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Shogun

Shogun

Author: James Clavell
Rating: 8/10
Last Read: 12/2017

Shogun is an excellent, albeit quite long, Japanese soap opera. The book is a fictionalization of the experiences of William Adams (John Blackthorne in Shogun) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (Lord Toronaga in Shogun) during Ieyasu's maneuvering to become the Shogun. John Blackthorne is the pilot of a European ship that reaches Japan. Blackthorne is forced to adapt to the Japanese culture in order to survive, and he eventually becomes a samurai under Lord Toronaga. Both Toronaga and Blackthorne are thrust into the middle of a political chess game, and a variety of crosses and double-crosses occur along the way. Zen and political observations permeate the book, and the political and personal developments between the characters makes for an engrossing read.

If you like epic novels or are a fan of Japanese history, Shogun is a book for you.

My Highlights

He was a giant among pygmies. But perhaps it’s right that all his work and greatness should die with him. Isn’t man but a blossom taken by the wind, and only the mountains and the sea and the stars and this Land of the Gods real and everlasting?

to be proud of one’s own name and keep it unsullied.

‘Always remember, child,’ her first teacher had impressed on her, ‘that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort.

‘A man’s fate is a man’s fate and life is but an illusion.’

“That’s the trouble with all Ingeles. No patience. Listen, here you don’t ask Japmen anything—samurai or others, they’re all the same. If you do, they’ll hesitate, then ask the man above for the decision. Here you have to act. Of course”—his hearty laugh ran across the waves—“sometimes you get killed if you act wrong.”

I will never eat this fruit again, unless it is from your hands.” “That is too much, Omi-sama,” Kiku said. “I release you from your vow! That was said under the influence of the kami who lives in all saké bottles!”

Why is it there is always such violence between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law? Doesn’t daughter-in-law, in time, become mother-in-law? Why does she then always treat her own daughter-in-law to a lashing tongue and make her life a misery, and why does that girl do the same in her turn? Doesn’t anyone learn?

Omi-san must be recognized as a preeminent vassal.” Kiku twisted the truth just a trifle, knowing that Omi was in great danger, and all his house. What is to be will be, she reminded herself. But it does no harm to ease the brow of a nice woman.

His joints were aching and his piles inflamed. He was exhausted by the effort it took to remain stoic in front of his men, Yabu, the crew, even this barbarian. Oh, Buddha, I’m so tired. I wish I could lie in a bath and soak and soak and have one day of rest from pain. Just one day. Stop your stupid womanish thoughts! You’ve been in pain for almost sixty years. What is pain to a man? A privilege! Masking pain is the measure of a man. Thank Buddha you are still alive to protect your Master when you should have been dead a hundred times.

Karma, he told himself, and turned away from them, settling himself more comfortably, enjoying the vast clarity that had come to him. Last day, last sea, last light, last joy, last everything. How beautiful the sea and the sky and the cold and salt. He began to think of the final poem-song that he should now, by custom, compose. He felt fortunate. He had time to think clearly.

Never forget Japmen’re six-faced and have three hearts. It’s a saying they have, that a man has a false heart in his mouth for all the world to see, another in his breast to show his very special friends and his family, and the real one, the true one, the secret one, which is never known to anyone except himself alone, hidden only God knows where.

Yes, I am your enemy, Captain-Pilot John Blackthorne. Completely. But not your assassin. That you will do yourself.”

“Isn’t that rebellion? Yes or no?” “Yes. But there are mitigating circumstances. Serious miti—” “There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord.” “Unless you win.”

That night Toranaga could not sleep. This was rare for him because normally he could defer the most pressing problem until the next day, knowing that if he was alive the next day he would solve it to the best of his ability. He had long since discovered that peaceful sleep could provide the answer to most puzzles, and if not, what did it really matter? Wasn’t life just a dewdrop within a dewdrop?

How beautiful life is and how sad! How fleeting, with no past and no future, only a limitless now.

That’s the first rule of survival in enemy waters: volunteer nothing.

“Lord Toranaga’s got more patience than anyone in the Empire.” “Patience is important for a man, vital for a leader,” Toranaga said. “And a thirst for knowledge is a good quality too, eh, Yaemon-sama? And knowledge comes from strange places.”

