☉ Archival photographs of the city of Edo recently discovered in the Kammerhof Museum in Austria offering brief glimpse into the world where the 47 ronin lived [link here]
☉ A scan of the only known photograph of our narrator Ôhashi Yoshizô, found in the 28 September 1915 issue of Asahi Shinbun, illustrating an article entitled "Last of a Distinguished Lineage: the youngest son of Ôhashi Totsuan who died for his country."
☉ Learning from Shōgun: Japanese History and Western Fantasy edited by Henry Smith, The Program in Asian Studies, University of California Santa Barbara [pdf link here]
☉ A tour around Ako Castle in Ako City, Hyogo Prefecture [video link here]
☉ Edo street life through the four seasons [video link here]
The exquisitely fashioned sprays of pine and bamboo
used as a traditional New Year’s decoration in the
Kantô region of eastern Japan. The origin is describe
in Tokugawa seisei roku as follows:
In Genki 3 (1572), when Ieyasu was young and still went by the name Matsudaira, he fought in a battle against Takeda Shingen, at Mikatagahara, on the last day of the year. Most of the force was defeated by Shingen, but Ieyasu, through a clever stratagem, managed to elude the enemy. That evening, the Takeda sent him an ominously threatening New Year's poem, written entirely in phonetic script:
It was of course intended that the poem be read:
matsu karete / take tagui naki / ashita kana
Come New Year's morn, the Pine (Matsudaira) shall wither and die,
and the Bamboo (Takeda) shall flourish unrivaled.
But Sakai Tadatsugu 酒井忠次 (1527-96), who happened to be with Ieyasu when the poem was delivered, saw that by changing the voicing and the spacing of a few syllables the poem could be given an entirely different meaning:
matsu karede / takeda kubi naki / ashita kana
Come New Year's morn, the Pine shall wither not,
but the Bamboo shall have no heads.
Thus, with appropriately altered diacritics, the poem was sent back to Shingen. And thus, we are told, began the Kantō tradition of decorating one's gate on New Year's Day with arrangements of luxuriant pine boughs and stalks of bamboo from which the leaves have been lopped and the tops sliced off.
☉ Ronin graveyard at Sengakuji on 14 December 2017,
the 315th anniversary of the attack on the Kira
mansion. The flower on each grave was put there by a
group of 47 neighborhood women who perform the
ritual each year. Notice the peanuts left for each
ronin. Photo by Michael Watson