The Samurai’s Tale
by Erik Haugaard
summary by V. Hinkle

 


Preface
p. xiii

How should I begin my story? I must tell my tale simply. The great lords and their armies come and go, but farmers will always plant the rice that feeds all men. My father was a samurai who died in war. My story begins on the day when I lost my family and my name, Murakami. I was four years old.
 

Chapter 1: In Blood We Are All Born
p. 1

One day my mother dressed me in a servant’s clothes. She had tears in her eyes because my father had just died, and Lord Takeda Shingen, the conqueror, was coming. She told our servant girl Yone to hide with me in in the storehouse.

When the soldiers came, they found me and Yone. A soldier brought me to the leader. I saw my mother and brothers dead. When I held up my bamboo sword to defend myself, the officers laughed. Lord Takeda gave me as a servant to his officer Lord Akiyama, who named me Taro.
 

Chapter 2: The Journey to Kofuchu
p. 9

In the morning, we had to march with the army. My feet hurt, so the soldier let me ride a horse. After four days, we came to the town of Kofuchu. There Lord Takeda ruled the province of Kai from his castle. Lord Akiyama lived in a mansion. The soldier brought me to Lord Akiyama’s cookhouse.
 

Chapter 3: The “Dog” Taro
p. 17

I never saw Yone again. My new job was to help Togan, the cook. He was a kind teacher. He taught me many jobs in the kitchen. More important, he taught me wisdom.

When I was eleven, Lord Takeda’s son had an archery contest. I forgot that I was a poor servant, and walked out into the field. Another servant stopped me. I ran away ashamed. I was not content to be a servant!


The Samurai’s Tale


 
 

Chapter 4: The Death of Togan
p. 23

Death is natural, but Togan’s death came too soon. One day, he took me to watch a wrestling match. A drunken bully insulted him and hit him, then stabbed him.
Just then, Lord Akiyama came and arrested the bully. Afterward, I asked Lord Akiyama to let me work with his horses, and he agreed.
 

Chapter 5: The Stable-boy Taro
p. 32

I became the youngest stable boy. Another boy, Jiro, often bullied me. But I was better with the horses, and soon I ranked higher than Jiro.
 

Chapter 6: A Night at Toko-ji Temple
p. 40

One night, when I was fourteen, Lord Akiyama ordered me to saddle two horses. I was to ride with the prince, Takeda Katsuyori, but not to tell about it. We rode in the dark to Toko-ji Temple. There I waited patiently, but in fear of the place. Lord Takeda’s older son Yoshinobu was imprisoned there, because he had joined a rebellion against his father. Finally, Prince Katsuyori came out silently and we returned home.

Next morning, we heard that Prince Yoshinobu committed suicide. I wondered if Katsuyori had helped him, or executed him.
 

Chapter 7: Zazen
p. 48

The next year, I decided to practice Zen meditation in the temple. The reason was not serious religion. Really, I wanted to be near other samurai who practiced meditation, because I wanted to become a samurai some day.

One day, I was recognized by two samurai from the night at Toko-ji Temple. They were on Prince Yoshinobu’s side, and hated Prince Katsuyori. They threatened me. Now rebels were dangerous, so I wanted to tell Lord Akiyama. He was away at Iida Castle in Shinano province. Lord Akiyama’s father sent me to Iida Castle.


The Samurai’s Tale


 
 

Chapter 8: On the Road
p. 57

As I left for Iida Castle, I wrote a poem about morning mist. On the road, people thought I was the son of a samurai. This made me feel proud.

On the way, I stayed at an inn. Other travelers were discussing the power of the Shogun. Who would be next? Would it be Lord Takeda, or Lord Oda? Soon a war would decide who would rule Japan, and I hoped it would be Lord Takeda. Then my master and I would both become great men.
 

Chapter 9: Iida Castle
p. 64

Lord Akiyama gave me a job as a messenger. His other messengers were older and higher class. Although I had to act humble with them, I knew that I was closer to my dream of becoming a samurai.

A new friend, Yoshitoki, advised me how to behave. I told him about my life and my ambition.

Chapter 10: Yoshitoki
p. 70

When I was fifteen, Lord Akiyama went to battle with Lord Takeda. He took most of his samurai, but not me or Yoshitoki. I was angry, but Yoshitoki said we were lucky. “Some will come back heroes, but others will get only a grave.” We were free to hunt and fish.