“A leader has to write well, Yaemon-sama. Not only clearly but beautifully, and the Kwampaku better than anyone else. How else can he write to His Imperial Highness or to the great daimyos? A leader has to be better than his vassals in everything, in every way. A leader has to do many things that are difficult.”

“Would you pay a hundred thousand koku to become Shōgun? Your bloodline goes back to the Takashimas, neh?” Yabu said proudly, “I would pay nothing. Money’s filth—a toy for women to play with or for dung-filled merchants. But if that were possible, which it isn’t, I would give my life and the life of my wife and mother and all my kin except my one son, and all my samurai in Izu and all their women and children to be Shōgun one day.”

“Tomorrow will be a lovely day, and if it isn’t, it isn’t!” Sazuko said. “Who cares about tomorrow? Now is good.

Lord Toranaga asked me to point out it’s unseemly to criticize without knowledge.

Why not laughter when an enemy’s outsmarted? Why not laughter to empty the tragedy from you when karma interrupts the beautiful death of a true samurai, when karma causes the useless death of a pretty girl? Isn’t it only through laughter that we become one with the gods and thus can endure life and can overcome all the horror and waste and suffering here on earth? Isn’t it only through laughter we can stay human?

Ferriera laughed contemptuously. “We’ve twenty cannon aboard! They’ve none! You think that filthy heathen pig boat would dare to try to attack us? You’re simple in the head!” “Yes, Captain-General, that’s why I’ve still got one.

But it’s good to be opposed by a professional, he told himself. Much safer. Then no one makes a foolhardy mistake and no one gets hurt unnecessarily.

Rodrigues listened to the cloying humility in Alvito’s voice and he thought how much more difficult it was to deal with Japanese than with Chinese. The Chinese understood the art of negotiation, of compromise and concession and reward. But the Japanese were pride-filled and when a man’s pride was injured—any Japanese, not necessarily just samurai—then death was a small price to repay the insult.

It is so simple to catch a man, he told himself. All you need to know is the right bait.

Listen, if I’m killed that would simplify things for Ishido, the real enemy, but only for a moment. I’m in his trap now and if his trap’s successful he merely has a momentary advantage. If I escape, there never was a trap.

"He will endeavor always to assist you.” “Endeavor is an abstract word, and unsatisfactory."

Privacy in paper houses was impossible without politeness and consideration; without privacy civilized life could not exist, so all Japanese were trained to hear and not hear. For the good of all.

“You know, I’m so frightened, if I pissed I’d piss dust.” “Then don’t, old friend.” Mura suppressed his smile.

“I think he knew all along I was to stay here, didn’t he?” She did not answer. How childish it is, she said to herself, to speak aloud what you think.

Leave the problems of God to God and karma to karma. Today you’re here and nothing you can do will change that. Today you’re alive and here and honored, and blessed with good fortune. Look at this sunset, it’s beautiful, neh? This sunset exists. Tomorrow does not exist. There is only now. Please look. It is so beautiful and it will never happen ever again, never, not this sunset, never in all infinity.

“He says, ‘I, Kasigi Omi, I would ask for your pistols, and ask you to come with me because Kasigi Yabu-sama orders you into his presence. But Kasigi Yabu-sama orders me to order you to give me your weapons. So sorry, Anjin-san, for the last time I order you to give them to me.’ ” Blackthorne’s chest was constricted. He knew he was going to be attacked and he was furious at his own stupidity. But there comes a time when you can’t take any more and you pull a gun or a knife and then blood is spilled through stupid pride. Most times stupid.

The others sat in silence, waiting patiently, gentle with him to honor his bravery. No man in Japan had ever seen what they had seen. Each was asking silently, what’s the Anjin-san going to do now? Will he be able to stand by himself and walk away or will his spirit leave him? How would I act if I were he?

A ‘roof’ with two ‘pigs’ under it means ‘contentment.’ A ‘roof’ with two ‘women’ under it equals ‘discord.’ Neh?”

“But you, what’s your opinion?” “I was sent here only to obey, to observe, to listen, to learn, and to test. Not to give opinions.”

We must learn not to be ashamed of taking knowledge from wherever it comes.”

“The years flee from you when you laugh. The so-serious Anjin-san becomes a boy again.” “My father told me I was born old.” “Were you?” “He thought so.”

“You don’t laugh very much, do you, Anjin-san?” “I’ve been seafaring too long. Seamen’re always serious. We’ve learned to watch the sea. We’re always watching and waiting for disaster. Take your eyes off the sea for a second and she’ll grasp your ship and make her matchwood.”

