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The tea master Yamada Sohen

 
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Bethetsu
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 5:17 pm    Post subject: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
Things have been quiet for the past few days.

It is well known that the ronin picked the date for their attack based on information gained from the tea master 山田宗徧(1627〜1708) Yamada Sôhen, a disciple of Sen no Rikyu's grandson, Sôtan. Yamada's descendent, the deceased head of the Sohen ryu school of tea, wrote the following in a brief history of the Sohen school. As part presumably derived from Sohen himself and was passed down in the family and is a different "route" than normal, I thought I would translate it here.

The Ako Ronin and Sohen
Kira Yoshinaka's mansion in 本所 (Honjo?) Matsusaka was near Sohen's house. Kira had also been a disciple of Sôtan long ago in Kyoto, so he and Sohen knew each other. Sohen sometimes visited Kira's mansion and had tea with him... Among the ronin who disguised themselves as townspeople and observed Kira's mansion was one named Ôtaka Gengo (大高源吾). Oishi Yoshio (? kanji only) had long known that Kira Kôzuke no suke and Sohen were tea companions, so he ordered Gengo to become a disciple of Sohen.
At this time Kira was feeling threatened and was thinking of leaving Edo for Yoneqawa. He decided to have a farewell tea meet on the 14th on the 12th month, the 15th year of Genroku. The ronin knew that if they broke into Kira's house when he was not there, their year of effort would have been in vain, so they were trying to find some way of learning when he would be home. However, Kira was so cautious that they could not determine his movements.

At this juncture, Kira informally consulted Sohen about the tea meet to be held on that day, and it was decided he should use a fish trap (katsura kago) as a flower vase, as Rikyu had done.
Sohen had happened to discover that his disciple Gengo was one of the Ako ronin, and he indirectly let him know him about the tea meet in Kira's mansion. Thus Gengo know that Kira would be at home the 14th and informed Oishi, and it was decided to carry out the break-in that day.

It has been passed down that after they accomplished their aim, the ronin sent Kira's head by boat to Sengakuji, and then took the vase from the tea-room, wrapped it in a white cloth, stuck it on a spear-point and carried it as if it were a head.

From one point of view, one can say that Sohen betrayed the friendship of his tea companion Kira. However, when one considers the harshness of public opinion towards Kira and the ronin's pure and faithful hearts, one can say that Sohen took the broad point of view in accordance with the saying "Duty over personal relationships" (大義親を減す) and resolutely followed through the ideal of righteousness (seigi no shinnen o nuku).

(from Yamada Sohen [d. 1987, not the Sohen of the above account], ''Sohen Ryu'', 1977) The book also has a picture of a tea scoop and case that had belonged to Gengo, presumably passed down in the Yamada family.

First, the existence of this account implies strongly that the story that Gengo got the date for the attack from Sohen is true--not that I have heard it was in doubt-- though the story is usually told in more detail.

It is also interesting that it seems Sohen claimed to have known about Gengo. As this does in some ways put him in a bad light, I doubt his descendants made it up. This suggests that feelings were strong in favor of the ronin. By the way, Sohen was born into a temple family but left it to become a tea master.
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Wave Tossed
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Very interesting. The fact that Sohen decided to inform Otaka Gengo (one of the Ako ronin) about Kira's attendence -- and also the fact that the decendant wrote this account: does that imply anything at all about Kira's reputation?

Think of it: had Sohen not informed Otaka Gengo, it's quite possible that the attack never could have taken place.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 7:11 pm    Post subject: Re: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:

Sohen had happened to discover that his disciple Gengo was one of the Ako ronin, and he indirectly let him know him about the tea meet in Kira's mansion.



Does it say how he indirectly let the Ronin know? And, is it conceivable that the family essentially made this up to capitalize on the fame of the event? Are there any other more primary sources that mention this?
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Wave Tossed
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 6:42 am    Post subject: Re: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
Bethetsu wrote:

Sohen had happened to discover that his disciple Gengo was one of the Ako ronin, and he indirectly let him know him about the tea meet in Kira's mansion.