One day we were told to carry a message to Lord Takeda’s castle. Yoshitoki and I proudly rode horses and carried swords. On the second day, two monks asked to travel with us. However, they were really bandits, and they tried to rob us. We escaped, excited by our adventure.

Chapter 11: In the House of a Ghost
p. 77

That night we stayed in a small mountain hut. Our host was an old man. He cooked our dinner and told our fortunes. Later, on our return journey, the old hut was an empty ruin. Was the old man a human or a ghost?


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Chapter 12: A Name, a Name!
p. 84

The next year, Lord Akiyama went to battle again. He took Yoshitoki but not me. I wanted to be a samurai with a man’s name, instead of just “Taro.” When Lord Akiyama returned, he finally gave me a name. Now I was Murakami Harutomo. Then he gave me a sword as a gift.

Chapter 13: Rumors of War
p. 90

People often said that Lord Takeda Shingen would march to Kyoto and rule Japan. Other lords wanted to be ruler too. Some said he had to defeat Lord Uesugi first. His biggest enemy, though, was Lord Oda Nobunaga. Lord Oda was merciless to his enemies. He had even attacked a temple and killed all the warrior monks there.

I was eighteen now, and I wanted to fight in the next battle. So far, I had a sword, but no armor or helmet.

Chapter 14: Master of Rice
p. 95

Lord Akiyama gave me duties in his army, but not as a soldier. I would aid Wada Kansuke, the leader of the baggage train. Yoshitoki offered to trade my job for his helmet. Even if Lord Takeda won the war, he said, some soldiers would die.

Chapter 15: The Thief
p. 102

My captain Wada Kansuke warned me to guard the supplies carefully, and to kill anyone who stole rice. Without rice, the army couldn’t fight. Then one night, an old man caught one of my guards stealing. I didn’t kill him, but I made him carry a double load of rice, and gave his job to Yoichi, the old man who caught him.

Chapter 16: The Ronin Bandit
p. 109

We were now marching in Mino province, which was ruled by Oda Nobunaga. We had to guard against attacks. I checked the end of the line. There I found a loaded pack horse and a man in armor. He was a ronin, a samurai without a master. I attacked and wounded him. However, he wouldn’t surrender. He was loyal to Lord Obu, who was once the enemy of Lord Takeda and his son Katsuyori. Instead, he committed suicide.


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Chapter 17: I Gain a Helmet
p. 118

When he died, the ronin wanted me to receive his helmet. It was a fine helmet. The ronin’s head was buried with honor, because he remained loyal to his lord. I thought about my first victory. Before I attacked, I felt excited, but afterward … sorry.

Chapter 18: The Strategy of War
p. 124
We were going to attack Iwamura Castle. First, Lord Akiyama burned the nearby villages, so the peasants went to the castle for shelter. Many hungry guests made the castle harder to defend.

A samurai offered me money for some rice to brew sake, rice wine. I refused. I wouldn’t sell my Lord’s rice any more than a samurai would sell his Lord’s sword. Even though most samurai respected me now, I still wasn’t satisfied.

Chapter 19: The Ninja
p. 131

The siege of Iwamura Castle continued. We would wait for them to get hungry. We kept busy with supplies. Late one night, a ninja visited Kansuke. He was a spy with good news. The lord of the castle had died, and his wife Lady Toyama was in charge.

Chapter 20: A Trap Is Laid
p. 138

Lord Akiyama ordered a retreat, but a false one. A few soldiers would stay in sight, and more would hide. He hoped the castle defenders would come out and attack. The samurai would draw them away from the castle walls. Then we would surround and defeat them.

Chapter 21: A Sortie of Death
p. 145

I was chosen to stay with twenty of my supply men. Then I realized that we would surely die when our samurai drew back. My peasants were only pawns in a game of chess! Instead, I planned to save their lives. We ran to a small hill and fought the attackers until Lord Akiyama returned and defeated them. As a reward for my small victory, Lord Akiyama gave me a suit of armor.


The Samurai’s Tale


 
 

Chapter 22: Iwamura Is Ours
p. 154

Lord Akiyama offered peace to Iwamura Castle if Lady Toyama would surrender and marry him. She agreed. We moved our men and supplies into the castle.

