Harakiri (1962) Script

1630.

13th day of May. Fair skies.

Extremely hot from early in the day.

"IYI CLAN JOURNAL"

10:00 a.m. - Master Bennosuke... pays a visit to the Kandabashi mansion of the Honorable Lord Doi to present fresh river trout from the Shirakawa River, which arrived from our domain.

No other official business to record.

However, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, a samurai claiming to be a former retainer of the Fukushima Clan in Hiroshima... appeared at our gate.

HARAKIRI

Produced by TATSUO HOSO YA Original Story by YASUHIKO TAKIGUCHI Screenplay by SHINOBU HASHIMOTO Cinematography by YOSHIO MIYAJIMA Music by TORU TAKEMITSU


Starring TATSUYA NAKADAI AKIRA ISHIHAMA SHIMA IWASHITA TETSURO TAMBA MASAO MISHIMA, ICHIRO NAKAYA KEI SATO YOSHIO INABA, YOSHIRO AOKI


RENTARO MIKUNI Directed by MASAKI KOBAYASHI

SOTO SAKURADA-MACHI, EDO OFFICIAL RESIDENCE OF THE IYI CLAN

You were a retainer of the former Fukushima Clan in Hiroshima?

That is correct.

My name is Hanshiro Tsugumo.

Written with the character tsu as in "harbor" and gumo as in "cloud."

What is the nature of your visit?

My master's house fell in 1619.

I subsequently left the domain and moved here to Edo, where I found shelter in a back-alley tenement.

While eking out a meager living, I sought connections for employment with a new master.

But try as I might, we live in times of peace, and my every effort has been in vain.

Failing to find employment and with little to do, he finds himself in dire straits and believes he can endure it no further.

Rather than live on in such poverty and disgrace, he wishes to die honorably by harakiri and asks for permission to use our forecourt.

Such is his request.

Not again.

Will they never stop?

How shall I respond?

Fine. Show him in.


This is the room, sir.

Please go in.

Thank you.


I am a former retainer of Lord Masanori Fukushima of Hiroshima, Hanshiro Tsugumo by name.

I respectfully beg your favor.

I am senior counselor of the House of Iyi, Kageyu Saito.

I am much obliged for this immediate interview.

The purpose of my visit -

I've already been told of your request.

Rather than live on in endless poverty, idly waiting for death, you wish to end your life in a manner befitting a samurai, by harakiri.

I believe that was the gist of it?

That is correct.

In these times, it is a truly admirable resolve.

I can only express the highest esteem.

You mentioned that you served the former Lord Fukushima.

Did you happen to know a man named Motome Chijiiwa?

Chijiiwa?

Yes.

Hmm...

You don't recognize the name?

I'm quite certain he said he'd served the former Lord Fukushima.

In its prosperous days, the clan's retainers numbered some 12,000 men.

One could hardly know them all.

I see.

But never mind that.

Earlier this year, perhaps around the end of January, this ronin named Motome Chijiiwa came calling, and the purpose of his visit was the same as yours.

He requested the use of our forecourt to dispatch himself with honor.

Is that right?

Would you like me to tell you what happened in that case?

I would indeed.

You say you were a retainer of the former Fukushima Clan in Hiroshima?

That is correct.

I served the former Lord Masanori Fukushima of Hiroshima.

My name is Motome Chijiiwa.

What is the nature of your visit?

After the fall of my master's house, I moved here to Edo and found shelter in a back-alley tenement.

While eking out a meager living, I sought connections for employment with a new master.

But try as I might, we live in times of peace...

and my every effort has been in vain.

So now it seems it's our turn.

How shall we respond?

Let me think.

It's amazing how such foolishness can take hold.

Blame it on what the Sengoku Clan did.

Say what you will, that was a mistake. I disagree, Yazaki.

That's not necessarily true. Why not?

The fellow who went to the Sengoku house was serious about disemboweling himself.

There was nothing dishonorable about his intent.

Precisely because they were touched by his sincerity, the Sengoku house decided to take him in as a back-room retainer.

That was good. They made the right decision in that case.

The problem... is the shameless imitators who have followed.

They have no intention whatsoever of performing harakiri, and just because they're hurting a little for food and clothing, they show up at our gate to practice their thinly disguised extortion.

We can't very well allow him to disembowel himself in our gateway.

Our only choice is to follow the example of other clans: give him a little something and ask him to leave.

No.

That will not do.

If we give him money and send him away, he'll soon be followed by others.

One after the other, like ants drawn to a mound of sugar.

Ever since the Battle of Sekigahara, Edo has been teeming with ronin.

They're like wild dogs roving about in search of prey.

Think what people will say.

"The House of Iyi has gone soft like the others.

Everybody thought they had backbone, so until now, the ronin avoided their gate.

But look what they've done now.

They boast of their martial valor, but this is a time of peace, so they're just living in yesterday's dreams."

Would you have such laughable chatter spreading all over Edo?

Especially when His Lordship is away in his domain.

Under no circumstances can we allow a stain to come upon our lord's name while he's away.

Giving him money and asking him to leave - such lily-livered nonsense is out of the question.