“You don’t buy love. That type’s worth nothing. ‘Love’ is without price.” She smiled. “Pillowing always has its price. Always. Not necessarily money, Anjin-san. But a man pays, always, for pillowing in one way, or in another. True love, we call it duty, is of soul to soul and needs no such expression—no physical expression, except perhaps the gift of death.”

“Because it’s your consort’s duty to see that you are pleasured. It is our custom to make life simple. We admire simplicity, so men and women can take pillowing for what it is: an important part of life, certainly, but between a man and a woman there are more vital things. Humility, for one. Respect. Duty. Even this ‘love’ of yours.

Wasn’t forty days the time this bonze, this prophet, this Moses spent on the mountain collecting the commands of ‘God’ that were etched in stone?” “Yes, Sire.” “Do you believe that happened?” “Yes. But I don’t understand how or why.” “A waste of time discussing ‘God-things.’ Neh?” “If you seek facts, yes, Sire.”

He nodded and grunted, which passed in Japan for a polite “thank you, I understand.”

So he began to tell the story of this battle which was like almost every other battle in which men died, most of the time because of the mistakes and stupidity of the officers in command. “My husband says it’s not so here, Anjin-san. Here the commanding officers have to be very good or they die very quickly.”

He does not wish to go, Anjin-san.” “Why?” “If he has been accurate, senhor, you should see that by yourself. If not, you should see that alone too. Then neither you nor he can be embarrassed.” “And if he’s missed?” “He hasn’t. But by our custom accuracy under such impossible circumstances is unimportant compared to the grace that the archer shows, the nobility of movement, his strength to shoot sitting, or the detachment about the winning or losing.”

“But how do you close your ears, Mariko-san? That’s impossible.” “Oh, very easy, with training. Of course, training begins as soon as a child can talk, so very soon it’s second nature to us—how else could we survive? First you begin by cleansing your mind of people, to put yourself on a different plane. Sunset watching is a great help or listening to the rain—Anjin-san, have you noticed the different sounds of rain? If you really listen, then the present vanishes, neh? Listening to blossoms falling and to rocks growing are exceptionally good exercises. Of course, you’re not supposed to see the things, they’re only signs, messages to your hara, your center, to remind you of the transience of life, to help you gain wa, harmony, Anjin-san, perfect harmony, which is the most sought-after quality in all Japanese life, all art,

“I will whisper a secret to you: Don’t be fooled by our smiles and gentleness, our ceremonial and our bowing and sweetnesses and attentions. Beneath them all we can be a million ri away, safe and alone. For that’s what we seek—oblivion.

Then the solution rushed into his brain. It must be because I’m hatamoto, and Buntaro, the guest, disturbed the wa, the harmony of my house. By having a violent open quarrel with his wife in my house, he insulted me, therefore he’s totally in the wrong and he has to apologize whether he means it or not. An apology’s obligatory from one samurai to another, from a guest to a host.…

And don’t forget that by their custom, all men are allowed to get drunk, are expected to get drunk sometimes, and when drunk they are not, within reason, responsible for their actions. Don’t forget there’s no loss of face if you get stinking drunk. Remember how unconcerned Mariko and Toranaga were on the ship when I was stupefied. They were amused and not disgusted, as we’d be.

“Then you’d soon be dead, which would be absolutely merited, but so would all your family, all your clan and all your vassals, which would be absolutely unforgivable. You’re a stupid, truculent fool! You won’t use your mind, you won’t listen, you won’t learn, you won’t curb your tongue or your temper! You let yourself be manipulated in the most childish way and believe that everything can be solved with the edge of your sword. The only reason I don’t take your stupid head or let you end your present worthless life is because you’re young, because I used to think you had some possibilities, your mistakes are not malicious, there’s no guile in you and your loyalty’s unquestioned. But if you don’t quickly learn patience and self-discipline, I’ll take away your samurai status and order you and all your generations into the peasant class!” Toranaga’s right fist slammed his saddle and the falcon let out a piercing, nervous scream. “Do you understand?”

Be patient, my son, everything comes with patience.

‘Soon you’ll be able to manipulate them. What you did was very good. But you must learn to reason what’s in a man’s mind if you’re to be of any use to yourself—or to your lord.

