Impressions on Yamato Takeru

The idea and actions of samurai for me has changed many times throughout my life.  As a young child I became attached to the Ninja from anime and folk stories  I watched.  My liking towards them immediately put down the samurai as their enemy, mindless soldiers of a corrupt government.  Then as I began to get more into real Japanese history the samurai occupies a fixed romanticized notion of intense honor and respect that does not usually live up to the real samurai.  Especially in the Edo era, the lack of warfare and subsequent fighting practice led to a decline in the martial capabilities of this class.  This reading clashes with my impressions of how the samurai really behaved, but enhances the gracious literary heroism of samurai.

Yamato received an order from his father to employ his swordsmanship in order to assert political hegemony over the “barbaric” peoples of the eastern provinces while in the process slaying various beasts and deities.  And when the governor of Sagamu deceived him, he “cut him like a melon” in order to reclaim his pride.  In the scenes leading up to his demise, he endures great physical torment until the moment of his death upon which he transforms into a white bird.

His death may come across as a failure, though he did not die a pitiful and pathetic death.  His attempt to yet again slay another beasts trumps the defeat of his death.  He may not live up to the most valiant of standards, but his devotion and pride serves an influence for others to fight until the death.  Its fulfillment the fantasy of samurai however does not match my actual impression of the samurai.

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