The word Otokodaté occurs several times in these
Tales; and as I cannot convey its full meaning by a simple
translation, I must preserve it in the text, explaining it by
the following note, taken from the Japanese of a native
The Otokodaté were friendly associations of brave men
bound together by an obligation to stand by one another in weal
or in woe, regardless of their own lives, and without inquiring
into one another's antecedents. A bad man, however, having
joined the Otokodaté must forsake his evil ways; for
their principle was to treat the oppressor as an enemy, and to
help the feeble as a father does his child. If they had money,
they gave it to those that had none, and their charitable deeds
won for them the respect of all men. The head of the society
was called its "Father"; if any of the others, who were his
apprentices, were homeless, they lived with the Father and
served him, paying him at the same time a small fee, in
consideration of which, if they fell sick or into misfortune,
he took charge of them and assisted them.
The Father of the Otokodaté pursued the calling of
farming out coolies to the Daimios and great personages for
their journeys to and from Yedo, and in return for this
received from them rations in rice. He had more influence with
the lower classes even than the officials; and if the coolies
had struck work or refused to accompany a Daimio on his
journey, a word from the Father would produce as many men as
might be required. When Prince Tokugawa Iyémochi, the
last but one of the Shoguns, left Yedo for Kiôto, one
Shimmon Tatsugorô, chief of the Otokodaté,
undertook the management of his journey, and some three or four
years ago was raised to the dignity of Hatamoto for many
faithful services. After the battle of Fushimi, and the
abolition of the Shogunate, he accompanied the last of the
Shoguns in his retirement.
In old days there were also Otokodaté among the
Hatamotos; this was after the civil wars of the time of
Iyéyasu, when, though the country was at peace, the
minds of men were still in a state of high excitement, and
could not be reconciled to the dulness of a state of rest; it
followed that broils and faction fights were continually taking
place among the young men of the Samurai class, and that those
who distinguished themselves by their
personal strength and valour
were looked up to as captains. Leagues after the manner of
those existing among the German students were formed in
different quarters of the city, under various names, and
used to fight for the honour of victory. When the country
became more thoroughly tranquil, the custom of forming these
leagues amongst gentlemen fell into disuse.
The past tense is used in speaking even of the
Otokodaté of the lower classes; for although they
nominally exist, they have no longer the power and importance
which they enjoyed at the time to which these stories belong.
They then, like the 'prentices of Old London, played a
considerable part in the society of the great cities, and that
man was lucky, were he gentle Samurai or simple wardsman, who
could claim the Father of the Otokodaté for his
The word, taken by itself, means a manly or plucky
Chôbei of Bandzuin was the chief of the
Otokodaté of Yedo. He was originally called Itarô,
and was the son of a certain Rônin who lived in the
country. One day, when he was only ten years of age, he went
out with a playfellow to bathe in the river; and as the two
were playing they quarrelled over their game, and Itarô,
seizing the other boy, threw him into the river and drowned
Then he went home, and said to his father—
"I went to play by the river to-day, with a friend; and as
he was rude to me, I threw him into the water and killed
When his father heard him speak thus, quite calmly, as if
nothing had happened, he was thunderstruck, and said—
"This is indeed a fearful thing. Child as you are, you will
have to pay the penalty of your deed; so to-night you must fly
to Yedo in secret, and take service with some noble Samurai,
and perhaps in time you may become a soldier yourself."
With these words he gave him twenty ounces of silver and a
fine sword, made by the famous swordsmith Rai Kunitoshi, and
sent him out of the province with all dispatch. The following
morning the parents of the murdered child came to claim that
Itarô should be given up to their vengeance; but it was
too late, and all they could do was to bury their child and
mourn for his loss.
Itarô made his way to Yedo in hot haste, and there
found employment as a shop-boy; but soon tiring of that sort of
life, and burning to become a soldier, he found means at last
to enter the service of a certain Hatamoto called Sakurai
Shôzayémon, and changed his name to
Tsunéhei. Now this Sakurai Shôzayémon had a
son, called Shônosuké, a young man in his
seventeenth year, who grew so fond of Tsunéhei that he
took him with him wherever he went, and treated him in all ways
as an equal.