He hasn't the slightest intention of killing himself, yet he speaks of honorable harakiri.

Counselor!

If I may...


My apologies for keeping you waiting.

I am Umenosuke Kawabe, a member of Lord Iyi's mounted guard.

My name is Motome Chijiiwa, a ronin from Hiroshima.

Kindly come with me.

Excuse me?

I am to show you to the bath.

Since Lord Iyi is at present away in his domain, Senior Counselor Saito conveyed your request to His Lordship's son, Bennosuke.

He finds your resolve most admirable and wishes you to be brought forward for an immediate audience.

I am to have an audience with Master Bennosuke?

That is correct.

I must beg your pardon, but your present attire will not do.

While you refresh yourself in the bath, we'll see to some new robes for you.

I place myself in your hands.

Your kindness overwhelms me.

I must be dreaming.

This is so... completely unexpected.

Almost -

Pardon me.

My apologies for keeping you waiting so long.

I must ask you to change again.

Your robes.


Is something wrong?

What about my audience with Master Bennosuke?

I was told I'd be granted an audience.

I don't believe so.

You must have misunderstood. No, I'm quite certain.

That was the word I received from Umenosuke Kawabe of the mounted guard.

Kawabe?

Now that you mention it...

Yes, that must be it.

So I'm not mistaken?

I believe I understand.

When Senior Counselor Saito personally conveyed your desire to Master Bennosuke, he noted how rare it is these days to find men with such a great sense of honor.

"I would like to add this man to the ranks of our retainers," he said.

"but when a man declares that he wishes to tear his belly open, it can only come from a most profound resolve."

"I am sure it would be no use trying to dissuade him.

Grant him his final wish.

Although I would like to meet this man of such uncommon valor and tell him how much I admire his purpose, I am unfortunately scheduled to go to Lord Doi's residence at this hour.

Extend to him every courtesy of this house, and have all our retainers witness his final act, that they may remember it as a proud example."

Such were Master Bennosuke's words, I was told.

Tell me: What do you think of this story?

A most interesting tale, worthy of the famous red armor that symbolizes the House of Iyi and its reputation for great martial valor.

May I ask what your intentions are?

You mean... about this?

Exactly.

You may set your mind at ease.

I came here with every intention of dying.

Well, well.

A most admirable resolve.

In that case, Master Tsugumo... perhaps I should recount for you a little more of Motome Chijiiwa's story.

By all means.

Now then, we must be aware of the time.

Please change into those robes.

All other arrangements are already in place for a harakiri ceremony with all the proper formalities.

I have a request.

I must beg a brief respite.

Respite?

I will not run or hide. I will return to this house.

But I beg you for a day or two respite.

I'm afraid it's too late for that.

But this is absurd! Absurd?

We made the harakiri arrangements at your own request.

My most abject apologies!

Just a day or two respite. I will return without fail.

A samurai's word is his bond.

There can be no delay!


Master swordsman Hayato Yazaki.

Fit and eager, his skills honed to perfection.

One false step and he'll slice you in two.

The others will descend on you as well.

Rather than being chopped up like a dead fish, perform harakiri and die like a samurai.

Now, change into those robes.


O ancestors of the House of Iyi...

I must beg your forgiveness for defiling the mansion courtyard with unworthy ronin blood.

I do this to preserve the honor of this house, as well as that of the Tokugawa family, and of the samurai code itself.

I beg you to be witness to my decision.


His short blade is the same.

Look at it.

It wouldn't cut tofu.

He sells off his soul as a samurai, replacing his blades with bamboo, and then shows up saying he wants to perform harakiri?

The nerve of the man!

Everything is in place for the ceremony to begin.

Master Motome Chijiiwa...

rather than sit and wait for death in dire poverty, you've declared your wish to die honorably by harakiri.

It is a commendable decision.

You are an example for all samurai.

I am ashamed to admit that even in this house known for martial valor since our ancestor Naomasa's day, the resolve you've shown is seen but rarely.

So that they may witness the noble demise of a true warrior, and engrave a lasting impression of it upon their minds, I've ordered all retainers of this household to attend.

May your heart be at peace.

I beg of you!

What is it?

I beg for a brief respite - a day or two's grace!

I swear I will not run or hide. I'll return to this spot without fail!

Please! I implore you!

This is most unexpected.

I've heard lately of incidents all across Edo in which ronin who don't deserve to call themselves samurai demand the use of a clan's forecourt to commit harakiri but are happy to walk away in exchange for a few coins.

Surely you are not -

Absolutely not, sir.

No, no.

Of course not.

I'd never believe that a man of your noble character and mien could be such a despicable extortionist.

Now then.

You may proceed.

Unworthy as I am, I shall be your second.

I am an exponent of the Shindo-Munen-Ichi school.

I imagine you are aware, but let me note just to be sure.

The rite of harakiri has changed over time.

In recent years, it is often harakiri in name only.

The subject reaches for the blade on the wooden stand, and his second immediately strikes off his head.

In other words, there is no disembowelment at all, and in fact sometimes the stand holds not a short sword but only a folding fan.

However, our proceedings today will not sink to such debased and empty forms.

We shall adhere strictly to the traditional ways.