He’s more like a short-winged hawk, a hawk of the fist, that you fly direct from the fist to kill anything that moves, say a goshawk that’ll take partridge or a hare three times her own weight, rats, cats, dogs, woodcock, starlings, rooks, overtaking them with fantastic short bursts of speed to kill with a single crush of her talons; the hawk that detests the hood and won’t accept it, just sits on your wrist, arrogant, dangerous, self-sufficient, pitiless, yellow-eyed, a fine friend and foul-tempered if the mood’s on her.

Now sleep. Karma is karma. Be thou of Zen. Remember, in tranquillity, that the Absolute, the Tao, is within thee, that no priest or cult or dogma or book or saying or teaching or teacher stands between Thou and It. Know that Good and Evil are irrelevant, I and Thou irrelevant, Inside and Outside irrelevant as are Life and Death. Enter into the Sphere where there is no fear of death nor hope of afterlife, where thou art free of the impediments of life or the needs of salvation. Thou art thyself the Tao. Be thou, now, a rock against which the waves of life rush in vain.…

“It’s vast to be alive,” he said happily. “I can almost hear the rain waiting to be born.”

“If I could use words Like falling leaves, What a bonfire My poems would make!”

You must take the power to give power.”

A moment ago we were all almost dead. So all that worry and heartache was a waste, wasn’t it?

Karma is the beginning of knowledge. Next is patience. Patience is very important. The strong are the patient ones, Anjin-san. Patience means holding back your inclination to the seven emotions: hate, adoration, joy, anxiety, anger, grief, fear. If you don’t give way to the seven, you’re patient, then you’ll soon understand all manner of things and be in harmony with Eternity.’

The matter of ‘killing’ would have been unimportant because no one pays any attention to that really, Christians least of all. Such a little concession, for so much, neh?”

The pleasure room in the garden is very dark if one wants it dark. And darkness keeps all secrets.” “The only way to keep a secret is to be alone and whisper it down an empty well at high noon, neh?”

Soon to fall on the Black Ship and take her, neh? I think Toranaga’s agreed even though he hasn’t said so openly. Hasn’t he just agreed in Japanese fashion? “Nothing can ever be solved in Japan except by Japanese methods.” Yes, I believe that’s the truth. I wanted to be better informed. Didn’t he tell Mariko to translate everything and explain about his political problems? I wanted money to buy my new crew. Didn’t he give me two thousand koku? I asked for two or three hundred corsairs. Hasn’t he given me two hundred samurai with all the power and rank I need? Will they obey me? Of course. He made me samurai and hatamoto. So they’ll obey to the death and I’ll bring them aboard Erasmus, they’ll be my boarding party and I will lead the attack. How unbelievably lucky I am! I’ve everything I want.

‘Be Japanese, Anjin-san, you must, to survive. Do what we do, surrender yourself to the rhythm of karma unashamed. Be content with the forces beyond your control. Put all things into their own separate compartments and yield to wa, the harmony of life. Yield, Anjin-san, karma is karma, neh?’ Yes. I’ll decide when the time comes.

He dismissed them, delighted to have saved fifteen hundred koku. People are so extravagant, he thought benignly.

So yet another of the things Mariko had said was true: that one of Toranaga’s weaknesses was that he was a miser. Of course, she had not said so directly, only that Toranaga made all his incredible wealth go further than any daimyo in the kingdom. This clue, added to his own observations—that Toranaga’s clothes were as simple as his food, and his style of living little different from that of an ordinary samurai—had given him another key to unlock Toranaga.

And, please excuse me, but it is my duty, with all honor and humility, to point out to both of you that such … such astonishing and shameful lack of politeness between you is not worthy of your rank or the solemnity of this occasion. If your vassals—if they could have heard—I doubt if either of you could have held them back. You forget your duty as samurai and your duty to your men.

Now your lord’s accepted the scroll. Now he’s committed. Now he has to act one way or the other.” “What?” said Yabu. “Why else do you think I did what I did? To delay—of course, to delay,” said Toranaga. “But one day? What’s the value of one day?” Yabu asked. “Who knows? A day for you is one less for the enemy.”

“What is money? Nothing but a means of communication,”

How baffling it was that even the most cunning and clever people would frequently see only what they wanted to see, and would rarely look beyond the thinnest of facades. Or they would ignore reality, dismissing it as the facade. And then, when their whole world fell to pieces and they were on their knees slitting their bellies or cutting their throats, or cast out into the freezing world, they would tear their topknots or rend their clothes and bewail their karma, blaming gods or kami or luck or their lords or husbands or vassals—anything or anyone—but never themselves. So very strange.

