The foremost place in the battle seems a place of difficulty, but is not, and to remonstrate with one's lord seems easy, but it is not. Lord and servant praise the foremost spear, but I do not hear them praising him who loyally reproves.
"In Kwan-ri-Kan-ei (1624-1643) the former lord of Echizen, Io no Kami, had a minister named Sugita Iki. He had risen from the ranks by his merits. It was his business to provide the funds for his lord's very expensive attendance in Yedo. Not fearing his lord's wrath, he was ever ready to reprove. And once it happened when Io no Kami was in Echizen that he went hawking, and on his return his ministers went forth to meet him. He was unusually happy and said, 'The young men have never done better. If they always work as well they are certain of employment by the Shogun in case of war. Rejoice with me!' So all congratulated him except Sugita alone. He said nothing, remaining at the foot of the line. Io no Kami waited a while wonderingly, and then said, 'What do you think?' And Sugita replied, 'With due respect, yet are your remarks a cause for grief. When the samurai went with you their thought was this,-If we do not please him he may kill us; and they took final farewell of wife and child. So I have heard. If they thus hate their lord they will be useless in battle. Unless you know this it is foolish to rely on them.'
" Io no Kami scowled, and his sword-bearer said to Sugita, 'Go, please!' But Sugita scowled at him and said, 'My task is not to go hawking with him and surround monkey or wild boar! Do not tell me what is of use!' So he cast aside his short sword, went to Io's side and said: 'Kill me! It is far better than to live in vain and see your downfall! I shall count it a sign of your favour!' So he folded his hands and stretched out his neck to the blow. Io went to his apartment without a word. And the other ministers said to Sugita: 'What you say is true, but have a regard to the proper season. It was ill to mar the pleasure of his return.' But Sugita replied: 'There is never a proper season for remonstrance. I thought it fitting to-day. I have risen from the ranks and doubtless look at things differently from you. My death is of no consequence.' All listened with admiration to his words.
" Sugita went home and prepared himself for hara kiri, awaiting his lord's word. His wife had been with him from the time he was in the ranks, and to her he said: 'I have a word to leave with you. A woman cannot be directly honoured by our lord, but as he has honoured me you have shared in it. You are no longer the wife of a foot soldier but of a minister. You have many servants. It is an infinite blessing he has conferred on you, is it not? After I am dead, remember this great blessing morning and evening and feel no hatred to your lord. If in your grief you hate him in the least and it appear in words, in the depths of Hades I shall know it and be displeased.' In constant expectation he waited until late at night, when there came a rapping at his door. Some one said: 'His lordship has business for you. Come to the castle.' 'The time has come,' Sugita thought, as he obeyed. But Io sent for Sugita to come direct to his bedchamber and said: 'I cannot sleep for thoughts of your words to-day. So I have sent for you so late at night. I need not speak of my errors. I am filled with admiration at your straightforward remonstrance.' Therewith he handed Sugita a sword as a reward. At this so unexpected event Sugita wept as he withdrew."
The righteous judge gives up his all, when loyalty compels a decision that is wrong: " Amano ruled in Suruga and his income was thirty thousand koku of rice. His estates joined the Shogun's and one day a man who came from the Shogun's land stole some bamboo and was killed by Amano's three soldiers stationed there as guards.
"The Shogun's deputy demanded the punishment of the guards, as they had killed one of the people of the Shogun; but Amano replied: 'To kill a thief is no crime. It was done at my command, and if there is any guilt it is mine.'
"On appeal to Yedo an officer was sent to Suruga who said to Amano,-'Even though you are right, yet will the authority of the Shogun be weakened if he is not obeyed. Draw lots and kill one of the three men.' And Amano replied, 'To that argument I must yield, but the strong samurai does not consent to remain in peace through the slaying of innocent men. I shall give up my rank.' So he left his castle and disappeared.
"Long after one met an ascetic whom he took to be Amano, whether rightly or not we do not know. He was a pure-hearted samurai and could neither kill his soldier nor disobey his lord. He could not remain in the world, so he gave up his thirty thousand koku and disappeared. That is unparalleled."
But beggars even may show the same truth: "Ten years ago on the 17th day of the 12th month of the year U, Mitsu no to, of the period Kyōtō (Jan. 12, A.D. 1724) a clerk named Ichijurō, in the employment of a merchant of Muromachi, Yedo, named Echigoya Kichibei, lost a purse containing thirty ryō as he was returning from collecting some accounts. He thought it had been stolen, but returned over his route looking for it carefully. At last a beggar met him and asked, 'What have you lost? Is it money?' Ichijurō told of his loss and the beggar said that he had found the purse and sought its owner. So IchiU +00AD jurō exactly described its contents, money, papers, and all, and the beggar gave it back to him. In his joy at the unexpected event Ichijurō offered the beggar five ryō, but the beggar would not take them. 'It was all gone and you returned it. Do take five ryō!' said Ichijurō. But the beggar persisted, 'Had I wanted five ryō I should not have returned the thirty. But I did not think it mine when I picked it up. I thought that some one had lost his master's money and would be in trouble. Some men might have kept it, but I found it and desired to give it back. Now as I have returned it my business is at an end.' And off he ran as fast as he could go. But Ichijurō took an itchi bu from the purse and followed him crying, 'It is cold to-day! Take this for sake.' So the beggar took it and said, 'I'll drink the sake.' And in answer to a question he said, 'I am Hachibei, a beggar of Kurumazenshichi.'