When Shônosuké went to the fencing-school
Tsunéhei would accompany him, and thus, as he was by
nature strong and active, soon became a good
One day, when Shôzayémon had gone out, his son
Shônosuké said to Tsunéhei—
"You know how fond my father is of playing at football: it
must be great sport. As he has gone out to-day, suppose you and
I have a game?"
"That will be rare sport," answered Tsunéhei. "Let us
make haste and play, before my lord comes home."
So the two boys went out into the garden, and began trying
to kick the football; but, lacking skill, do what they would,
they could not lift it from the ground. At last
Shônosuké, with a vigorous kick, raised the
football; but, having missed his aim, it went tumbling over the
wall into the next garden, which belonged to one Hikosaka
Zempachi, a teacher of lance exercise, who was known to be a
surly, ill-tempered fellow.
"Oh, dear! what shall we do?" said Shônosuké.
"We have lost my father's football in his absence; and if we go
and ask for it back from that churlish neighbour of ours, we
shall only be scolded and sworn at for our pains."
"Oh, never mind," answered Tsunéhei; "I will go and
apologize for our carelessness, and get the football back."
"Well, but then you will be chidden, and I don't want
"Never mind me. Little care I for his cross words." So
Tsunéhei went to the next-door house to reclaim the
Now it so happened that Zempachi, the surly neighbour, had
been walking in his garden whilst the two youths were playing;
and as he was admiring the beauty of his favourite
chrysanthemums, the football came flying over the wall and
struck him full in the face. Zempachi, not used to anything but
flattery and coaxing, flew into a violent rage at this; and
while he was thinking how he would revenge himself upon any one
who might be sent to ask for the lost ball, Tsunéhei
came in, and said to one of Zempachi's servants—
"I am sorry to say that in my lord's absence I took his
football, and, in trying to play with it, clumsily kicked it
over your wall. I beg you to excuse my carelessness, and to be
so good as to give me back the ball."
The servant went in and repeated this to Zempachi, who
worked himself up into a great rage, and ordered
Tsunéhei to be brought before him, and said—
"Here, fellow, is your name Tsunéhei?"
"Yes, sir, at your service. I am almost afraid to ask pardon
for my carelessness; but please forgive me, and let me have the
"I thought your master, Shôzayémon, was to
blame for this; but it seems that it was you who kicked the
"Yes, sir. I am sure I am very sorry for what I have done.
Please, may I ask for the ball?" said Tsunéhei, bowing
For a while Zempachi made no answer, but at length he
"Do you know, villain, that your dirty football struck me in
the face? I ought, by rights,
to kill you on the spot for this; but I will spare your life
this time, so take your football and be off." And with that
he went up to Tsunéhei and beat him, and kicked him
in the head, and spat in his face.
Then Tsunéhei, who up to that time had demeaned
himself very humbly, in his eagerness to get back the football,
jumped up in a fury, and said—
"I made ample apologies to you for my carelessness, and now
you have insulted and struck me. Ill-mannered ruffian! take
back the ball,—I'll none of it;" and he drew his dirk,
and cutting the football in two, threw it at Zempachi, and
But Zempachi, growing more and more angry, called one of his
servants, and said to him—
"That fellow, Tsunéhei, has been most insolent: go
next door and find out Shôzayémon, and tell him
that I have ordered you to bring back Tsunéhei, that I
may kill him."
So the servant went to deliver the message.
In the meantime Tsunéhei went back to his master's
house; and when Shônosuké saw him, he
"Well, of course you have been ill treated; but did you get
back the football?"
"When I went in, I made many apologies; but I was beaten,
and kicked in the head, and treated with the greatest
indignity. I would have killed that wretch, Zempachi, at once,
but that I knew that, if I did so while I was yet a member of
your household, I should bring trouble upon your family. For
your sake I bore this ill-treatment patiently; but now I pray
you let me take leave of you and become a Rônin, that I
may be revenged upon this man."
"Think well what you are doing," answered
Shônosuké. "After all, we have only lost a
football; and my father will not care, nor upbraid us."