Is the plan already settled, with Ishido a dupe and the Lady Ochiba and Yaemon also? Has Harima already thrown in with them secretly? Should I launch the Anjin-san at the Black Ship and Nagasaki immediately? What shall I do? Nothing more than usual. Be patient, seek harmony, put aside all worries about I or Thou, Life or Death, Oblivion or Afterlife, Now or Then, and set a new plan into motion.

First she studied her husband’s flower arrangement. He had chosen the blossom of a single white wild rose and put a single pearl of water on the green leaf, and set it on red stones. Autumn is coming, he was suggesting with the flower, talking through the flower, do not weep for the time of fall, the time of dying when the earth begins to sleep; enjoy the time of beginning again and experience the glorious cool of the autumn air on this summer evening … soon the tear will vanish and the rose, only the stones will remain—soon you and I will vanish and only the stones will remain.

“For me it was flawless. Everything. How sad that others, more worthy than I, couldn’t have witnessed it also!” Her eyes glistened in the flickering light. “You witnessed it. That is everything. It was only for you. Others wouldn’t have understood.”

“This has been a fine room, better than I’d dared to hope. I’ve enjoyed being here. I’m reminded again that a body’s nothing but a hut in the wilderness. Thank you for being here. I’m so glad you came to Yokosé, Mariko-san. If it hadn’t been for you I would never have given a cha-no-yu here and never felt so one with eternity.”

“Here in this privacy I can tell you quietly that truth, without pretense. Isn’t an important part of the cha-no-yu to be without pretense?

He stared down at her. “Tell him I hold him responsible for you.” “Yes, Sire,” she said. “But, please excuse me, I am responsible for me.”

“Father Alvito said when Lord Toranaga goes to Osaka, he’s finished.” “Oh, yes. Yes, Anjin-san, that’s most very true,” Mariko said with a brightness she did not feel. Then she put Toranaga and Osaka into their compartments and was tranquil again. “But Osaka’s many leagues away and countless sticks of time in the future, and until that time when what is to be is, Ishido doesn’t know, the good Father doesn’t truly know, we don’t know, no one knows what will truly happen. Neh? Except the Lord God. But He won’t tell us, will He? Until perhaps it has already come to pass. Neh?”

“Knowledge belongs to God. Not to man. I’d like to help you as a gift—nothing in return.”

“You believe they’re lovers?” “What is God but love? Isn’t that the Lord Jesus’ word?” Michael had replied. “I only mentioned I saw their eyes touching each other and that it was so beautiful to see. About their bodies I don’t know, Father, and in truth I don’t care. Their souls touch and I seem to be more aware of God because of it.”

Only merchants have money to waste, and what are they but parasites who create nothing, grow nothing, make nothing but feed off another’s labor? Definitely they should all walk, neh? In this we are very wise.”

It’s not wrong to respect an enemy, even to like one.” “The Lord Jesus forgave his enemies but they still crucified Him.” Calmly Alvito returned the pilot’s gaze.

Be patient, he told himself. What’s the hurry? Isn’t that a vital rule of our Order? Patience. All comes to him who waits—and works. What does twelve hours matter, or even eight days? Those won’t change the course of history.

“What’s the matter?” “Nothing, Ingeles. I was just thinking that this world’s a foul piss-cutter when you can’t trust anyone nowadays. I came in friendship and now there’s a hole in the world.”

“Terrible, isn’t it, not being able to trust anyone.” “Oh, no, Anjin-san, so sorry,” she answered. “That’s just one of life’s most important rules—no more, no less.”

“We must not let this happen, Anjin-san.” “But that man had no right—” “Oh yes, I agree. And of course you’re correct. But please, if you let this incident destroy your harmony, you will be lost and so will I. Please, I implore you to be Japanese. Put this incident away—that’s all it is, one incident in ten thousand. You must not allow it to wreck your harmony. Put it away into a compartment.”

