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lordameth
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:32 pm    Post subject: The Namamugi Incident Reply with quote
Thanks to Tornadoes for reminding me that I said I wanted to start a thread for this.

Coming across a treatment of the event in Constantine Vaporis' "Tour of Duty," and then working on writing an article on the incident for the S-A Wiki, I was surprised - perhaps I should not have been - that there seem to be discrepancies or disagreements in what happened, and more to the point, why.

The standard version of the story that I thought of prior to reading more into it, based on, well, I don't know what, Sansom, maybe, and lectures from history professors in understand survey courses, basically centered on Richardson being arrogant and refusing to step to the side or dismount, let alone to prostrate himself, as he met the samurai retinue coming down the road.

But Vaporis and Andrew Daniels (in an article entitled "Murder, Misunderstandings and Might") provide a more complex view of the event.

The arrogance explanation would seem to ride at least in part on the idea that Richardson knew how he ought to behave in this situation (according to Japanese expectations and etiquette) and arrogantly chose not to. But was he perhaps simply ignorant? Was Richardson given a warning or commands that he did not understand, since he did not speak Japanese?

Did the narrowness or curve of the road, as Vaporis suggests, make it difficult or impossible to properly pull to the side or turn back, a fact ignored by the samurai? Did Richardson's horse grow excited or nervous, and not respond properly to its rider, who sought to turn back or pull to the side?

Daniels argues against another key element of the traditional version of the story, alleging that the attack on Richardson was not a racist one, as Japanese would have been struck down in the same manner had they gotten in the way of a daimyo procession in this manner. He cites the example of several of Sakamoto Ryôma's childhood friends - children - killed for "run[ning] close to a daimyo's procession without showing due humility."

Daniels also implies that the precise motives of the individual samurai cannot be known. It is easy to think that they were simply offended or angered - especially if Richardson seemed arrogant - and thus cut him down eagerly. But perhaps, depending on just exactly what happened, they saw that he was trying to pull back, or trying to pull aside, and wished they didn't have to attack him, but knew that duty and protocol demanded that they did...

Conflicting reports leave many questions unanswered; I am curious if anyone has read other accounts, or has any kind of input or comments on this subject. I know it's not directly related to Kool-Aid Man, but it is Bakumatsu, a period that's hardly my strong point, and is something of a specialty for many of you, so I look forward to seeing what insights you might contribute.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The question of the names of the samurai involved is, of course, another element of confusion or mystery in this incident.

From the sources I've looked at, it would seem that Narahara Kizaemon, older brother of Narahara Shigeru, might have been the chief assailant. George Kerr conflates the two Naraharas into one figure, and while it seems simple enough to simply think he made a mistake, I wonder if anyone else might by chance have come across other references to Shigeru being the one involved in the attack, or to him being the same person as Kizaemon, not brothers?

Some sources indicate that a samurai by the name of Kaieda Nobuyoshi was also involved.

Satsuma claimed a ronin named Okano Shinsuke was responsible, but that his whereabouts were unknown, and that as he was a ronin, Satsuma could not be held responsible for his actions. The Asahi Encyclopedia of Japanese Historical Figures describes Okano as fictional... Who was the low-ranking (and presumably innocent) samurai Satsuma executed for the crime? Is it known?

I apologize that my initiating of this thread is somewhat all over the place, but I would be more than happy to see it go wherever it goes, and to discuss whatever aspects of the event people wish to discuss, and am eager to see what insights and information people bring to the table.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Unfortunately I don't know anything about this specific incident, but planned assassinations weren't rare at the time, be it against a specific target or targets of opportunity - and it is typically convenient that Satsuma claimed that the supposed killer was a Ronin (which makes me wonder why a ronin would be part of a procession in the first place) - sounds like how when Yakuza are arrested, their group sometimes writes them off as "oh, we kicked him out a long time ago, he has nothing to do with us law abiding Yakuza."

It doesn't look like he was blatantly ambushed and killed like that poor bastard Henry Heusken though.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The article raised interesting points. There are two sides to this incident and the exact circumstances will never be known. Even if the case was that Richardson was not acting arrogantly but merely was ignorant of the proper protocol, that by itself is the fault of Mr. Richardson. He should have been aware of the local customs, customs that were widely known among the foreign community.