But Tsiméhei would not listen to him, and was bent
upon wiping out the affront that he had received. As they were
talking, the messenger arrived from Zempachi, demanding the
surrender of Tsunéhei, on the ground that he had
insulted him: to this Shônosuké replied that his
father was away from home, and that in his absence he could do
At last Shôzayémon came home; and when he heard
what had happened he was much grieved, and at a loss what to
do, when a second messenger arrived from Zempachi, demanding
that Tsunéhei should be given up without delay. Then
Shôzayémon, seeing that the matter was serious,
called the youth to him, and said—
"This Zempachi is heartless and cruel, and if you go to his
house will assuredly kill you; take, therefore, these fifty
riyos, and fly to Osaka or Kiôto, where you may safely
set up in business."
"Sir," answered Tsunéhei, with tears of gratitude for
his lord's kindness, "from my heart I thank you for your great
goodness; but I have been insulted and
trampled upon, and, if I lay down my life in the attempt, I
will repay Zempachi for what he has this day done."
"Well, then, since you needs must be revenged, go and fight,
and may success attend you! Still, as much depends upon the
blade you carry, and I fear yours is likely to be but a sorry
weapon, I will give you a sword;" and with this he offered
Tsunéhei his own.
"Nay, my lord," replied Tsunéhei; "I have a famous
sword, by Rai Kunitoshi, which my father gave me. I have never
shown it to your lordship, but I have it safely stowed away in
When Shôzayémon saw and examined the sword, he
admired it greatly, and said, "This is indeed a beautiful
blade, and one on which you may rely. Take it, then, and bear
yourself nobly in the fight; only remember that Zempachi is a
cunning spearsman, and be sure to be very cautious."
So Tsunéhei, after thanking his lord for his manifold
kindnesses, took an affectionate leave, and went to Zempachi's
house, and said to the servant—
"It seems that your master wants to speak to me. Be so good
as to take me to see him."
So the servant led him into the garden, where Zempachi,
spear in hand, was waiting to kill him. When Zempachi saw him,
he cried out—
"Ha! so you have come back; and now for your insolence, this
day I mean to kill you with my own hand."
"Insolent yourself!" replied Tsunéhei. "Beast, and no
Samurai! Come, let us see which of us is the better man."
Furiously incensed, Zempachi thrust with his spear at
Tsunéhei; but he, trusting to his good sword, attacked
Zempachi, who, cunning warrior as he was, could gain no
advantage. At last Zempachi, losing his temper, began fighting
less carefully, so that Tsunéhei found an opportunity of
cutting the shaft of his spear. Zempachi then drew his sword,
and two of his retainers came up to assist him; but
Tsunéhei killed one of them, and wounded Zempachi in the
forehead. The second retainer fled affrighted at the youth's
valour, and Zempachi was blinded by the blood which flowed from
the wound on his forehead. Then Tsunéhei said—
"To kill one who is as a blind man were unworthy a soldier.
Wipe the blood from your eyes, Sir Zempachi, and let us fight
it out fairly."
So Zempachi, wiping away his blood, bound a kerchief round
his head, and fought again desperately. But at last the pain of
his wound and the loss of blood overcame him, and
Tsunéhei cut him down with a wound in the shoulder and
easily dispatched him.
Then Tsunéhei went and reported the whole matter to
the Governor of Yedo, and was put in prison until an inquiry
could be made. But the Chief Priest of Bandzuin, who had heard
of the affair, went and told the
governor all the bad deeds of Zempachi, and having procured
Tsunéhei's pardon, took him home and employed him as
porter in the temple. So Tsunéhei changed his name to
Chôbei, and earned much respect in the neighbourhood,
both for his talents and for his many good works. If any man
were in distress, he would help him, heedless of his own
advantage or danger, until men came to look up to him as to
a father, and many youths joined him and became his
apprentices. So he built a house at Hanakawado, in Asakusa,
and lived there with his apprentices, whom he farmed out as
spearsmen and footmen to the Daimios and Hatamotos, taking
for himself the tithe of their earnings. But if any of them
were sick or in trouble, Chôbei would nurse and
support them, and provide physicians and medicine. And the
fame of his goodness went abroad until his apprentices were
more than two thousand men, and were employed in every part
of the city. But as for Chôbei, the more he prospered,
the more he gave in charity, and all men praised his good
and generous heart.
