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Kira Yoshinaka-Victim Of The Media :P?

 
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Tatsunoshi
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2007 8:30 pm    Post subject: Kira Yoshinaka-Victim Of The Media :P? Reply with quote
Let’s look at the much-maligned object of Asano’s impetuous assault, Lord Kira Kosuke Yoshinaka. Traditionally, Lord Kira has been heavily vilified by novels, plays, and prints to lend justification to Asano’s assault and also to give the Ronin a worthy villain against which to carry out their vendetta. But how much of this, if any, is based on historical fact? Kira’s contemporary, Sato Naotaka, has pointed out that “while Asano’s conduct was justified (by some) on account of evil-doing that people attributed to Kira, it still left open the question of whether this view of Kira was indeed supported by fact”.
The picture that arises from the historical record is that of a rather typical Edo period samurai/bureaucrat, little better or worse than his peers whose ‘big mistake’ was in being assigned Asano as a student.
Kira had served the Shogunate in matters of ceremony for about 40 years, having been part of a group of families called koke (‘high families’) that had been responsible for ceremonial matters from the start of the Tokugawa period. His family was descended from the Ashikaga branch of the Seiwa Genji and was distantly related to the Mikawa Tokugawa. As with many hatamoto, Kira’s status was high but his income low (4200 koku). Kira was highly regarded by the Shogunate and at age 22 was given the duty of congratulating Emperor Reigen on his succession., for which he was praised by the Shogunate and bestowed with lower 4th court rank by the Emperor. Kira’s one year old son was also made successor to Uesugi Tsunakatsu (Kira’s brother-in-law, who had died without an heir). Ronin supporters have stated that Kira had poisoned Uesugi, but there is no historical evidence to support this claim and does not appear to have been an issue at the time. Kira was further honored when his son (now Uesugi Tsunanori) was permitted to marry the sister of Tsunayoshi’s son in law. Kira continued to receive promotions and successfully served Tsunayoshi, a rather demanding ruler, for twenty years. Kira was remembered fondly by many in his hometown as he was responsible for building many public works.
The biggest charge made against Kira seems to be that he expected expensive gifts from Asano (or as Murdoch terms it without any supporting evidence, ‘had an itch in his palm’) and, not having received any, proceeded to belittle and withhold information from the Ako daimyo. However, there exists no contemporary evidence whatsoever that Kira was angered over not receiving gifts, and for that matter, that Asano failed to present him with any in the first place. The charge of Kira insisting on bribes first appears in Gijin Roku and its author, the philosopher Muro Kyuso, also invents a fictional encounter between Kira and Asano where Kira refers to the Ako lord as a ‘country bumpkin’. Bito Masahide and other Japanese scholars have called Gijin Roku “filled with inaccuracies” and “the information he (Muro) was able to obtain already consisted of fictional elements”. The stories in Gijin Roku were eagerly accepted by playwrights and novelists and became accepted over time as fact. Tokutomi, who generally looked for primary source material, could only find Tokugawa Jikki as a source for Kira’s ‘evil’ conduct. This work was written over a century after the event and lacks any sort of historical foundation, being instead the opinions of the book’s compiler.
Having said that, there can be little doubt that Kira did expect gifts from Asano. Gift giving to gain favor was an accepted part of Tokugawa society (and still is in Japanese business circles) from the Shogun on down. Bodart-Bailey has an excellent summary of the practice:”Then as now in Japanese culture it is a form of payment for services rendered or hoped for where no formal system of remuneration exists”. It was an important way for samurai of lower income to supplement their incomes from their wealthier charges (and unlike the popular depiction, Kira was not a rich man-his income was less than 10% of Asano’s). Unlike modern times, Kira could not simply set a fee for his role as teacher-it would be up to Asano to show his appreciation by giving him gifts. IF Asano did not give Kira gifts (and the record does not show that), Kira likely would have been angry at the implied insult-as would any other daimyo in a similar position. As Bodart-Bailey states, “No doubt Kira knew well how to use his monopoly on essential ceremonial knowledge to boost his meager income, and he might well have been unpopular and considered greedy by some” but also states “it seems arbitrary to label the gifts one official expected within this framework as graft”. No doubt Asano was more than pleased to receive gifts from retainers and those seeking to win favor himself.
Kira left himself open to charges of cowardice after failing to defend himself against Asano’s rather ineffectual assault. He was mocked and shunned by his fellows (almost as much as Asano was mocked for screwing up the assault), and even his own family found him an embarrassment. This act of cowardice likely spared his life for the time being-it made Asano’s assault an act of unilateral misconduct rather than an argument between retainers, where Kira likely would also have been ordered to commit suicide.
Eventually, Kira was sent away by his son as an embarrassment. Unable to afford adequate security with his meager income (with only 3-5 armed guards at his mansion on the night of the attack), Kira became a fish in a barrel just waiting for the expected assault. In the aftermath, while there was debate among the bakufu in what to do with the Ronin, they were unanimous in condemning Kira’s family for failing to adequately protect him (including his stepson, who was gravely wounded defending Kira).
In summary, it appears Kira was nothing more than a typical Edo bureaucrat who expected his traditional due-not the evil, lustful, grasping villain (who no doubt in the US would have a Snidely Whiplash mustache) he is commonly portrayed as. Again, Bodart-Bailey gives an excellent overview by stating “Lauding the slaying of Kira meant praising an act of breaking the law. Hence Kira’s vilification was necessary to justify such illegal behavior as being provoked by an even worse state of affairs”.
For more on the whole Ronin story, Bodart-Bailey recommends a series of articles in Monumenta Nipponica from 2003 that ‘provide thorough treatment of both the event itself and the historical literature it generated’, which she seems to consider the first well-informed and serious discussion of the event in English (“In English the emphasis has been for many years on the stage performance rather than on the historical event”, and “the blurring of fact and fiction-or rather fiction taken as fact”). I have to say I agree with her.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2007 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
This is fascinating stuff! And it even has the makings of a wiki article, no less Just Kidding