Is that understood?

You will rip your bowels open crosswise, like this.

Once I see you have done so, I will strike off your head.

Until I am satisfied you have fully torn open your bowels, I will not bring down my sword.

Is that understood? Now then.


It is your own sword.

That is the blade you will use.

A samurai's sword is his soul.

No blade could be more fitting for this purpose than your own.


Come. What keeps you?

Proceed.


Strike! Strike me!

No, not yet!

Pull your blade across!


Why do you delay?

Draw your blade across! Pull it to the right!


I suppose he had no other recourse, but even so, to bite off his tongue?

Would you say he was being resourceful, or just unseemly?

Then again, who in his right mind attempts harakiri with just a bamboo sword?

Now then... what are your intentions?

You mean... about this?

The account I've given you of Motome Chijiiwa's fate is true in every detail.

Take my advice, Master Tsugumo.

Quietly take your leave.

You need have no such concerns with me.

Unlike this Chijiiwa fellow... the sword in my belt is not made of bamboo.

Rest assured, I will not bite off my tongue.

I will disembowel myself in grand form.

Very well.

Master Tsugumo, since you are unswerving in your resolve, I shall grant your wish.

Attendant!

This ronin from Hiroshima, Master Hanshiro Tsugumo, is to be granted use of the courtyard to perform harakiri.

His present dress will not do.

Give him fresh robes befitting one who journeys to the next world.

If I may.

What is it?

Please do not trouble yourselves over such things.

For the final moments of a down-and-out ronin like myself... surely nothing is more fitting than the clothes I now wear.

I am deeply grateful for the courteous and considerate treatment you have accorded me today.

I can find no adequate words to thank you.

Now then, I shall begin.

Might I ask, Counselor, who will be serving as my second?

I have assigned Ichiro Shinmen.

Master Shinmen?

Did you wish for someone else?

Yes, sir.

I would like Master Hikokuro Omodaka.

You request Hikokuro?

I believe he's a retainer in this house.

I've heard he's trained in the Shindo-Munen-Ichi school.

Indeed.

Hikokuro is a fine choice.

Hikokuro.

I'm afraid he's not in attendance today.

He sent a note saying he's ill and requesting a few day's rest.

I see. That's too bad.

Master Tsugumo.

As you heard, Omodaka is not present today.

You will need to make another choice.

That is most disappointing.

I had my heart set on Master Omodaka performing the service.

I wonder if I might not beg his special consideration.

Well, he says he's ill, but he seemed fine yesterday.

Surely it can't be anything serious.

Messenger!

Make all due haste to Omodaka's residence.

Tell him to come immediately, if his illness permits. Now hurry.

I'm putting you to a great deal of trouble.

Please accept my apologies.

Now then, do you wish to wait here or would you like to come inside and relax?

No.

The comfort of your residence might cause my resolve to waver.

My journey into eternity mustn't grow distasteful. I shall remain here.

You display remarkable discipline.

I can but express my admiration.

If I may, Counselor, it could be quite tedious for us both to sit here and wait in silence.

To pass the time, perhaps you'll allow me to tell you a little about myself.

About yourself?

Yes.

The hardscrabble tales of a half-starved ronin don't amount to much, but what befalls others today may be your own fate tomorrow.

Perhaps your retainers will find some small point or two worth remembering among my otherwise useless ramblings.

"What befalls others today may be your own fate tomorrow"?

This could be amusing.

I want everyone here to listen carefully to this man.

The words of one staring death in the face... are unlikely to be useless ramblings.

I'm sure we'll all learn something.

Counselor.

That tale you related earlier - may I be assured it was true in every detail?

Indeed.

The ronin from Hiroshima named Motome Chijiiwa was a man of some acquaintance to me.

Motome Chijiiwa...

was a man of some acquaintance to me.


Motome was a lad of 15, and my daughter Miho was an angelic child of 11.

That was 11 years ago.

But when I close my eyes, their images come back to me vividly, as if it were only yesterday.

My turn again. Never mind.

All we do all day is count stones to repair the castle walls.

We won't be needing bows and arrows for a good long while.

"The world is at peace. The four seas are calm."

Incidentally, this coming 22nd is the seventh anniversary of Nui's passing.

I knew it was coming up, but is it seven years already?

Yes, and I'm planning a modest ceremony at my residence.

Don't bring any offerings.

Very well.

I can hardly believe it.

Seven years already.

What never ceases to amaze me... is how a rough warrior like you... has managed to raise Miho all these years without taking a second wife.

Come, Jinnai.

Look who's talking.

When your Yuki died, I wondered how you would ever manage.

But look at you.

You're a perfect example of the kite begetting a hawk.

Kite begetting a hawk?

You were the widower kite, doting so on your child in every aspect of his upbringing, that lo and behold, the child grew not into a kite but a magnificent young hawk.

Nonsense.

He certainly keeps growing, but he's got a long way to go before you can compare him to a young hawk soaring freely overhead.

You know, I never figured either of us would be good for anything but battlefield laurels, but we haven't done too bad at raising children.

Had life gone on like that, all would have been well.

But it was not to be.

