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August 2009 Archives

Harada Kurando was one of the leading vassals of the Lord of Tsugaru. He was a remarkable swordsman, and gave lessons in fencing. Next in seniority to Harada among the vassals was one Gundayu, who also taught fencing; but he was no match for the famous Harada, and consequently was somewhat jealous.

One day, to encourage the art of fencing amongst his vassals, the Daimio summoned all his people and ordered them to give an exhibition in his presence. After the younger vassals had performed, the Daimio gave an order that Harada Kurando and Hira Gundayu should have a match. To the winner, he said, he would present a gold image of the Goddess of Kwannon.

Both men fenced their best. There was great excitement. Gundayu had never done so well before; but Harada was too good. He won the match, receiving the gold image of Kwannon from the hands of the Daimio amid loud cheering.

Gundayu left the scene of the encounter, boiling over with jealousy and vowing vengeance. Four of his most faithful companions left with him, and said they would help him to waylay and assault Harada that very evening. Having arranged this cowardly plan, they proceeded to hide on the road which Harada must traverse on his return home.

Several hundred years ago there dwelt in lands of the Hosokawas a widow and her daughter, a beautiful girl of seventeen, named Kazuye. O Kazuye San's father had been foully murdered some six months before, and both Kazuye and her mother had made up their minds to devote their fortune and their lives to bringing the criminals to justice. In these efforts they received no help, but spent the whole of their money, until at last they were almost forced to beg in the street for food. Day after day, however, they continued to pray in the temple for help, and never once lost heart or weakened in their purpose. O Kazuye told her mother that were she fortunate enough to gain the affections of a man, even he should be sacrificed in the effort after vengeance.

One day it came to pass that the poverty-stricken appearance of Kazuye and her mother, returning as usual from praying in the temple, aroused the mirth of a party of roughs, who proceeded to insult them. A handsome young samurai, Okawa Jomoyemon, happened to come along. Drawing his sword, he very soon put the roughs to flight. Having done this, and bowing low, he asked whom he had the honour of serving.

O Kazuye answered for her mother, and quickly recognised that this handsome youth was just such as she had longed to meet, so that he might fall in love and wish to help her in seeking out the murderer of her father. Therefore, not unnaturally, she encouraged him; and he fell in love with her. In the meanwhile an old friend of Kazuye's father, feeling great sorrow for her, had found a place for her in Prince Hosokawa's household; and there she won such favour in the eyes of the Prince (or, as the title then was, Daimio) that the other maids began to be jealous.

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