There seems to be a lot of info out there that isn't noticed much. Neat stuff.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
This is just a little note about Kira:

In 1699 he stayed at the Ishikawa honjin in Okitsu (in Suruga on the Tokaido). "Lord Kira praised the rice cakes and ordered them sent to all his men, including those [spending the night in] the Minaguchi-ya."

From Statler's Japanese Inn. There is a lot of fiction in the book, but since Statler specifically said the Ishikawa records were one of his sources, it is probably fact.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote: Tokutomi, who generally looked for primary source material, could only find Tokugawa Jikki as a source for Kira’s ‘evil’ conduct. This work was written over a century after the event and lacks any sort of historical foundation, being instead the opinions of the book’s compiler.

Where from the Tokugawa Jikki was he quoting and what did it say? The parts of the Tokugawa Jikki I have looked at, which are from around that period, are records from the Shogun's court and match up with other materials.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:


Where from the Tokugawa Jikki was he quoting and what did it say? The parts of the Tokugawa Jikki I have looked at, which are from around that period, are records from the Shogun's court and match up with other materials.


Here’s the exact quote from Bodart-Bailey, which I paraphrased:

“Much of the source material on Kira’s vices is of doubtful origin. Even Tokutomi, generally searching out primary source material, finds no better source than ‘Tokugawa Jikki’ to describe Kira’s vices (44). As another scholar has pointed out, these explanations are simply those of the compiler of ‘Tokugawa Jikki’ well over a century after the event and lack historical foundation (45).”

I’ll list the sources for 44 & 45 tomorrow, as all I have with me is a photocopy of the chapter (no endnotes).
I was left with the impression that the compiler added comments to accompany the records. It would be interesting to see what he was commenting on as well as his thoughts.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
If Kira were not already rather disliked, would simply not fighting back when attacked by a much younger man make him an embarrasment to his family and all? Or is this one of the contradictions of the Edo system?

Maybe I can look up the Jikki reference next week. It is at the local public library.


This is a quible, but the following is not quite accurate.
"Kira was further honored when his son (now Uesugi Tsunanori) was permitted to marry the sister of Tsunayoshi’s son in law."