When all is said and done, our lives are like houses built on foundations of sand.

One strong wind and all is gone.

How my master's house with its 498,000-koku domain was brought to ruin...

I'm sure you already know even better than I do myself.

Owing to an unreasonable and one-sided judgment by the Tokugawa shogunate regarding the repairs being performed on Hiroshima Castle, in June of 1619, my master, Masanori Fukushima, was ordered into exile at Kawanakajima, leaving his 12,000 retainers without any means of livelihood... through no fault of their own.


Jinnai!

TO HANSHIRO TSUGUMO

In view of our long-standing friendship, I ask your indulgence in the following:

The castle repairs commissioner, the Honorable Masakatsu Fukushima, will be electing death at any moment.

Therefore, I will precede him on his journey.

My company alone will suffice.

I beg you not to follow.

Regarding my only child, Motome, he has grown tall, but he is still only 15.

Please look after him as he finds his way in life.

Why did he have to be so hasty?

Committing harakiri even before I have done so.

Hanshiro, I forbid you to follow.

If the house could still be saved, I might wish you to accompany me in death.

But with the house abolished, it would be pointless.

Jinnai's company will suffice. But, sire!

Don't be foolish, Hanshiro.

Jinnai died because he knew you would if he didn't.

He died to accompany me on your behalf as well.

Which means, Hanshiro, that you must now live on.

Both for you and for him.

And also for his son, Motome. Who will look after him if not you?

I go now to meet Jinnai.

Hanshiro, is there anything you'd like me to tell him?

Do you have nothing for me to say?

Tell Jinnai...

Tell Jinnai this.

Have no fears about Motome.

I will watch over his every step on the path to manhood.

I will not fail him. I swear this on my life.

Go on, Master Tsugumo.

What did you find out?

It seems his illness is indeed most serious.

What's the nature of the ailment?

According to his family, a high fever and excruciating pain in all his joints.

Go on.

I asked if I might visit him at his bedside, but he sent word back that his pain was so great that he did not wish to be seen in his present state.

All I could do was convey the message you sent and return.

It seems there's nothing we can do.

Perhaps he was overcome by the relentless heat of recent days.

Master Tsugumo, you heard what he said.

I must ask you to select someone else as your second.

I am sorely disappointed, but it appears I have no choice.

In that case...

I would ask for Master Hayato Yazaki.

Hayato?

Inaba, I believe he too has been absent these four or five days?

That is correct.

He requested leave because he wasn't feeling well.

Master Tsugumo, I'm afraid Hayato Yazaki is also absent due to illness.

Master Yazaki is also ill?

I'm sorry to hear that.

Again it seems I have no choice.

I request Master Umenosuke Kawabe.

Counselor, surely it's not possible that Master Kawabe is also under the weather?

Well, well.

It seems he is indeed indisposed.

All three unavailable on this particular day - what a very odd coincidence.

Most curious.

He's up to something. Clearly so.

Hikokuro was the one who first insisted that Motome Chijiiwa be forced to go through with harakiri.

Yazaki was the one who discovered his blades were bamboo and insisted he be forced to use them, and Kawabe was quick to agree.

That's why I urged that he at least be spared the bamboo blade.

Of what good is that now? Indeed, sire.

But how shall we deal with him?

I doubt he intends to meekly disembowel himself.

He obviously has something up his sleeve.

Whatever it is... he won't get away with it.

We'll force his hand and make him commit harakiri.

In fact, if he refuses, we'll descend upon him in force and cut him down.

What happens within the walls of this compound... is as secret as what happens behind the walls of our castle back home.

One signal from me and everyone will know what to do.

But I'm bothered about Hikokuro and the other two.

I need to send someone to find out more... and under the circumstances, I'd like you to personally hurry and find out the real story.

Master Tsugumo...

summer days are long, but the hour advances.

I must ask you to proceed without further delay.

But, Counselor, the ritual cannot take place without a second.

I understand your concern, but I've discussed the matter with my senior colleagues.

With all three men of your choice ailing, we cannot accommodate your wishes.

You will have to accept our selection.

Ichiro Shinmen!

I command you to serve as second for Master Tsugumo.

Perform your duty with care.

I must protest!

To act as my second, I have named three specially selected men.

I must have one of these three.

Are you deaf?

All three you name are ill and are not present today.

I explained this very clearly. Did you not hear?

Then in that case, I have no choice.

I must call off my harakiri for now.

Enough, Hanshiro Tsugumo!

Your extortion scheme has gone too far.

It's bad enough to march in here demanding a place to perform harakiri, but then you quibble endlessly over naming your second.

You never intended to commit harakiri.

All you really want is money!

Counselor!

If I were the extortionist you say, would I be calmly sitting here on this platform?

Then why do you not quietly proceed? I am fully prepared to die.

But cutting my belly open does not in itself ensure smooth passage to the netherworld.

I need someone to expeditiously strike off my head - a swordsman of reliable skill.

I do not perform harakiri to atone for a crime or offense.

The least I can expect is to choose my own second.


Further debate on the matter

is clearly a waste of time.

You are a fraud, a disgrace to our class.

You never intended to commit harakiri.


