Sunday, September 17

Murder of a Loyalist

To celebrate finally finishing Shitaya sōwa, I thought translate one more little bit from it. Much of the book takes place in the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration, when political tensions were running very high in Japan. This part is actually itself a quoted passage from something by Mori Shuntō (Mori Kainan’s father), about Iesato Shintarō 家里新太郎, referred to here by another name Seiken 誠県:
...Enshuku was a retainer for the Matsuyama prefectural administration, and is now known by the name [Mishima] Chūshū. Afterwards, I returned to Owari. Seiken often sent me letters urging me to visit again, but I was busy with household matters at the time and couldn’t manage it. At this time with the “expel the barbarians” movement, the public mood became very agitated, and people tried to lay all the blame on the shoganate. But Seiken was of a totally different viewpoint on these matters. At the time, the governor of Matsuyama, General Shōsō, was a veteran supporter of the shoganate. Enshuku was sent here and there performing various missions on behalf of the shoganate. Because of this, some people became suspicious of [his associate] Seiken. Right then, Fujimoto Tesseki and Matsumoto Keidô were championing reverence for the emperor, and attempting to secretly raise an army; these were all nervous, rash men. One day, they were drinking and discussing citizens of Kyoto. Tesseki jokingly said, “Ieri Shōtō [Seiken]’s heart is in two places. So there’s nothing wrong with putting his body and head in different places.” At the end of the table was a man who hated Seiken. Hearing this, he was delighted, and that very night he unsheathed his sword and broke into [Seiken’s] home. There he found bare wall-hangings and a lonely pile of luggage; Seiken was sitting blankly in the bright lamp light. Worried about the strange direction events were taking in the capital, he must have planned to return to his hometown of Matuzaka to lie low, and was only waiting for the morning to set out. Seeing the arrival of the assassin, he was too shocked even to react. He only cried, “I have done nothing! My heart is pure and honest, I have nothing to hide! [kōdai-seidai hakujitsu-seiten nari]” But before his words were even finished, he’d already been cut down. It was the evening of the 19th, in the 5th month, Bunkyū 3 [1863]. He was 37 years old.
I really like the idea of a guy who’s such a pedant that his last words are not one, but two four-character compounds (chengyu), but this is probably Shuntō taking narrative liberties. 公明正大 and 青天白日 both mean something like blameless, but I haven’t tracked down a source text for either of them.
    When I was looking him up online, I found that Ienari was actually the older brother of Ienari Tsuguo 家里次郎, who was one of the Rōshigumi, a precursor to the Shinsengumi, the famous rōnin supergroup assembled by the shoganate to clamp down on the royalist movement. It’s funny Shuntō and Kafū don’t mention this, because it seems like it probably bears some relation to Ienari getting iced.


Blogger Matt said...

That was great, thanks! I hope I have it together enough to deliver a four-character compound as my last words. I'll probably choke and just shout "焼肉定食!" though.

9/19/2006 6:01 PM  

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