Chapter 23: In Search of Supplies
p. 161

Lord Akiyama fed everyone, to show he had come not to destroy the castle but to become its lord. Winter had come, and I was sent to buy more food. On my return, I learned that the Takeda army had won another battle against Lord Tokugawa. However, we worried that Lord Takeda Shingen was in bad health.

Chapter 24: Aki-hime
p. 169

I saw a beautiful girl and learned she was the daughter of Lord Zakoji, a respectable old samurai. Her name was Aki-hime. I dreamed I could become wealthy enough to marry her.

My friend Yoshitoki and I were chosen to guard Lord Zakoji on a visit to Lord Takeda. He was going to ask permission for the wedding of my master and Lady Toyama. I hoped they were in love.

Chapter 25: Lord Takeda Shingen
p. 175

Lord Takeda agreed to the wedding. He also remembered capturing me as a child, and was pleased with my success. He was very sick, and might die soon. However, his son Takeda Katsuyori was not well respected as a leader.

Chapter 26: A Poem for Aki-hime
p. 182

During this trip, I also had the chance to become known to Lord Zakoji. I didn’t dare ask him about his daughter, but I confessed to Yoshitoki and my servant Yoichi. With Yoichi’s help, I sent a poem to Aki-hime. When she answered it, I hoped to win her and wrote again.


The Samurai’s Tale


 
 

Chapter 27: Lord Zakoji’s Proposal
p. 189

Lord Takeda’s death was kept secret, so his enemies wouldn’t invade. Not everyone believed that Katsuyori could rule Kai.

Lord Zakoji spoke to me. He had no son, and wanted his daughter to marry a man who would adopt the Zakoji name. I was thrilled. Maybe I would become Lord Zakoji’s son. I wrote many poems to Aki-hime.

Chapter 28: The Hunting Party
p. 194

A year passed without encouragement from Lord Zakoji. I asked Wada Kansuke to speak for me, but he told me to wait for a better time.

Meanwhile, Lord Katsuyori lost Nagashino Castle to Lord Tokugawa. One thousand soldiers were sent to fight with Katsuyori. Both my captain Kansuke and my friend Yoshitoki left, and I never saw them again.

Chapter 29: Lord Zakoji Becomes a Priest
p. 202

That winter, I felt alone. I wrote to Aki-hime, but her father Lord Zakoji sent for me. He believed that Lord Katsuyori would lose his battle, and Lord Oda would rule. So Lord Zakoji was preparing for the next life. He wanted his daughter to pray, too. He told me not to write to her until the war ended.

Lord Katsuyori was defeated completely, and now Lord Oda’s army was coming to attack Iwamura Castle.

Chapter 30: The Siege of Iwamura Castle
p. 207

As we waited for Oda’s attack, a samurai told me about the defeat at Nagashino. Oda’s army had guns, but Katsuyori ordered his men to attack again and again. Most of them were killed.

Now we were outnumbered. Lord Akiyama sent me to ask Lord Katsuyori for help. If he arrived before Oda sent more soldiers, we might win.


The Samurai’s Tale


 
 

Chapter 31: I Leave Iwamura Castle
p. 212

Before I left, I wanted to see Aki-hime. We met secretly for a few minutes, and I said that I loved her.

Lord Akiyama gave me two letters: one for his father and one for Lord Katsuyori. He didn’t want to die, but he would be loyal to his lord.

Chapter 32: Takeda Katsuyori
p. 217

I reached Lord Akiyama’s father, who asked me about his son. Lord Katsuyori received my lord’s letter, but gave me no answer.

Chapter 33: The Ninja Again
p. 223

I stayed with Lord Akiyama’s father while I waited for an answer. I finally learned Lord Katsuyori’s decision from the ninja. No help was coming. Lord Akiyama should surrender or bargain with Lord Oda. I rode back to Iwamura Castle as fast as possible, but I was too late. Iwamura was captured.

Chapter 34: The End of the Tale
p. 230

I dressed as a poor peasant and carried a sack of charcoal into town. I found my master’s dead body and bowed in respect. Lady Akiyama’s head was on display too. But I couldn’t find Aki-hime. Suddenly Yoichi found me. He took me to where Aki-hime was hiding. The three of us escaped safely to Kofuchu.

The story of my youth, the orphan boy who became a samurai, ended with the death of my master. Yet I found peace in my love for Aki-hime.