Insolent dog!

Stop!

Wait!

Wait, I say!


I beg of all those present a moment - a brief moment.

You can't possibly have more to say.

But I do. I do have more to say.

I haven't finished my story.

I have no ears for your endless ramblings.

Counselor!

If you force me to, I will fight desperately to the death, no matter the odds against me.

Some of your men will be wounded undeservedly.

Some may even lose their lives.

Would it not be better to simply hear me out?

Once I have finished my story, I will disembowel myself with no further ado.

Or if you feel harakiri is too good for me, you may turn your men on me to do what they will.

In any event, I would first like you to hear what I have to say.

As to these conditions you state, do I have your word?

You have my word.

And as a samurai, you will hold true to it?

Very well, but make it short.

I will not listen to your useless mutterings for long.

Men, fall back.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes.

My master's house fell and Jinnai Chijiiwa died, but before doing so, he asked me to look after Motome.

When my master's house fell... we immediately left the domain and moved to Edo.

The streets of Edo were crowded with ronin, flotsam from the Battle of Sekigahara.

In former times, other clans would have gladly taken in any ronin who'd earned a name for himself.

But in an era no longer in need of warriors or horses, so peaceful that no wind even rustled the leaves on the trees, it was a constant struggle simply to find a meal.

Indeed, it shames me to recall our miserable lives of these last eight or nine years.

But amidst all our hardships... my daughter Miho was rapidly becoming a woman, and soon it was the spring of her 18th year.


Father.

I've set your lunch out in case I'm not back in time.

The greatest delicacies taste of nothing when eaten alone.

If you're not back, I'll wait.

I'll collect for these and then stop by Yoshizakicho for dried fish.

Hello.

Welcome, sir.

Busy as usual? Looks like you're on your way out.

Yes, to the wholesaler in Kyobashi.

The Mikawaya, I suppose. Take care.

Experience is the best teacher.

You've become very deft at that.

Forgive me.

I hate asking you for advances all the time, but my earnings simply refuse to catch up.

You disarm me by beating me to the punch.

I came intending to lodge a complaint or two, but when you make the first move, what can I say?

By the way, what are your thoughts on that matter I raised the other day?

Have you come to a decision?

Yes, I have.

Glad to hear it.

It takes a load off my mind.

No.

I appreciate your proposal regarding Miho, but I've decided to decline.

In the end, her adoption by the Joshuya family would be a mere pretext lasting perhaps six months.

Once established as a member of their family, she'd be sent to Lord Sakakibara as his concubine.

Master Tsugumo, the Sakakibara are a family with a domain of 110,000 koku.

It may sound odd to seek benefit from your daughter's connections, but you need do nothing, and doors will open to you.

I understand that.

But, Master Seibei, no matter how far I've fallen, I cannot make my daughter a concubine to profit from her connections.

It's fine to uphold your pride.

But as a parent, you must consider your daughter's feelings too.

What?

She's young and beautiful, yet she doesn't have a single fancy kimono to wear.

She can only look forward to endless days of slaving at her father's side.

Master Tsugumo, you can't fight the world you live in nor go against the tide of the times.

It's a good proposal for Miss Miho, and for you, no matter how you look at it.

In fact, to be honest, is it not precisely because Miss Miho was blessed with such beauty that an avenue like this remains open to you?

Confucius said:

"He who knows not the will of heaven is not a superior man."

"He who knows not proper decorum must not rise to his feet."

"He who knows not the heart of words cannot know the heart of man."

That will be all for today.

Thank you, sir. Good-bye.

Hey, Katsuzo, let's go sparrow hunting today.

Hello, Uncle Hanshiro.

It's good to see you.

Have some tea.

Much obliged.

I know this house well enough to at least boil water.

As it happens, Motome, I came today to discuss a matter of some weight.

You sound so formal. What could it be?

How quickly the days and months fly by.

Miho is now 18.

She looks more like her mother every day.

In fact, it's hard to see how she could possibly be of my blood.

If she'd taken after me, she'd never have grown so beautiful.

What are you trying to say, sir?

Well, Motome...

I'd like you to take Miho as your wife.

I realize this is all very sudden, but what do you think?

Will you do it, Motome?

You know as well as I the state of my livelihood at present.

I offer classes in the Chinese classics to a handful of children and live from hand to mouth.

How could I possibly take a wife?

Do you dislike Miho?

All I'm asking is how you feel about her.

It's not only because of the promise I made to your father that I hope you'll marry Miho.

Boorish and dull as I am, I'm not entirely insensitive to your feelings for each other.

It was more difficult than I expected to persuade Motome.

I didn't realize he had such a stubborn and willful streak.

But I knew he loved Miho, and I knew Miho would have no objections to the match.

The crane that lives a thousand years A symbol of myriad joys The tortoise that lives 10,000 years Bears on its back the three worlds of heaven, earth and man The sands upon the beach Numberless and smooth May they ever reflect the morning sun After two years a child was born.

It was a boy, and they named him Kingo.

Of course, I was the one who chose the name.

Hello, Father.

What's this? Asleep again?

Father, you're too generous.

Nonsense.

Even after I married you off, you still cook for me.

