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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Takatoki handed the cup to Takashige


Sadanao, one of the Hojo generals, was in danger of defeat by Odate Muneuji at the defence of Kamakura, when Homma Saemon, a retainer of the former, who was under arrest for an offence, broke his arrest and galloping into the field, restored the situation by killing the enemy's general, Odate Muneuji. Carrying the head of Muneuji, Saemon presented it to his chief and then disembowelled himself in expiation of his disobedience. Sadanao, crying that his faithful follower should not go unaccompanied to the grave, dashed into the enemy's ranks and fell, covered with wounds.

Ando Shoshu, returning from the successful defence of the eastern approaches to Kamakura on the 5th of July, 1333, found the Government buildings a mass of charred ruins, and being ignorant of the multitude of suicides that had taken place in the cemetery at Tosho-ji, cried out: "The end of a hundred years! How is it that none was found to die the death of fidelity?" Dismounting he prepared to take his own life when a messenger arrived carrying a letter from his niece, the wife of Nitta Yoshisada. This letter counselled surrender. Shoshu exclaimed furiously: "My niece is a samurai's daughter. How could she venture to insult me with words so shameless? And how was it that Yoshisada allowed her to do such a thing?" Then, wrapping the letter round the hilt of his sword, he disembowelled himself.



last act of the Hojo tragedy, which took place in the cemetery of the temple Tosho-ji, showed the fidelity of the samurai character at its best. Among the Kamakura warriors was one Takashige, son of that Nagasaki Takasuke who had made himself notorious by corrupt administration of justice. Takashige, a skilled soldier of enormous physical power, returned from the battle when all hope of beating back Nitta Yoshisada's army had disappeared, and having warned the regent, Takatoki, that the bushi's last resource alone remained, asked for a few moments' respite to strike a final stroke. Followed by a hundred desperate men, he plunged into the thick of the fight and had almost come within reach of Yoshisada when he was forced back. Galloping to Tosho-ji, he found Takatoki and his comrades drinking their farewell cup of sake. Takatoki handed the cup to Takashige, and he, after draining it thrice, as was the samurai's wont, passed it to Settsu Dojun, disembowelled himself, and tore out his intestines. "That gives a fine relish to the wine," cried Dojun, following Takashige's example. Takatoki, being of highest rank, was the last to kill himself.

Eight hundred suicides bore witness to the strength of the creed held by the Kamakura bushi. An eminent Japanese author* writes: "Yoritomo, convinced by observation and experience that the beautiful and the splendid appeal most to human nature, made it his aim to inculcate frugality, to promote military exercises, to encourage loyalty, and to dignify simplicity. Moral education he set before physical. The precepts of bushido he engraved on the heart of the nation and gave to them the honour of a precious heirloom. The Hojo, by exalting bushido, followed the invaluable teaching of the Genji, and supplemented it with the doctrines of Shinto, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Thus every bushi came to believe that the country's fate depended on the spirit of the samurai." Another and more renowned annalist** wrote: "The Hojo, rising from a subordinate position, flourished for nine generations. Their success was due to observing frugality, treating the people with kindness, meting out strict justice, and faithfully obeying the ancestral behest to abstain from seeking high titles." They took the substance and discarded the shadow. The bushido that they developed became a model in later ages, especially in the sixteenth century.

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