This was the time when the Hatamotos had formed themselves
into bands of Otokodaté,21
of which Midzuno Jiurozayémon, Kondô
Noborinosuké, and Abé Shirogorô were the
chiefs. And the leagues of the nobles despised the leagues
of the wardsmen, and treated them with scorn, and tried to
put to shame Chôbei and his brave men; but the nobles'
weapons recoiled upon themselves, and, whenever they tried
to bring contempt upon Chôbei, they themselves were
brought to ridicule. So there was great hatred on both
One day, that Chôbei went to divert himself in a
tea-house in the Yoshiwara, he saw a felt carpet spread in an
upper room, which had been adorned as for some special
occasion; and he asked the master of the house what guest of
distinction was expected. The landlord replied that my Lord
Jiurozayémon, the chief of the Otokodaté of the
Hatamotos, was due there that afternoon. On hearing this,
Chôbei replied that as he much wished to meet my Lord
Jiurozayémon, he would lie down and await his coming.
The landlord was put out at this, and knew not what to say; but
yet he dare not thwart Chôbei, the powerful chief of the
Otokodaté. So Chôbei took off his clothes and laid
himself down upon the carpet. After a while my Lord
Jiurozayémon arrived, and going upstairs found a man of
large stature lying naked upon the carpet which had been spread
"What low ruffian is this?" shouted he angrily to the
"My lord, it is Chôbei, the chief of the
Otokodaté," answered the man, trembling.
Jiurozayémon at once suspected that Chôbei was
doing this to insult him; so he sat down by the side of the
sleeping man, and lighting his pipe began to smoke. When he had
finished his pipe, he emptied the burning ashes into
Chôbei's navel; but Chôbei,
patiently bearing the pain,
still feigned sleep. Ten times did Jiurozayémon fill
and ten times he shook out the burning ashes on to
Chôbei's navel; but he neither stirred nor spoke. Then
Jiurozayémon, astonished at his fortitude, shook him,
and roused him, saying—
"Chôbei! Chôbei! wake up, man."
"What is the matter?" said Chôbei, rubbing his eyes as
though he were awaking from a deep sleep; then seeing
Jiurozayémon, he pretended to be startled, and said,
"Oh, my lord, I know not who you are; but I have been very rude
to your lordship. I was overcome with wine, and fell asleep: I
pray your lordship to forgive me."
"Is your name Chôbei?"
"Yes, my lord, at your service. A poor wardsman, and
ignorant of good manners, I have been very rude; but I pray
your lordship to excuse my ill-breeding."
"Nay, nay; we have all heard the fame of Chôbei, of
Bandzuin, and I hold myself lucky to have met you this day. Let
us be friends."
"It is a great honour for a humble wardsman to meet a
nobleman face to face."
As they were speaking, the waitresses brought in fish and
wine, and Jiurozayémon pressed Chôbei to feast
with him; and thinking to annoy Chôbei, offered him a
which, however, he drank without shrinking, and then
returned to his entertainer, who was by no means so well
able to bear the fumes of the wine. Then Jiurozayémon
hit upon another device for annoying Chôbei, and,
hoping to frighten him, said—
"Here, Chôbei, let me offer you some fish;" and with
those words he drew his sword, and, picking up a cake of baked
fish upon the point of it, thrust it towards the wardsman's
mouth. Any ordinary man would have been afraid to accept the
morsel so roughly offered; but Chôbei simply opened his
mouth, and taking the cake off the sword's point ate it without
wincing. Whilst Jiurozayémon was wondering in his heart
what manner of man this was, that nothing could daunt,
Chôbei said to him—
"This meeting with your lordship has been an auspicious
occasion to me, and I would fain ask leave to offer some humble
gift to your lordship in memory of it.24
Is there anything which your lordship would specially
"I am very fond of cold macaroni."
"Then I shall have the honour of ordering some for your
lordship;" and with this Chôbei went downstairs, and
calling one of his apprentices, named
who was waiting for him, gave him a hundred riyos (about
£28), and bade him collect all the cold macaroni to be
found in the neighbouring cook-shops and pile it up in front
of the tea-house. So Gombei went home, and, collecting
Chôbei's apprentices, sent them out in all directions
to buy the macaroni. Jiurozayémon all this while was
thinking of the pleasure he would have in laughing at
Chôbei for offering him a mean and paltry present; but
when, by degrees, the macaroni began to be piled
mountain-high around the tea-house, he saw that he could not
make a fool of Chôbei, and went home discomfited.
It has already been told how Shirai Gompachi was befriended
and helped by Chôbei.26
His name will occur again in this story.