And besides, I now have only myself to support.

I save more money than I know what to do with, and I can't take it with me.

Well, well.

Did you wake up?

Now, none of that, you little rascal.

A warrior's son should not be flashing dimples.

What did I tell you now?

Really? Even the Matsudaira Clan of Dewa province?

That's right.

I can understand abolishing the domains of newer vassals, but to treat vassals who've supported the Tokugawa for generations so harshly?

The shogunate's policy toward the warlords is completely beyond me.

We'll see another jump in the number of ronin.

Did you hear?

One of them tried to commit harakiri at the Sengoku Clan's gate.

A ronin named Shume Ooi, formerly of the Kurume Clan.

I heard the Sengoku were so impressed that they offered him employment.

That much was fine. It's what happened next.

Yes, I heard.

Other ronin who got wind of the story began presenting themselves at the gates of daimyo houses all over Edo, insisting on committing harakiri and refusing to budge.

In order to get rid of them, the houses offered them money to leave.

It's a shameful turn of events.

It certainly is.

No matter how hard-pressed they may be, it's a despicable thing to do.

In these difficult times, it's no help growing desperate.

Becoming too impatient in seeking employment is a danger we must all take care to avoid.

You are absolutely right.

If you stop worrying so much about finding employment, you can sit here like this without answering to a superior, at no one's beck and call.

What's the matter there, little one?

It's time for his milk. I'll nurse him.

You mustn't give him your breast every time he cries.

He'll develop bad habits.

Lookee here, Kingo.

Ready? See my funny face?

All right?

Upsy-daisy. Here goes, Kingo.

In Kanda At the Myojin Shrine

There's a festival Tonight Kingo was the center of our existence, and the three of us lived happily with the constant sound of warm laughter raising peaceful ripples around us.

It truly was a time of greater happiness than I'd ever known in the domain.

However, good things never last for long.


One day, Miho suddenly coughed up profuse quantities of blood.

She had always been of weak constitution, and with the endless burden of our piecework labor...

she'd driven her frail body too hard for too long.


Motome panicked.

The poor fellow.

Date Clan construction site.

Fifty laborers at 40 mon.

Just a minute, samurai, sir!

Are you trying to get me in trouble?

There isn't enough work even for the townsmen.

If the authorities spotted a two-sworded laborer, I'd be in for a real dressing-down.

Hosokawa Clan construction site.

Twenty laborers, 45 mon.

PAWN SHOP

Poor Motome.

He tried everything, but to no avail.

Miho was gradually wasting away, and the worst was yet to come.

It's seared forever in my memory.

We'd just barely made it through the end of the year, and the plum blossoms had begun to bloom shortly after the beginning of the new year.


What's wrong?

Is it Miho?

It's Kingo.

What? Kingo?

A fever.

Like he's on fire.

Why, Miho?

Why did you just sit by until it came to this?

I thought it was an ordinary cold.

What did the doctor say?

You did have a doctor see him, didn't you?

You haven't had a doctor see him?

Why haven't you had a doctor look at him?

Kingo, fight it off.

Your grandpa, like your mom and dad, has already sold off everything of value.

There's not a thing, not a thing we can do for you.

There's nothing... nothing we can do, Kingo.

But you're the son of a samurai.

You can't let a little illness get the better of you.

Don't let it beat you.


Don't let it... Don't let it...

Father.

I have an idea.

What?

I need to go out.

Please look after Kingo.

What do you have in mind?

A former retainer of the Kato Clan now lives in Nihonbashi and makes his living as a moneylender.

His rates are so high that I didn't dare go to him before, but I can't worry about that anymore.

You're right. If you know such a man, hurry and go!

I'm on my way.

I'll be back by evening at the latest.

As you can see, Miho is too weak, so please take care of Kingo.

Of course. I know what to do.

But, Motome, you can see he's barely hanging on.

You must be quick, and you mustn't fail.

I'll return by evening without fail.

I'll be off, then.

We're depending on you, Motome!


No, no, I'll do that.

It won't be long now, Kingo.


What's taking him so long?


He's getting worse.

What could Motome be doing?


No, no. Your getting up won't do Kingo's fever any good.

Where can Motome be?

He swore he'd be back by evening.

What could he be doing?

I waited.

Every moment felt like an eternity.

But Motome did not return. We never saw him again.

"I'll be back by evening, so please look after Kingo."

Those were his final words as he went out the door, and that was the last I saw of Motome Chijiiwa.

But then... around 9:00 that night, he did return home.

Only not on his own.

He was borne home by a party of retainers from the House of Iyi.

Most courteously.

This was the request with which Motome Chijiiwa came to us.

But our forecourt is a busy place and would have been most inconvenient, so we offered him our courtyard and saw to his needs with all due propriety, thus allowing him to fulfill his wish and perform harakiri.

We understand there have lately been incidents all across Edo in which ronin present themselves at the gates of daimyo houses and threaten to commit harakiri unless given money.

This disgraceful practice has put many houses at a loss as to what to do.

But now we have Motome Chijiiwa, a samurai of true valor, who carried out his resolve to die honorably.