The article points out that most likely racism was not a factor as even Japanese would have faced similar punishment which makes logical sense and I agree to a certain degree. However, it is hard to imagine that the samurai, upon seeing a foreigner during this volatile time period, did not have a heightened amount of rage at seeing a foreigner in their eyes acting arrogantly towards their lord. And certainly this could have escalated the situation further depending on what the actual circumstances were. For example, as Toranosuke mentioned above, could the narrowness of the road or an agitated horse or other factors that might have not resulted in the execution of a Japanese in a similar situation but did result in the death of the foreigner Richardson?

The Daniels article also provided some interesting information regarding the bombardment of Kagoshima. I was not aware of the problems that the British had with their Armstrong guns and that they had to revert to their muzzle loading cannons. What do others know about the gun problems? Were the problems isolated to this one battle? What were the circumstances of the issues with the Armstrong cannons? From much of my Bakumatsu readings, the Armstrong cannons are continually referred to as far superior to anything the Japanese had. But the Daniels article indicates that they were not all they were cracked up to be. But maybe the alleged problems were isolated to this incident?

Another point I took from the article was that the events of August 12th to the 16th were not as one sided as I feel is often believed. The general belief in my opinion is that the British firepower humbled and thoroughly defeated the Satsuma samurai and this completely changed their views of foreign relations and the futility of fighting the foreigners. However, the article raises valid points that show that it was far from a decisive British victory and it may have not been a victory at all. But in spite of which side was victorious, Satsuma did realize that they had more to gain from diplomacy with the British.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Looking at the map, there is a marker for the incident at神奈川県 横浜市鶴見区 生麦1丁目on Rt. 15. Try searching for that address on map.yahoo.co.jp. There is a marker just about where "15" is. The area doesn't look hilly at all. Though one cannot tell how narrow the road was back then, at least now it is straight.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yeah. I've been there. I definitely want to trust the topography Vaporis describes, as I want to think I can trust him overall, but it sure seems quite different from how it is today...
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
Yeah. I've been there. I definitely want to trust the topography Vaporis describes, as I want to think I can trust him overall, but it sure seems quite different from how it is today...
If you have been there, why do you "want to trust" Vaporis's topography? How does he describe it? How would you describe it?
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
lordameth wrote:
Yeah. I've been there. I definitely want to trust the topography Vaporis describes, as I want to think I can trust him overall, but it sure seems quite different from how it is today...
If you have been there, why do you "want to trust" Vaporis's topography? How does he describe it? How would you describe it?
Darn good question, Bethetsu. Smile I scratched my head at that comment myself.
Meth, whaddya mean? Don't take it the wrong way, but I generally get turned-off (or annoyed) when I see these kind of comments as they smell like "wishy-washy uncertainty" with a whiff of unintended arrogance (i.e. the Turnbull Satsuma invasion of Okinawa thread).

Anyway, thanks for trying to jump-start a Bakumatsu discussion. I want to jump in and contribute something positive to the discussion here, but, me thinks Meth and Tornadoes have covered most of the bases. I could maybe add a couple of Scooby snacks to the discussion but I'm not up to doing the research. I just got back from a two day biz trip and the awful humidity here is robbing me of motivation to wander into my steaming study. Yes, I do have air conditioning in that room but the remote control is buried somewhere under a mountain of Japanese history books that Brick McBurly knocked down from my bookshelf when he was looking for a mythical scratch and sniff Yoshiwara book he was convinced I own. Oh, well.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
An excellent question, of course.

I have read articles by Vaporis, and found them thoroughly enjoyable, informative, interesting, and quite valuable, as he covers topics that are barely addressed by any other scholarship in English I have come across and yet which are of great importance. I like his writing style, I find his points compelling, well-argued, and insightful. I have found what little I have read of "Tour of Duty" thus far to be just the same - excellent detail, compelling arguments, vivid descriptions... Furthermore, I liked his attitude and his answers in the interview that was conducted with him for the S-A Shogun-ki blog.

So, in short, I like him as a scholar, I enjoy his scholarship, and find it quite valuable. But if he's wrong on this, if we choose to doubt him on this point, then this throws doubt on everything else he has written as well, does it not? And makes everything else he has written essentially worthless.

If we cannot take Vaporis at his word that he has researched this point about the topography of the road, then we cannot take him at his word for any of the other myriad of facts he describes but does not happen to cite directly. In this particular case, though he does not cite directly the point about the road being narrow and coming to a curve, the surrounding sentences are cited directly to primary sources, lending credence to the idea that he is a responsible scholar and that his work can be trusted. But, if we choose not to take him at his word for any and every point not explicitly cited, discounting entirely any authority or expertise he may be thought to represent, then what use is the book?