Does it say how he indirectly let the Ronin know? And, is it conceivable that the family essentially made this up to capitalize on the fame of the event? Are there any other more primary sources that mention this?
We could say this about anything. How do we know for sure that 46 former Ako retainers attacked Kira and killed him. Maybe Kira died of illness and the authorities or the remaining Ako family survivors made this whole story up. Maybe the whole story is completely fiction, coming from the fevered imagination of some novelist or kabuki play writer. Shocked Just Kidding

I'm being a bit ridiculous here. Still, we can doubt the veracity of any document or account.

I think that some of my questions come from the fact that I'm not a historian. I've taken very few history courses and know very little about the academic conventions of studying history. And it confuses me because I'm a "hard science" sort of person; I majored in mathematics and now work as a computer scientist. In these sorts of studies and practices, there is very little (if any) room for speculation. We use specific systems of logic to show that something is true or else isn't true. There isn't a whole lot of room for speculations when dealing with mathematics or computer applications.

Just my two cents as a history-ignorant person: it seems that studying history is rife with interpretations and speculations. That's the nature of the beast, so to speak.

There's a fairly famous Aesop's Fable about history. A man and a lion walk up to a statue of Hercules slaying a lion. The man tells the lion that this statue proves that men are stronger than lions. The lion looks at the man and tells him, "a man made that statue. If a lion had made that statue, the story would be quite different."

Don't know if I'm making sense here -- or just babbling away. Just Kidding Evil or Very Mad Twisted Evil

[edited: I don't even know how to spell "know" -- it's K-N-O-W rather than N-O. Just Kidding Just Kidding Very Happy ]
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Last edited by Wave Tossed on Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:13 am    Post subject: Re: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:


We could say this about anything. How do we know for sure that 46 former Ako retainers attacked Kira and killed him. Maybe Kira died of illness and the authorities or the remaining Ako family survivors made this whole story up.


C'mon, that's a cop-out answer Just Kidding There are plenty of ways to verify it.

Quote:

I think that some of my questions come from the fact that I'm not a historian. I've taken very few history courses and no very little about the academic conventions of studying history. And it confuses me because I'm a "hard science" sort of person; I majored in mathematics and now work as a computer scientist. In these sorts of studies and practices, there is very little (if any) room for speculation. We use specific systems of logic to show that something is true or else isn't true. There isn't a whole lot of room for speculations when dealing with mathematics or computer applications.

Just my two cents as a history-ignorant person: it seems that studying history is rife with interpretations and speculations. That's the nature of the beast, so to speak.

There's a fairly famous Aesop's Fable about history. A man and a lion walk up to a statue of Hercules slaying a lion. The man tells the lion that this statue proves that men are stronger than lions. The lion looks at the man and tells him, "a man made that statue. If a lion had made that statue, the story would be quite different."

Don't know if I'm making sense here -- or just babbling away. Just Kidding Evil or Very Mad Twisted Evil


Do you agree that that crime scene investigation is a "science"? Because the study of history is essentially the study of a "cold case". The scientific method applies - you are rebuilding an event from the ground up - after the perpertrators are gone and the body has been moved. It isn't as "simple" as looking at a few documents. That is "history" at it's most utter basic form, and woefully incomplete, and the fact that this is your interpretation of the study of history shows the "ignorance" you mention (your words, not mine - don't bite my head off Just Kidding).
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:33 am    Post subject: Re: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:


We could say this about anything. How do we know for sure that 46 former Ako retainers attacked Kira and killed him. Maybe Kira died of illness and the authorities or the remaining Ako family survivors made this whole story up.


C'mon, that's a cop-out answer Just Kidding There are plenty of ways to verify it.
I trust you also read the next part of my post -- which you left out in your answer here. So let me repeat it again: I said that what I wrote above was rather ridiculous. Of course there is verification. But can we trust it???!!! Just Kidding (this question is also ridiculous; please note my smiley; it's a lame attempt at humor. Twisted Evil )
Quote:
Quote:

I think that some of my questions come from the fact that I'm not a historian. I've taken very few history courses and no very little about the academic conventions of studying history. And it confuses me because I'm a "hard science" sort of person; I majored in mathematics and now work as a computer scientist. In these sorts of studies and practices, there is very little (if any) room for speculation. We use specific systems of logic to show that something is true or else isn't true. There isn't a whole lot of room for speculations when dealing with mathematics or computer applications.

Just my two cents as a history-ignorant person: it seems that studying history is rife with interpretations and speculations. That's the nature of the beast, so to speak.