Please excuse me but it’s no boast that I was trained well, Lady, in that and many other things. I’m not afraid to die. I’ve written my will, and detailed instructions to my kin in case of a sudden death. I’ve made my peace with the gods long since and forty days after I’m dead I know I’ll be reborn. And if I’m not”—the woman shrugged—“then I’m a kami.” Her fan was stationary. “So I can afford to reach for the moon, neh? Please excuse me for mentioning it but I’m like you: I fear nothing. But unlike you in this life—I’ve nothing to lose.”

The Legacy began: “The duty of a lord of a province is to give peace and security to the people and does not consist of shedding luster on his ancestors or working for the prosperity of his descendants.…”

One of the maxims was: “Remember that fortune and misfortune should be left to heaven and natural law. They are not to be bought by prayer or any cunning device to be thought of by any man or self-styled saint.” Toranaga eliminated “… or self-styled saint,” and changed the sentence to end “… by any man whatsoever.”

“Be patient, don’t let it disturb your harmony,” he said aloud. “They’re just poor ignorant fools who don’t know any better. You were the same once. Never mind, now you can show them, neh?”

It began as always, like most quarrels, Sire, between husband and wife. Really over nothing. Then suddenly, as always, all the past gets spewed up and it infects the man and the woman if the mood’s on them.”

She knelt as a peasant, her hands were rough like a peasant’s, but her self-assurance was enormous and her inner contentment obvious.

“We women need a god, Great Lord, to help us deal with men, neh?” “And we men need patience, godlike patience, to deal with women, neh?”

A lifetime wish was a favor that, by ancient custom, a wife might ask of her husband, or a son of a father—and occasionally a husband of a wife—without loss of face, on the condition that if the wish was granted, the person agreed never again to ask another favor in this life. By custom, no questions about the favor might be asked, nor was it ever to be mentioned again.

Toranaga said roughly, “She’s here, my son, for two reasons: the first is because I want her here and the second because I want her here!”

“You wouldn’t have killed them first?” “Your first law is to be patient, your second is to be patient. I’ve always followed your orders.

Treason and fear were contagious and both had to be cauterized without pity the moment they appeared. Even then you could never be sure they were eradicated.

The struggle he was locked into was not a child’s game. The weak had to be food for the strong, the strong pawns for the very strong.

Listen, if you want peace you must learn to drink cha from an empty cup.” She had shown him how. “You think reality into the cup, you think the cha there—the warm, pale-green drink of the gods. If you concentrate hard … Oh, a Zen teacher could show you, Anjin-san. It is most difficult but so easy. How I wish I was clever enough to show it to you, for then all things in the world can be yours for the asking … even the most unobtainable gift—perfect tranquillity.”

“Taking decisions away from your liege lord is treason.” “Sire, there are too many precedents for deposing a lord. You’ve done it, Goroda did it, the Taikō—we’ve all done that and worse. A victor never commits treason.”

“Special information or wisdom, even from a fool, can be just as valuable as from a counselor, neh? Sometimes more so.”

We all forgot Toranaga is a great Nōh actor who can wear his own face as a mask if need be.

“Men need to whisper secrets, Lady. That’s what makes them different from us—they need to share secrets, but we women only reveal them to gain an advantage. With a little silver and a ready ear—and I have both—it’s all so easy. Yes. Men need to share secrets. That’s why we’re superior to them and they’ll always be in our power.”

“You understand ‘hate’—the word ‘hate’?” “Yes.” “Hate comes from fear. I do not fear you. You need not fear me. Never again. I want what you want: your new ships here, you here, captain of new ships. I can help you very much.

“His silver will buy him all the men he needs. Even Catholics—even Portuguese. Men foolishly think more about this world than the next. They won’t open their eyes. They sell their souls all too easily.

“Isn’t this a measure of his fairness? He gave this land freely—even when you failed him and he’d lost everything—even your friendship.”

He blessed her, and then he continued her Mass in this imaginary cathedral, under the breaking sky … the service more real and more beautiful than it had ever been, for him and for her.

“That wouldn’t have been right, Mariko-san. So many men against one. Not fair.” Mariko had explained to Fujiko and Kiku what he had said. “Please excuse me, Anjin-san, but we all believe that is a very dangerous way of thinking and beg you to forsake it. It’s quite wrong and very naïve. Please excuse me for being so blunt. Yabu-san will destroy you.”

“They don’t tell us, their converts, what they truly believe, Anjin-san. Or even themselves most times. They are trained to have secrets, to use secrets, to welcome them, but never to reveal them. In that they’re very Japanese.”