How do we judge the value or the authority of a given piece of scholarship? Do we pick over it with a fine-toothed comb, acting the constant cynic, never believing anything unless cited thricefold and argued with impenetrable logic? Or do we sometimes, to some extent, allow ourselves to take experts in the field at their word, under the assumption that they, as authorities on the subject, have done the proper research and can be trusted?

Personally, I have no interest in being the perpetual cynic. It's mentally exhausting, and emotionally dark and unappealing. Of course, that's not to say I do not read critically, or that I choose to be gullible and naive... One certainly cannot take everything at face value; but, neither can one go through life taking nothing at face value. That's my stand.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
As for how he describes it, the key point at issue I suppose is just a brief sentence or so:

"... then approached a curve in the road, where they encountered the main part of the procession. The road was quite narrow at this point, with no space to pull to the side without being forced up onto the embankment."

(Tour of Duty, p35.)

From what I remember of the site, there is a definite incline walking up from Namamugi train station to the spot where the marker stands, on the side of a major highway. You can see it on satellite and street view here: http://ow.ly/26cGn

There is a definite incline, but no cliffs or anything that one would be pushed into (or off of), and at least at this particular spot the road does not curve.

But that doesn't mean that the road necessarily ran the same way at that time. And while I admittedly had originally interpreted Vaporis' description to refer to some kind of cliff or other major topographical feature that would have determined the width and curvature of the road - as, for example, a road through the mountains might be strongly determined by the mountains themselves - I am now thinking that he is referring simply to the road itself. That it was narrow, and that it curved, simply because that was how it happened to have been made, and not because of any governing topographical features; and furthermore, that the embankments to which he refers are likewise simply a part of how the road was constructed, and not like being sandwiched in between walls of solid rock on a narrow, curving mountain pass or the like.

What do you guys think?
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
...a mountain of Japanese history books that Brick McBurly knocked down from my bookshelf when he was looking for a mythical scratch and sniff Yoshiwara book he was convinced I own.


Just you wait, Big Guy. I know it's in there SOMEWHERE! You can't hide it from me forever.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Meth, I think you misread Vaporis.

And on the issue of the 薩英戦争, I think that although the city of Kagoshima and its civilian population unfortunately took a thumping during the clas, it can be argued that it was really a tiny, if rather insignificant victory for Satsuma. This is because the British encountered stiffer resistance than they thought they would, resulting in some not-so-light casualties. This made the British think twice about tangling with Satsuma and also help them to pursue a course of diplomacy and reconciliation with their Japanese foes. Basically Satsuma thought the same thing, and the rest is history. Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:

"... then approached a curve in the road, where they encountered the main part of the procession. The road was quite narrow at this point, with no space to pull to the side without being forced up onto the embankment."
When I read "embankment" my first thought was "canal." A little SW of the marker (which let us accept as accurate) is a canal which is parallel to the railroad tracks until just before the tracks cross the highway near the marker. Could the canal have originally continued and could "embankment" have been for the canal? Also perhaps at that time the highway was parallel to the canal and then, going east, made a curve and (from a modern point of view) turned onto Rt. 15.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Meth, I think you misread Vaporis.

And on the issue of the 薩英戦争, I think that although the city of Kagoshima and its civilian population unfortunately took a thumping during the clas, it can be argued that it was really a tiny, if rather insignificant victory for Satsuma. This is because the British encountered stiffer resistance than they thought they would, resulting in some not-so-light casualties. This made the British think twice about tangling with Satsuma and also help them to pursue a course of diplomacy and reconciliation with their Japanese foes. Basically Satsuma thought the same thing, and the rest is history. Wink


What about the issues with the Armstrong guns? Ihad not heard that before that the guns were problamatic.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 3:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tornadoes28 wrote:
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Meth, I think you misread Vaporis.

And on the issue of the 薩英戦争, I think that although the city of Kagoshima and its civilian population unfortunately took a thumping during the , it can be argued that it was really an tiny, if rather insignificant victory for Satsuma. This is because the British encountered stiffer resistance than they thought they would, resulting in some not-so-light casualties. This made the British think twice about tangling with Satsuma and also help them to pursue a course of diplomacy and reconciliation with their Japanese foes. Basically Satsuma thought the same thing, and the rest is history. Wink


What about the issues with the Armstrong guns? Ihad not heard that before that the guns were problamatic.
What does what I wrote have to do with Armstrong guns? And what is up with your spelling and typing? Drinking Kool Aid so early in the morning again? Just Kidding

Regardless of what is in the Daniels article (which I haven't read) about the problems there were with the Royal Navy's Armstrong guns, the truth is Kagoshima still suffered a lot of damage thanks to the British bombardment AND, with Satsuma also fairly well armed and defended by a tough and determined bunch, the British were on the receiving end of a lot more lead than they expected. There were 63 British casualties-13 of which were deaths.