Uesugi Tsunanori married 栄 (Sakae?)-hime of the important Tokugawa Kii branch in 1578. However, her brother Tokugawa Tsunanori did not get engaged to the shogun's daughter Tsuru-hime till 1581. They were married in 1585. (Dates from the J Wikipedia).
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
If Kira were not already rather disliked, would simply not fighting back when attacked by a much younger man make him an embarrasment to his family and all? Or is this one of the contradictions of the Edo system?


Judging from some of the writings of his contemporaries, it seems so-he was soundly ridiculed and the accounts seem to focus exclusively on his cowardice (in fact,some use the excuse that his lack of bravery made him unworthy of the attention needed to punish him). As you say though, it would have been a perfect opportunity for someone who didn't like him to jump on board.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 2:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
OK, note 44 is from Tokutomi Iichiro's 'Kinsei Nihon Kokuminshi' (1935 edition, vol 18, pg 61). One would presume Tokutomi references the 'Tokugawa Jikki' there.
Note 45 is from Hayashi Ryosho's 'Jikken No Hottan' article from 'Genroku Chusingura Deeta Fairu' (1999), page 13.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
OK, note 44 is from Tokutomi Iichiro's 'Kinsei Nihon Kokuminshi' (1935 edition, vol 18, pg 61). One would presume Tokutomi references the 'Tokugawa Jikki' there.
Note 45 is from Hayashi Ryosho's 'Jikken No Hottan' article from 'Genroku Chusingura Deeta Fairu' (1999), page 13.


Those are not in the local library, and the Tokukawa Jikki takes up a shelf or so, so checking it out does not seem too promising.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:


Those are not in the local library, and the Tokukawa Jikki takes up a shelf or so, so checking it out does not seem too promising.


My best buddy at the University of Hawaii calls himself Mr. Xerox. Sounds greek. But he's a huge help Just Kidding
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:


Those are not in the local library, and the Tokukawa Jikki takes up a shelf or so, so checking it out does not seem too promising.


Yes, without knowing what part is being referenced, it would be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I am looking at J-wikipedia.
It seemed Kira liked bullying.
Kamei Sanuki no kami, Kato Totomi no kami, Tozawa Shimozuke no kami were all bullied by Kira.
Even Uesugi clan didn't like Kira because Kira made them pay for his debts.
http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%90%89%E8%89%AF%E7%BE%A9%E5%A4%AE
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 2:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
shikisoku wrote:
I am looking at J-wikipedia.
It seemed Kira liked bullying.
Kamei Sanuki no kami, Kato Totomi no kami, Tozawa Shimozuke no kami were all bullied by Kira.
Even Uesugi clan didn't like Kira because Kira made them pay for his debts.
http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%90%89%E8%89%AF%E7%BE%A9%E5%A4%AE


That's interesting. I wish WebTV would display kanji so I could have a look at their sources. It being Wiki (even though Wiki JP seems to be better than the US version) and the inclusion of the name of Kamei (which was almost certainly based on a play or book) makes me think that the other names might have been part of the same play. I didn't see any mentions in the entries for the Tozawa family or any of the Kato families in the couple of Japanese sources I have on hand, even though they bring up a lot of less 'exciting' facts. If anyone who has a real computer that displays kanji can see if this passage has a source quoted, that would be great.
The part about the Uesugi being upset over having to pay his debts sure rings true, though. Typical when a poor family marries into a rich one. Maybe another reason why Kira's son (the Uesugi heir) was so eager to ship him off to die.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
If anyone who has a real computer that displays kanji can see if this passage has a source quoted, that would be great.


Doesn't look like there are any footnotes or anything indicating where specific info is coming from. Doesn't really list sources either, just three biographies of Kira, and I don't think any of them are contemporary.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The wiki page is citing the sources.
冷光君御伝記 and 義人録.

The episode of Kamei Sanuki no kami is oral history in Tsuwano as the story of origin of Genjimaki cake.
http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%BA%90%E6%B0%8F%E5%B7%BB

And Kanpaku Konoe Motohiro's journal described that Emperor Higashiyama was happy about the incident of Matsu no rouka.
(He hated Kira)
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