"When Ichijurō went home and told his story his master wept in admiration and determined to give the beggar the five ryō. So on the following morning he sent Ichijurō and his chief clerk to Zenshichi, the beggar's master, to ask him to try and persuade Hachibei to take the money. But Zenshichi said, 'The beggar Hachibei got a bu somewhere last night and called his friends together and had a feast of fish and sake. He drank a great deal himself, and whether it did not agree with him, he died this morning.' Ichijurō was astonished and asked the man not to send the body off or have it buried, but told his master, who sent for the corpse and expended the five ryō on a funeral. It was certainly wonderful that a merchant should thus be affected by righteousness.
" Hachibei was not an ordinary man. Doubtless he entered the beggars' guild because homeless and alone. When he had money for a feast for his companions he thought it a good end and choked himself. Had he been in power he would not have used his authority to take things belonging to another. Some men are samurai in name but beggars in heart-that man was called a beggar but was, in truth, a samurai."
But this identification of righteousness with loyalty and self-sacrifice was exaggerated until a disregard for one's life could atone for crime, and recklessness became the first of virtues. By its excess we the more clearly see that true self-sacrifice can be attained only after the sanctity of the person, in others and in self, as sacred and of God, has been perceived.
"In Kaga I had a friend, a samurai of low rank. While absent in Adzuma with his lord, his son Kujurō, fifteen years old, quarrelling with a neighbour's son of the same age over a game of go, lost his self-control, and before he could be seized drew his sword and cut the boy down. While the wounded boy was under the surgeon's care Kujurō was in custody, but he showed no fear, and his words and acts were calm beyond his years. After some days the boy died and Kujurō was condemned to hara-kiri. The officer in charge gave him a farewell feast the night before he died. He calmly wrote to his mother, took ceremonious farewell of his keeper and all in the house, and then said to the guests: 'I regret to leave you all and should like to stay and talk till daybreak; but I must not be sleepy when I commit hara-kiri tomorrow, so I'll go to bed at once. Do you stay at your ease and drink the wine.' So he went to his room and fell asleep, all being filled with admiration as they heard him snore. On the morrow he arose early, bathed, dressed himself with care, made all his preparations with perfect calmness and then, quiet and composed, killed himself. No old, trained, self-possessed samurai could have excelled him. No one who saw it could speak of it for years without tears.
"At the beginning of the affair I wrote to his father: 'Though Kujurō commit hara-kiri he is so calm and collected that there need be no regret. Be at peace.' But as Sugimoto read the letter he remarked: 'A child often will be brave enough as others encourage it before the moxa is applied, and yet burst into tears when it feels the heat. My child is so young that I cannot be at peace until I hear that he has done the deed with bravery.' As the proverb says, 'Only such fathers have such sons.' I have told you this that Kujurō may be remembered. It would be shameful were it to be forgotten that so young a boy performed such a deed."
The stories could be multiplied, for they illustrate the unchanging ideal of righteousness. Shinto neither inculcated it, nor contained illustrations of it, yet Shinto, with its worship of the marvellous and its deification of the wonderful, was the true expression of the soul of Old Japan, a soul which, come to self-consciousness, found disregard of self, devotion of the self to death as the supreme sacrifice, and worship of this ethical self-sacrifice to be its true religion.
Yet Shinto again asserts itself. All the devotion of Old Japan-its loyalty to baron and leader, its passionate disregard of life and self, gathers around the Emperor. It is a new cult. Repeatedly in the past men rebelled against him, deposed him, and treated him with contempt. But in our day he has become the symbol of the nation. Around him gathers a dim belief in his divine origin and in the present power of the long line of his ancestors. All officials join in the Shinto rites before the shrines of Emperor and heroes- and all investigation which lays bare the facts of the remote past is discouraged. A belief in the nation embodied in the Emperor has become the people's creed, and a passionate patriotism is their religion. As they were in the past so are they today-but a broader outlook and a higher vision have been combined to translate the politics of feudal days into the world politics of the twentieth century. It is no longer clan against clan, nor even West against East, but Japan against Russia winning for the divine land its rightful place among the foremost nations of the earth.