Actual Satsuma civilian deaths were light as the city was evacuated before the British fleet showed up, but nearly 500 homes/structures burnt.

Now about those British Armstrong guns. According to Crappedia:

Quote:
An officer from HMS Euryalus described the gun's performance at the Bombardment of Kagoshima of August 1863:

“ The 40-pounder we found answer exceedingly well, for coming out of the place [Kagoshima] we planted common shell, with pillar fuze, wherever we wished, at a range of 3,800 yards. Three steel vent-pieces broke, but another placed them immediately and no harm was done. These guns work very easily, are very true, and the drill is very simple. ”
—Reported in The Times, 25 April 1864.


Also, one of the 40 lb Armstrong on board the main deck the HMS Euryalus did explode killing seven sailors, but that was because a Satsuma 10-inch shell hit the Armstrong's muzzle. The British battle line and the Satsuma batteries were exchanging fire at a very close distance--kind of like point blank for a naval engagement.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Tornadoes28 wrote:
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Meth, I think you misread Vaporis.

And on the issue of the 薩英戦争, I think that although the city of Kagoshima and its civilian population unfortunately took a thumping during the , it can be argued that it was really an tiny, if rather insignificant victory for Satsuma. This is because the British encountered stiffer resistance than they thought they would, resulting in some not-so-light casualties. This made the British think twice about tangling with Satsuma and also help them to pursue a course of diplomacy and reconciliation with their Japanese foes. Basically Satsuma thought the same thing, and the rest is history. Wink


What about the issues with the Armstrong guns? Ihad not heard that before that the guns were problamatic.
What does what I wrote have to do with Armstrong guns? And what is up with your spelling and typing? Drinking Kool Aid so early in the morning again? Just Kidding

Regardless of what is in the Daniels article (which I haven't read) about the problems there were with the Royal Navy's Armstrong guns, the truth is Kagoshima still suffered a lot of damage thanks to the British bombardment AND, with Satsuma also fairly well armed and defended by a tough and determined bunch, the British were on the receiving end of a lot more lead than they expected. There were 63 British casualties-13 of which were deaths.

Actual Satsuma civilian deaths were light as the city was evacuated before the British fleet showed up, but nearly 500 homes/structures burnt.

Now about those British Armstrong guns. According to Crappedia:

Quote:
An officer from HMS Euryalus described the gun's performance at the Bombardment of Kagoshima of August 1863:

“ The 40-pounder we found answer exceedingly well, for coming out of the place [Kagoshima] we planted common shell, with pillar fuze, wherever we wished, at a range of 3,800 yards. Three steel vent-pieces broke, but another placed them immediately and no harm was done. These guns work very easily, are very true, and the drill is very simple. ”
—Reported in The Times, 25 April 1864.


Also, one of the 40 lb Armstrong on board the main deck the HMS Euryalus did explode killing seven sailors, but that was because a Satsuma 10-inch shell hit the Armstrong's muzzle. The British battle line and the Satsuma batteries were exchanging fire at a very close distance--kind of like point blank for a naval engagement.


I was typing from my phone on the bus so hence the errors. Thank you for the info. I know the Armstrong guns was not related to what you had written but I figured that with the vast amount of knowledge stored in your head that you would know something about it. Very Happy

And you did. I was just curious as I had not heard of problems with the Armstrong guns previously.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
The question of the names of the samurai involved is, of course, another element of confusion or mystery in this incident.

From the sources I've looked at, it would seem that Narahara Kizaemon, older brother of Narahara Shigeru, might have been the chief assailant. George Kerr conflates the two Naraharas into one figure, and while it seems simple enough to simply think he made a mistake, I wonder if anyone else might by chance have come across other references to Shigeru being the one involved in the attack, or to him being the same person as Kizaemon, not brothers?
I found an article in JSTOR on the Namamugi Incident today (Collision at Namamugi by Mitsuru Hashimoto and Betsey Scheiner from Representations, No. 18 (Spring, 1987), pp. 69-90.) In that article, only one Narahara is mentioned, and that is Narahara Yonezaemon, who was identified as the "leader" of the samurai in the procession and the one who attacked Richardson. However, in the same article, we have an account of Okano Shinsuke, who apparently tried to help guide the non-comprehending foreigners to the side of the road by grabbing one of the horses' reins, which earned him a crack of Richardson's whip, thus precipitating the incident. It sounds like there are too many conflicting stories and no clear indication of who was the actual assailant. Another bit of testimony claims that Hisamitsu himself made a gesture which brought 4 or 5 samurai to attack the group. Since 3 of 4 of the English group were injured, most likely there was more than one samurai on the attack.

