Ango Sakaguchi – Darakuron – On Decadence – Part 1
Over the course of half a year, our lives changed completely. The humble shield of our sovereign lord (1). Oh to die for the Emperor, would leave me no regrets (2). Many of the young men who professed these words fell gracefully in battle like withered blossoms, while those who survived returned home to form our black-market. To desire a long life is shameful, to one day serve as the Emperor’s loyal shield is our vow. After six month’s time, the faithful women who had sent their men off to battle now perform the chore of kneeling, forehead to the ground, in front of their husband’s graves. All the while, the day when their hearts will welcome in some new desire, growing closer at hand. It wasn’t people that had changed. People are the same as they have always been. What changed was merely the surface of our lives.
One of the reasons why the shogun refused pardon for those 47 ronin (3), why they were sentenced to death, was out of concern that should they be allowed to live they would live in shame, that it would be unacceptable should someone appear to sully their names. This kind of human emotion does not exist in our modern legal system. Still, I imagine that this tendency still lives on in hearts of many of us. It is perhaps an emotion common to all mankind, the desire to end something that started beautiful while it is still beautiful. More than a decade ago, the public expressed such great sympathy when, somewhere near Oiso, a student and his lover chose to kill themselves, to end their love while they were both still chaste. I myself had similar feelings when my niece, with whom I had been extremely close, killed herself at the age of 21. I felt almost relieved that she had died while she was still beautiful and pure. For, while at first glance she was that beautiful and pure young girl, there was also terrible delicacy to her, and I worried that she would slip and fall head first into the fires of hell. My relief came because I couldn’t bear to watch her live that life.
(1) A phrase widely used in pre-war Japan. It means, “though I may be lowly and base, I will protect the Emperor with all my might.”
(2) One line from a patriotic song. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umi_Yukaba
(3) The 47 ronin mentioned here are from an actual historical event in which 47 samurai exact revenge on the court official Kira Yoshinaka for killing their master. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty-seven_Ronin