And we have the members of the Iyi Clan, who responded appropriately to facilitate his wishes.

In contrast to many disgraceful ronin, and the spineless timidity of other daimyo households, both parties in this instance acted in an exemplary manner that will open eyes and clear the air.

It is truly an occasion for mutual congratulations.

We bid you - Wait.

To avoid any misunderstanding, we must show the blades.

Oh, yes.

For the record, we wish you to examine the swords Chijiiwa was carrying.

You will note that both blades are of bamboo.

Bamboo?

As you can see, both are made of bamboo.

No one must accuse us later of having switched blades.

So take a good look.

Is it clear?

In that case, Motome must have borrowed a blade from your household?

No, he did not.

He died magnificently using his own blade.

Motome killed himself with that bamboo blade?

Exactly.

The entire household witnessed the spectacle of harakiri performed with a bamboo blade.

As you may imagine, it was an unsightly affair.

It would have been more fitting for a samurai to end his life with a true blade, which is a warrior's soul.

Now then.

We bid you good night.


Miho wept.

She wept...and wept.


Motome!

Forgive me!

I...

I had no idea.

You had even sold your blades.

For Miho's sake you even sold your blades.

But I... but I...

I would never let this go.

It never entered my mind.

The stupid thing was too dear to me... and I clung to it.

To this stupid -

With his fever still raging and in a coma, Kingo died two days later.

Three days after that, as if chasing after him, Miho died as well.

Thus did Hanshiro Tsugumo find himself utterly alone in the world, having lost every last person he had ever cared about.

Master Tsugumo,

does that conclude your story?

Yes, I suppose so.

There's just one more thing.

May all those here listen carefully to what I'm about to say.

No matter how grinding his poverty and hunger, for a samurai to present himself in someone else's entryway and declare that he wishes to commit harakiri there is an unspeakable act that can in no way be excused.

However...

the manner in which the House of Iyi handled the matter... surely left a great deal to be desired.

If a samurai risks shame and ridicule to beg for a day or two's grace, he must surely have good reason.

A simple inquiry as to the reason for the request would have told so much... yet with this many witnesses present... not a single one among you had the consideration to ask.

His wife lay gasping for breath, on the very verge of death, while his beloved son burned with fever, in dire need of a doctor.

Motome no doubt wished to explain the situation to me, make whatever last effort he could for his son before turning all further care over to me, and then return here to the House of Iyi.

Hanshiro Tsugumo!

Enough of your self-serving excuses!

What?

As to Motome Chijiiwa - the circumstances that drove him here were no doubt complex.

But it was he who declared his wish to commit harakiri.

What followed upon that request may not have been what he intended, but he reaped what he himself sowed.

He was in no position to complain, or to blame or condemn anyone.

At that point, his was but to cast all else aside and die a magnificent death.

To face death without wavering - that is truly the way of the samurai.

But what did this man do?

He cravenly asked for a day or two's grace.

One might well accuse him of having gone mad!

True enough.

Motome had indeed gone mad.

But I say good for him!

I praise him for it.

He may have been a samurai, but he was also a man of flesh and blood.

He could not live on air alone.

When he has reached the point of no return, even a man as strong as Motome will go mad trying to protect his family, and I would praise him for it.

They'll call him "the bamboo ronin."

Not only samurai, but townspeople, too, will scoff at his wavering.

But let them laugh all they want.

Who can fathom the depths of another man's heart?

Thanks to the shogunate's ruthless policy of wiping out the provincial lords, countless samurai lost their masters and were cast out to wander the depths of hell.

How can those who never wanted for food or clothing understand their misery?

To those who find Motome loathsome for his pleading, I ask:

What if you found yourself in the same position?

Would you do any differently?

After all, this thing we call samurai honor is ultimately nothing but a facade.

Is that your grievance?

Grievance?

Is that what you're trying to tell us?

That samurai honor is nothing but a facade?

Yes.

"Even if I say I want to commit harakiri, they surely won't actually make me do it."

Such wishful thinking is where these ronin go wrong.

If a man says he wants to commit harakiri, we will let him.

In fact, since he has proposed it himself, we'll make sure he does.

That is the policy of the House of Iyi.

For us, samurai honor is no mere facade!

And so Hanshiro Tsugumo too has come here with no intention of committing harakiri, but rather out of deep bitterness over the manner in which the Iyi Clan treated his son-in-law Motome Chijiiwa, and the desire to vent his many grudges.

Is that what you think?

That's not for me to say.

You can only look into your own heart.

But all the same, you have no intention of letting me leave here alive?

That is my decision to make.

I need make no excuses to you.

Counselor, there is a proverb, "The suspicious mind conjures its own demons."

Do you know it?

When I say I will disembowel myself, I truly mean it.

Yet, even after all I have said, you still refuse to -

Suppose I were to go on living.

What could I possibly have to look forward to?

The fact is, I can hardly wait to join Motome and Miho and Kingo in that world to which they have gone ahead.

But I would never be able to face them.

Were I to go empty-handed?

I think you can understand that.

I thought perhaps once I had explained, then even members of the Iyi Clan would surely say, "Oh, so that's how it was.