There's a fairly famous Aesop's Fable about history. A man and a lion walk up to a statue of Hercules slaying a lion. The man tells the lion that this statue proves that men are stronger than lions. The lion looks at the man and tells him, "a man made that statue. If a lion had made that statue, the story would be quite different."

Don't know if I'm making sense here -- or just babbling away. Just Kidding Evil or Very Mad Twisted Evil


Do you agree that that crime scene investigation is a "science"? Because the study of history is essentially the study of a "cold case". The scientific method applies - you are rebuilding an event from the ground up - after the perpertrators are gone and the body has been moved. It isn't as "simple" as looking at a few documents. That is "history" at it's most utter basic form, and woefully incomplete, and the fact that this is your interpretation of the study of history shows the "ignorance" you mention (your words, not mine - don't bite my head off Just Kidding).
Thanks for your explanation, where you state that studying history can be very much like studying a crime scene investigation i.e. a "cold case." That makes sense and that answers some of my questions.

However, in studying crime cases, including cold cases, mistakes get made and more than once, innocent people have been convicted, sentenced, and even have been executed.

Also, in studying history, the issues of agendas and viewpoint do come up. Unlike within the "hard sciences," history study has more than a few instances involving who sculpts the statue in the Aesop's Fable -- the man or the lion? In other words, who is writing what history and for what purposes?

I'm not trying to "attack" the study of history or other so-called "soft sciences" as if mathematics/computer sciences/other "hard sciences" are somehow superior. What I'm trying to do with my useless babbling here is just raise some issues for discussion. Just Kidding
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:52 am    Post subject: Re: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:

I'm not trying to "attack" the study of history or other so-called "soft sciences" as if mathematics/computer sciences/other "hard sciences" are somehow superior. What I'm trying to do with my useless babbling here is just raise some issues for discussion. Just Kidding


I agree, I think it is an interesting question - honestly if someone asked me the "value" of studying/learning history, I couldn't answer. I don't buy the "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it" excuse - history is repeated constantly. I don't think it even serves a purpose so much as it is simply a result - a result of human curiosity, wanting to know "where they came from". Does it serve a "purpose" in and of itself? Does it have any inherent value? I have no idea. Also, in theory historians should be unbiased, and the quest should be to "figure out who built the statue" - anyone with an agenda is as bad as a scientist who fakes results. Keep in mind, I'm NOT a historian (although I'd like to be), but in my opinion, being a historian means being variously a geographer, archaeologist, psychologist, researcher, "CSI", detective, journalist, linguist, and definately scientist - not just a bookworm in an ivory tower.

Or, to put it another way, the best way to figure out the variables a sniper has to deal with is by firing a sniper rifle, not only by reading about them. And the best historians have a grasp of the human condition and motivations - the major variable of history.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:43 am    Post subject: Re: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
The problem is, 'hard sciences' are almost useless when it comes to studying history (and I'm speaking as someone who loves mathematics and hard science, as my career depends on them) for the simple reason that even the most complex mathematical model cannot accurately account for the variables of human behavior (as Kitsuno has pointed out). For example, when I'm following a criminal's money trail, we use hard science-but when we are trying to predict their behavior or where to find other sources they have stashed funds, we use the 'soft' sciences-while number based reports can be very helpful in predicting behavior, they are much less exact than a decent profiler.
Some of the most ridiculous 'psuedoscience' reports ever done were based on models of logic that showed the absolute truth of whatever theory the author chose to prove-however, they invariably were invalid because they were based upon faulty assumptions (if A=B and B=C then A=C..except when A never was equal to B in the first place.)
A good historian will approach an issue with an open mind, go where the evidence takes him, review the motives of the author of any primary records, double check them for accuracy if possible-in short, historians at a University level will subject their writings to (and be subjected to) the utmost scrutiny. I find a good historian to be far more 'hard' in this case than any mathematical model-people and their motives cannot be reduced to code (yet...give 'em time, I'm sure someone's working on it).
And in a totally unscientific and completely unfounded opinion, I smell money changing hands between the tea master and the Ronin-tea masters were notorious information brokers.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:39 am    Post subject: Re: The tea master Yamada Sohen Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:

And in a totally unscientific and completely unfounded opinion, I smell money changing hands between the tea master and the Ronin-tea masters were notorious information brokers.


That's what I'm talking about.
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