“Nineteen days isn’t much time, is it, Kiri-chan?” “It’s time enough to go to Yedo and back again if you hurry, time enough to live a lifetime if you want, more than enough time to fight a battle or lose an Empire—time for a million things, but not enough time to eat all the rare dishes or drink all the saké.…”

Mariko said, and thought, how tiresome men are, they need everything explained in such detail. They can’t even see the hairs on their own eyelids.

“So sorry, but my Master gave me orders. A samurai doesn’t question his lord’s orders.” “Yes. But I question them because they’re nonsense. Your master doesn’t deal in nonsense, or make mistakes. And I insist I have the right to question you as well.”

“I do not like to see fire in thee. Or venom. Or crossness. Where is thy tranquillity? And where are thy manners? Perhaps thou should learn to watch the rocks growing. Neh?” Mariko’s anger vanished and she laughed. “Ah, thee! Thou art right. Please forgive me.”

“What about the nineteen days—eighteen now? Toranaga must be here, neh?” “Yes.” “Then isn’t this as Ishido says, a waste of time?” “Truly I don’t know. I only know that nineteen, eighteen, or even three days can be an eternity.” “Or tomorrow?” “Tomorrow also. Or the next day.”

Do you really expect to see a rock growing? he asked himself. No, of course not, but it passes the time and promotes tranquillity. You can’t have enough wa. Neh?

There’s no defense against an assassin if the assassin is prepared to die.

“I am samurai. My orders are clear, in keeping with bushido and sanctified by our code. They must be obeyed and overrule legally any man-made ordinance. The law may upset reason, but reason may not overthrow the law. If I am not permitted to obey, I will not be able to live with that shame.”

But, with everyone, he had done nothing. Not because he was afraid. He was no longer afraid to die. Her courage had shown him the uselessness of that fear and he had come to terms with himself long ago, on that night in the village with the knife. I meant to drive the knife into my heart that night. Since then my fear of death’s been obliterated, just as she said it would be.

‘Only by living at the edge of death can you understand the indescribable joy of life.’

“Thank you. I meant no offense, neh? Are you the senior officer here?” “The Lady Toda honored me with her confidence, yes. Of course, you are senior to me.” “I am in command but you are in charge.”

“You’ve two enemies, child. Your pride and the need to have a man to compare to our husband.

“No need for tears, O-chan. Life’s only a dream within a dream,” the old man said.

“Eeeeee, old friend, what a life we’ve had, neh? All the battles? Fighting side by side—together unbeatable. We did the impossible, neh? Together we humbled the mighty and spat on their upturned arses while they groveled for more.

“It’s a bad law.” “Yes. And no.” She looked up from the mats. “Are we going to quarrel about things that may not be changed?”

“What can I do to help thee?” he asked. “Believe there is a tomorrow.”

his mouth open a fraction to improve his hearing,

Blackthorne drank and gagged on the brew that smelled like ancient bird droppings and mildewed kelp mixed with fermenting leaves on a hot summer’s day. The taste was worse.

“I saw many terrible things. Very few men are wise—most are sinners and great evil happens on earth in God’s name. But not of God.

You are a worthy samurai. And you have a quality that’s rare here: unpredictability. The Taikō had it, Toranaga-sama has it too. You see, usually we’re a very predictable people.”

This is better than breaking any falcon to the fist, he thought excitedly, momentarily distracted, putting his will to bear on Blackthorne. It’s better because the Anjin-san’s just as wild and dangerous and unpredictable, always an unknown quantity, unique, unlike any man I’ve ever known.

“Thank you, Anjin-san,” Toranaga said. He did not allow his triumph to show. He watched Blackthorne obediently walk away—violent, strong, murderous, but controlled now by the will of Toranaga.

“How do you know all that, Father?” Naga exclaimed. “I don’t know it for certain, my son. But that’s what I think will happen. It’s always important to take time to study men—important men. Friends and enemies. To understand them. I’ve watched both of them. They’re both very important to me.

“Yes, but this Jesus God of theirs taught or was supposed to have taught that you forgive your enemy. That’s being Christian.” “That’s stupid, neh?” Naga said. “To forgive your enemy is stupid.” “I agree.” Toranaga looked at Yabu. “It is foolish to forgive an enemy."

“Please excuse me, Sire, but I feel with all my heart that if you put your trust in God, He will help you.” “I do, but more in Toranaga."