Perhaps we were overzealous that day in rushing to that end.

Anyone can see that our handling of the situation was less than ideal.

Perhaps there were ways in which we carried things too far.

No doubt both parties could have conducted themselves to better effect."

If I could take with me even a single word in this vein, it would be a comfort to Motome.

Was this not the most fitting gift I could hope to take him?

Such were my thoughts, but I see now it was nothing but wishful thinking.

If you can see that, then it makes the rest easy.

This world does not bend to sentimental tales.

If you really think that samurai honor is ultimately nothing more than a facade... then you never had a chance of swaying us.

So in the end, these have been nothing but the useless grumblings of a cranky old man.

But it does no good to lament that now.

Well, then, forgive me for my long-winded recitation.

I will now proceed with the ritual.

Wait.

Before that, I must return some items that belong to this house.


For easier identification, I have placed name tags on each.

Please examine them carefully.

Master Hayato Yazaki, and Master Umenosuke Kawabe -

I understand they're both among the best swordsmen of the Iyi Clan, held in high esteem for their bravery and honor.

But, Counselor, gentlemen, let me set your minds at ease.

I took only their topknots, not their lives.

In the case of Hayato Yazaki... it was six days ago.


Hold it!

In the case of Umenosuke Kawabe, it was five days ago, on May 8th.


However, when it came to that master swordsman of the Shindo-Munen-Ichi school, Master Hikokuro Omodaka, I had a little more difficulty.

Perhaps aware of what had happened to Yazaki and Kawabe, I could not catch him off guard.

In fact, to be honest, I found myself at quite a loss as to how to deal with Master Omodaka.

May I enter?


If you reach for your sword, I'll slice you in one motion from shoulder to waist.

But I fear... the lintel will catch the tip of my blade.

If you lunge to the side, then this pillar will get in the way.

It took a few days to locate your home. My apologies for the delay.

I ask you to make ready.

This is obviously no place for a sword duel.

It's a bit far, but I must ask you to accompany me to Gojiin-gawara.

As miserable a hovel as this is, your landlord will be inconvenienced if you do not return.

And without someone to retrieve your remains, your soul will wander aimlessly.

I suggest you leave a note.

It should indicate you're going to Gojiin-gawara for a duel with Hikokuro Omodaka of the Iyi Clan.


Taking advantage of the wind was brilliant, but a blade can do more than cut.

It can also stab, or even snap another blade in two.

Swordsmanship untested in battle is like the art of swimming mastered on dry land.


On the other hand, I had not seen battle either since the siege of Osaka Castle 16 years ago.

Taking his head would have been difficult enough, but taking only his topknot proved more difficult still.

Whatever the differences in skill, for a samurai to have his topknot taken is the same as having his head stricken off.

It is an ineptitude, a disgrace, that can scarcely be atoned for even by death.

Yet these men claim illness and shirk their duties while waiting for their topknots to grow back. Counselor!

This house boasts of its red armor and martial valor, but it seems that even in the great House of Iyi, samurai honor is nothing more than a facade.

Maniac!

Cut him down!


Fall back!


Hanshiro Tsugumo has been killed, Counselor.

And our casualties?

What were the casualties among our men?

Masakatsu Sugita, Sobei Uemura, Ichiro Shinmen, Uemon Yoshioka - four dead.

Eight more seriously wounded.

The ronin from Hiroshima...

Hanshiro Tsugumo, committed harakiri.

All our own men died of illness.

The House of Iyi has no retainers who could be felled or wounded by some half-starved ronin.

Former retainer of the Fukushima Clan, Hanshiro Tsugumo, committed harakiri honorably, according to his wish.

All our men died of illness.

Their deaths have nothing to do with Tsugumo's.

Furthermore, we cannot allow any more to die of illness.

See that the wounded are treated immediately.

I have just returned, Counselor.

Hikokuro Omodaka, last night at his home -

Kawabe and Yazaki both claim illness, but in fact - Fool!

Why did you not order them to commit harakiri on the spot?

Go back immediately and order them to do so.

And take some skilled swordsmen with you.

If they fail to willingly disembowel themselves, make them do it by force.

Of course, these two men, and Omodaka too, did not officially commit harakiri.

They died of illness.

Sire? Imbecile!

You weren't born yesterday. You know the ways of the world.

How can you not realize the implications? Idiot!

I am on my way, sire.


The former retainer of the Fukushima Clan, Hanshiro Tsugumo, died by harakiri at 6:00 in the evening.

His speech and behavior had been somewhat erratic.

Many of those present felt he showed signs of derangement.

Furthermore, it has become clear that when another former retainer of the Fukushima Clan, one Motome Chijiiwa, asked to commit harakiri in January of this year, we did not err in our chosen response.

Word of the martial rigor of this house echoed throughout Edo.

In the present case too, word of our resolute handling spread across the city before two days were out.

As a result, on the third day, in a formal session at Edo Castle, Lord Doi took the occasion to confer words of praise upon our young master Bennosuke as follows:

"At peace, yet ever vigilant.

Let the House of Iyi continue to embrace this principle, and your fortunes are sure to prosper for ages to come."

The 16th day of May, 1630.