Quote:
Some sources indicate that a samurai by the name of Kaieda Nobuyoshi was also involved.
In the footnotes, there is a notation that goes with this text:
Quote:
Shimazu Hisamitsu apparently felt the need to reprove Narahara, who had initially attacked Richardson, since he called the samurai over and asked, "Although you would have had reason to cut him down if he had shown disrespect by interrupting the procession, why did you cut him down when he did not?"
from Viscount Kaieda in the publication Kokusaiho yori mitaru bakumatsu no gaiko monogatari (The story of late Tokugawa diplomacy from the point of view of international law; Tokyo, 1930--Osatake Takeshi.) This indicates it is part of Japanese testimony concerning the incident, so Kaieda must have testified as an eyewitness. In the same publication is an apparent explanation by Narahara:
Quote:
When asked by Shimazu Hisamitsu why he had cut Richardson down, Narahara replied: Ordinarily it is the duty of your guard to see that disrespect does not occur. If the procession had actually been obstructed by a foreigner, I would simply have atoned by committing seppuku. Since, fortunately, I managed to cut him down before he obstructed it, my efforts have not been in vain-this kind of honor is truly the highest!


Quote:
Satsuma claimed a ronin named Okano Shinsuke was responsible, but that his whereabouts were unknown, and that as he was a ronin, Satsuma could not be held responsible for his actions. The Asahi Encyclopedia of Japanese Historical Figures describes Okano as fictional... Who was the low-ranking (and presumably innocent) samurai Satsuma executed for the crime? Is it known?
This article doesn't cover whether Okano is real or imaginary, but the inclusion of his story and the apparent conflict with the story of Narahara might suggest such a thing. Okano is merely referred to as a "low-ranking samurai" in this article.

Another suggestive bit of information from Satsuma domain records, according to the article:
Quote:
As the leader of the samurai, Narahara Yonezaemon, ran from behind Hisamitsu's palanquin to the front of the small party, the foreigners turned their horses' heads to the right. By doing so, they turned the horses so that they faced the center part of the procession, where Hisamitsu's palanquin was. Narahara chastised them for their disrespect and slashed one of the foreigners diagonally under the left shoulder with his sword.
This sounds like Narahara perceived the way the foreigners handled their horses showed blatant disrespect to Hisamitsu, whose palanquin was too close for their comfort to the Englishmen. Elsewhere in the article, a quote from another samurai seems to suggest that they were inflamed by this chance to indulge their xenophobia:
Quote:
That was a time when we all longed to attack a foreigner.... Since we had let Richardson's party pass without raising a finger, when there was a great clamor from the rear of the line ... and one of the Englishmen came galloping for his life, holding his side, we finally saw our chance.
This could account for the others' wounds as they tried to escape and the interpretation of the English that Hisamitsu seemed to have given a signal to attack, when it could have just been a tempting target that some of his samurai just couldn't resist.

Having read that article, my impression is that Narahara acted in an overzealous manner and whipped up the others into a frenzy. The Okano incident seems kind of "wedged in" as a way to put off the blame or confuse the situation. The article didn't note whether punishment was meted out to Narahara or not, or, as you say, whether it was one Narahara or two.
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Onnamusha, interesting stuff. Thanks much for all of these insights.

I tried looking up Yonezaemon in several online encyclopedias and such, but I didn't get any results, unfortunately.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this article to our attention. I'm going to go get my hands on it...
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I wonder if "Yonezaemon" is simply a variation in the translation of the same characters as "Kizaemon," but, of course, I have negative expertise in that area. I hadn't even tried to look up Kizaemon or Shigeru, and, now that I have, I see they are more represented in online searches and our own Samurai wiki! So, perhaps it is an artifact of the translator (Betsey Scheiner.) The article is interesting though and worth a look. I hope it gives some help!
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OishiYoshio
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Several years ago I read a statement by the man (possibly one of those names above) who said he reached up and cut Richardson with his katana. I cannot remember where I read this. He lived into the 1930s and used to tell people with evident relish how satisfactory it was to feel the blade going through the foreigner.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hmmm. Well, Kizaemon died in 1865, and his brother in 1918. But, as others have pointed out, there were surely multiple attackers.
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