Translation Works
The 1st Selected Works
TITLE
The Bamboo Sword and Other Samurai Tales
(Fujisawa Shuhei tanpenshu)
AUTHOR
Translator
ENGLISH / Gavin Frew published
Originally Published by:
Rippu Shobo (1976)
KEY POINTS
  • "The Bamboo Sword," the story behind the movie The Twilight Samurai, directed by Yoji Yamada, is Shuhei Fujisawa's masterpiece
SYNOPSIS
A collection of the best short stories of Shuhei Fujisawa, a virtuoso writer of period fiction
 
Seeking employment, the masterless samurai Oguro Tanjuro goes with a recommendation letter and his wife to visit Tsugé Hachirozaemon, leader of the Unasaka domain, but Tsugé is unfortunately away on a four-to-five-day trip. Oguro decides to lodge at an inn and await Tsugé's return.
In fact, Tsugé's samurai recruitment program has already ended some time ago, in the course of which he has hired about five new samurai. However, Tsugé's wife, having met Oguro and seen the tattered and patched state of the Oguro family's apparel, takes pity on them, showing them a lodging place and passing Oguro a package of old clothes.
Several days later, Tsugé meets Oguro and explains that the recruitment program has ended and that he has no plans to hire additional samurai. He also mentions that the source of Oguro's recommendation letter is a man he has met only a couple of times 20 years previously and with whom he has no personal relationship. But seeing Oguro's dejected appearance, Tsugé cannot help feeling vaguely uneasy and decides to find Oguro a place of employment. Oguro, therefore, continues to stay at the inn while waiting for word from Tsugé, but he has no money to pay for the cost of his lodging and it becomes necessary for him to sell his precious sword.
After a while, the long-awaited good news from Tsugé arrives. The government has decreed an execution, and Tsugé has recommended Oguro for the job. If he is successful, he will be able to claim a reward of a 70-koku domain. Oguro accepts the execution job and hurries to the home of the condemned person, Yogo Zenzaemon.
Oguro opens the gate of Yogo's house and walks into the courtyard to find Yogo sitting on his porch. Yogo explains that he dislikes samurai duties and plans to return to his hometown to become a farmer, pleading with Oguro to overlook his transgression and let him go.
Responding to Yogo's frankness, Oguro explains that he has sold his precious long sword to pay for his accommodation at the inn and shows Yogo the bamboo sword he now has in its place. On discovering that Oguro's long sword is made of bamboo, Yogo suddenly grabs his own sword and comes slashing at Yogo with it, but is cut deeply in the chest by Oguro's short sword. ("The Bamboo Sword")
 
GENRE: Period fiction
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2018 International Translation Forum on Contemporary Japanese LiteratureJLPP Translation Workshop 2018