Now Toranaga glanced at Sudara and studied the narrow expressionless face. When he had made the deliberately sudden announcement nothing had shown on Sudara, neither on his face nor in his hands. No gladness, thankfulness, pride—not even surprise, and this saddened him. But then, Toranaga thought, why be sad, you have other sons who smile and laugh and make mistakes and shout and rave and pillow and have many women. Normal sons. This son is to follow after you, to lead after you’re dead, to hold the Minowaras tight and to pass on the Kwanto and power to other Minowaras. To be ice and calculating, like you. No, not like me, he told himself truthfully. I can laugh sometimes and be compassionate sometimes, and I like to fart and pillow and storm and dance and play chess and Nōh, and some people gladden me, like Naga and Kiri and Chano and the Anjin-san, and I enjoy hunting and winning, and winning, and winning. Nothing gladdens you, Sudara, so sorry. Nothing. Except your wife, the Lady Genjiko. The Lady Genjiko’s the only weak link in your chain.

Toranaga watched and waited. Patiently. There was much yet to do before he could ride away and cast Tetsu-ko or Kogo aloft and he was avid for that pleasure, but that would be for himself alone and therefore unimportant. Fujiko was important and he had promised himself that at least for today he would pretend that he had won, that he had time and could be patient and arrange matters it was his duty to arrange.

“The Yoshitomo? The one I gave Yabu? He gave it to the Anjin-san?” “Yes, Sire. He spoke to him through the Tsukku-san. He said, ‘Anjin-san, I give you this to commemorate your arrival at Anjiro and as a thank you for the pleasure that little barbarian gave me.’ At first the Anjin-san refused to take it, but Yabu begged him to and said, ‘None of these manure eaters deserves such a blade.’ Eventually he agreed.”

“What did you promise him, Omi-san?” “Nothing, Sire. He came to me of his own accord yesterday.” “An honest man? You’re telling me he’s an honest man?” “I don’t know about that, Sire. But he came to me yesterday, and I rushed here to tell you.” “Then he will really be rewarded. Such loyalty’s more important than anything, neh?”

“Surely this Kiwami is the most dangerous of all,” Sudara had said, the only one admitted to the plot. “Yes. And he’ll be watched all his life and not trusted. But generally there’s good in evil people and evil in good people. You must choose the good and get rid of the evil without sacrificing the good. There’s no waste in my domains to be cast away lightly.”

“Patience means restraining yourself. There are seven emotions, neh? Joy, anger, anxiety, adoration, grief, fear, and hate. If a man doesn’t give way to these, he’s patient. I’m not as strong as I might be but I’m patient. Understand?” “Yes, Sire. Very clearly.” “Patience is very necessary in a leader.”

“But great talent merits sacrifice.”

Put aside your sadness. Life is all sadness. Kiku-san has her karma, I have mine, Toranaga has his, and my Lord Yabu shows how foolish it is to worry about this or that or anything.

“What was his death poem?” Omi said: “‘What are clouds But an excuse for the sky? What is life But an escape from death?’ ” Toranaga smiled. “Interesting,”

Toranaga was watching her closely. Fujiko appeared so docile and demure but he knew she was as inflexible as he was and not ready to concede either point unless he ordered it.

“What was he like?” “A short, bald man, very proud, a fine general and a poet of great note."

“Yes. I know. That’s why you will never leave. You know too much, Anjin-san. I told you that before and I say it again, but with no malice. Truly. You’re a brave man, a fine adversary, one to respect, and I do, and there should be peace between us. We’re going to see a lot of each other over the years—if any of us survive the war.”

I saved your life, which you wanted even above your ship. Fifty times or more I’ve had to consider giving your life away but so far I’ve always managed to avoid it. I hope to continue to do that. Why? This is a day for truth, neh? The answer is because you make me laugh and I need a friend. I daren’t make friends among my own people, or among the Portuguese. Yes, I will whisper it down a well at noon but only when I’m certain I’m alone, that I need one friend. And also your knowledge. Mariko-sama was right again. Before you go I want to know everything you know. I told you we both had plenty of time, you and I.

The first time I saw you, I said, “There’s no excuse for rebellion,” and you said, “There’s one—if you win!” Ah, Anjin-san, I bound you to me then. I agree. Everything’s right if you win. Stupid to fail. Unforgivable.

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