by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No.22

The samurai, OKADO Dempachiro "Shigetomo," who lived in Edo in the late 17th and early 18th centuries

Welcome to Kawagoe! Kawagoe is an old town whose history can be traced back to the Old Stone Age. I would like to tell you a story about the Kawagoe of olden times. This story is about the samurai, OKADO Dempachiro "Shigetomo," who lived in Edo in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. This is number twenty-two in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
A Gravestone at the Renkeiji Temple in Renjaku-cho
There is a big unusual gravestone in the center of the graveyard at the Renkeiji Temple(Map C-4). This is the gravestone of OKADO Dempachiro "Nobukiyo," who passed away in 1629. His grandson was "Shigetomo." Shigetomo was a witness to the death of ASANO Takuminokami, the Lord of Akoh Castle, who was ordered by the Shogun to commit "hara-kiri " in 1701. I would like to look at the OKADO Dempachiro Shigetomo's role in the affair.
OKADO Dempachiro Nobukiyo's gravestone at the Renkeiji Temple
OKADO Dempachiro Nobukiyo's gravestone at the Renkeiji Temple
The Okado Family
The Okado family had lived in Mikawa (now in Aichi Prefecture) and served the Matsudaira (Tokugawa) family from generation to generation. They took an active part in the wars in Osaka, in which TOKUGAWA Ieyasu destroyed the Toyotomi family. As "Hatamoto," retainers of the Shogun, it is said they had an estate in Iruma County (now in Saitama Prefecture). So, we can assume that the house of Nobukiyo might have been located in Kawagoe because his gravestone is at the Renkeiji Temple. The records kept by the temple show that Nobukiyo's son was also buried at the temple. Therefore, it is considered to be a fact that Shigetomo spent his childhood in Kawagoe, as his father and grandfather were buried at the Renkeiji Temple.
OKADO Dempachiro, Superintendent
OKADO Dempachiro "Shigetomo" was born in 1659 and by the age of 39 rose to the rank of "Metsuke," a superintendent at Edo Castle. The "Metsuke" reported to the "Wakadoshiyori," who were sub-assistants to the Shogun, and supervised the "Hatamoto." Four years after OKADO's promotion to "Metsuke," a serious incident occurred at Edo Castle.
March 14, 1701 at Edo Castle
On this day, the fifth Shogun, Tsunayoshi, was supposed to welcome some Imperial messengers. The daimyo (feudal lords) were ready in formal dress. The man of power in those days was YANAGISAWA Yoshiakira (later he was known as Yoshiyasu). He was both special assistant to the Shogun and the Lord of Kawagoe Castle. Suddenly, word came that an incident involving the drawing of a sword had occurred inside the castle. OKADO Dempachiro rushed to the spot and learned that ASANO Takuminokami, who was supposed to be entertaining the Imperial messengers, had drawn his sword and slashed KIRA Kohzukenosuke, who was supposed to be supporting him.
The Decision Made by Shogun Tsunayoshi
The drawing of swords was strictly prohibited inside Edo Castle. Without asking for an explanation, Shogun Tsunayoshi ordered ASANO, who had broken the rule, to commit "hara-kiri" within the day. OKADO raised an objection with one of his superiors, who was a Wakadoshiyor, saying, "ASANO is the lord of a castle. There may also be fault on KIRA's part because ASANO broke the rule knowing it would disgrace his family name. Please consider "hara-kiri" after a thorough investigation." OKADO's superior then notified YANAGISAWA of the objection, however, YANAGISAWA was not persuaded saying once and for all, "Remind him of his place."
The Place for "Hara-kiri"
Together with his boss, SHODA Yasutoshi, and his colleague, OKUBO Gonzaemon, OKADO went as a witness to the residence of Mr. TAMURA where ASANO was to commit "hara-kiri." Looking around, he saw that some "tatami" mats had been prepared in the garden in front of a drawing room as the place for ASANO to commit "hara-kiri" and that some curtains had been hung around them. It was not intended that he would perform "hara-kiri" indoors. OKADO protested to his boss, "It is just not dignified for a daimyo to have to commit "hara-kiri" in the garden." But his objection was dismissed and the time arrived.
The Last of ASANO Takuminokami
When taking his place on the tatami, ASANO asked for an ink-case and a piece of paper. Taking his time, he calmly ground the ink-cake. Picking up the brush, he wrote his last poem. With the assistance of ISODA Budayu, who beheaded him, ASANO died quickly. After confirmation of the act, SHODA, OKADO and OKUBO returned to Edo Castle to report. Afterward, the Akoh Domain was deprived of its castle.
The Raid on KIRA's Mansion by the 47 Akoh Ronin
As most Japanese know, the 47 Akoh ronin avenged their master by braking into KIRA's mansion and killing him in the dead of night on December 15, 1702, nearly two years later. They then committed "hara-kiri" on February 4, 1703 and were buried at Sengakuji Temple in Takanawa, Edo.
A part of garden lanterns dedicated by YANAGISAWA Yoshiyasu stands in front of the Semba Toshogu Shrine in Kawagoe. The date of the day following the incident when the 47 ronin broke into KIRA's mansion is carved into the lanterns. I do not know the reason.
Garden lantern dedicated by YANAGISAWA Yoshiyasu, Lord of Kawagoe, in 1702
Garden lantern dedicated by YANAGISAWA Yoshiyasu, Lord of Kawagoe, in 1702
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

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Illustration of Kawagoe