Dai-bosatsu Tōge, Book II (1929)

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§.00 Book II of Dai-bosatsu Tōge (Great Bodhisattva Pass) by Kaizan Nakazato (translated by C. S. Bavier), begins directly after Shimada’s decimation of the New Levies at the end of Book I, with Ryunosuke and Hama and their son, Ikutaro, who is yet still a babe (indicating that not much time has passed between the end of Book I, and the beginning of Book II). Tensions have considerably subsided between husband and wife, so much so that Ryunosuke and Hama are introduced singing to the tune of a traveling bard. Their idyll is interrupted by the appearance of a much-agitated Kamo Serizawa, Captain of the Band of New Levies (a organization which Ryunosuke joined in the first volume). Serizawa informs Ryunosuke (now going by the moniker ‘Ryutaro Yoshida’) that Toranosuke Shimada must die for making such a mockery of them, regardless of their own blunder in mistakingly targeting him for assassination. Serizawa then tells Ryunosuke that Bunnojo’s brother, Hyoma, has declared his desire for revenge. Ryunosuke is irked, if only slightly, not because someone wishes to kill him, but because Hyoma’s band makes his return to his homeland more difficult. Unsurprisingly, Hama—who overhears a portion of her husband and Serizawa’s conversation—is deeply distressed.

At the same time as this is occuring, it is revealed that the massive but kindly Yohachi and the spirited and bereaved Matsu (under the guise of ‘Midori’) are still working at the amoral pleasure house of Kamio Mansion. Matsu is so unhappy at the site of debauchery that Yohachi suggests she leave and he go with her. The two then steal away in the night and encounter none other than Yamaokaya of Hongo, Matsu’s Aunt, who is both guilt-stricken and pleased to meet a relation whom she had treated so coldly. Yamaokaya (or Aunt Taki) invites Matsu and Yohachi to her home, a tenement in Sakumacho. While there, Matsu falls gravely ill and Yamaoakaya runs out of money and so conspires to use the ailing Matsu as her cash-cow as Yohachi searches for a doctor. Matsu, being no fool, is fully aware that her aunt is trying to squeeze money out of her, yet, being also abundant in compassion, gives away all of her money. This blind trust (as all blind trust) turns out to be foolhardy as Aunt Taki gives Yohachi the slip and sells Matsu into slavery.

The thief Shichibei, is informed that Matsu gave her previous, wealthy employer the slip and, that she has turned to amorality. Shichibei, knowing that Matsu must have had her reasons, sets out to uncover the truth of the matter.

Not long after this, Hama, fed up with Ryunosuke’s lack of concern for her and the child, demands a divorce. Ryunosuke swiftly agrees and then informs Hama that he has a parting gift for her and tells her he has recieved a challenge from Hyoma Utsuki, her former brother-in-law. Hama, knowing full well that Hyoma stands no chance in a duel with Ryunosuke, and wracked by guilt in recalling the death of Bunnojo, determines to kill her husband in his sleep. However, before she can plunge her dagger into Ryunosuke’s chest, he wakes and wrests her from him; in the broil, a lamp is broken and the house catches fire. Hama, flees, but is swiftly overtaken and begs for mercy. Shortly, she changes her mind, and instead, asks Ryunosuke to kill her, and then allow Hyoma to win the duel. Without a word, Ryunosuke kills his wife as his house and Hama’s babe burns in the distance.

Ryunosuke leaves the area, as Hyoma arrives for their duel, only to find Hama dead. On his rainy travels, Ryunosuke chances upon a young woman who bares a striking resemblance to Hama, who is accosted by unscrupulous palanquin men. In an act of uncommon kindness, Ryunosuke, offers to pay the men to leave her alone; when they still attempt to extort the young woman, Ryunosuke intervenes and scares them off. This event leaves Ryunosuke haunted by thoughts of Hama and whether she caused him to err or whether the reverse was true.

§.01 As with the Book I, the strangely clipped lines which occasionally arise are the chief strike against the work, for in all other regards, it is every bit as fascinating as the preceding volume; for example, lines such as, “I borrow just two ryo out of this” (p. 156), as opposed to the more natural, “I’ll only borrow two ryo out of it/this,” or the more egregious, “Dark the night was it was now near daybreak” (p. 190). It is possible that this was how Nakazato wrote the line in the original manuscript, but seems unlikely; it strikes me as more likely that these oddly clipped lines are products of ‘best-fit’ translation. Regardless of the reason for them, they prove distracting.

§.02 The consistent theme throughout is guilt, and whether or not the feeling of it is justified. Hama, before her final confrontation with Ryunosuke, comes to believe that Bunnojo’s death was her fault, that the sin was, as Ryunosuke says, born out of her evil nature. Though he is correct, he is also to blame for the affair, for it was Ryunosuke who cajoled Hama into infidelity, as well as he that struck the killing blow upon Bunnojo (albeit, in self-defense). Hama’s foolishness is revealed in her suicidal impulses and murder attempt on her husband, as she gives no thought to the life of her child without her care. Her demise does nothing to remedy her betrayal of Bunnojo, and is driven only by the intensely selfish desire to escape from the pain of her guilt. A skillful illustration of the futility of self-destructive escapism.

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