Friday, 22 June 2012

I shall be waiting for you

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In 1615, having successfully commanded an army at the Battle of Imafuku some months before, 22-year-old Japanese samurai and "peerless hero of the nation" Kimura Shigenari once again prepared to lead his men at the Siege of Osaka, despite his troops being heavily outnumbered. His young wife, Lady Shigenari, feared the worst and, having decided not to continue without her brave husband, wrote him the following farewell letter.

As predicted, Kimura Shigenari was killed during battle, and then beheaded. By that point, his wife had already taken her own life.

(Source: The Goodbye Book; Image: Lady Shigenari, via The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.)

I know that when two wayfarers take shelter under the same tree and slake their thirst in the same river it has all been determined by their karma from a previous life. For the past few years you and I have shared the same pillow as man and wife who had intended to live and grow old together, and I have become as attached to you as your own shadow. This is what I believed, and I think this is what you have also thought about us.

But now I have learnt about the final enterprise on which you have decided and, though I cannot be with you to share the grand moment, I rejoice in the knowledge of it. It is said that on the eve of his final battle, the Chinese general, Hsiang Yü, valiant warrior though he was, grieved deeply about leaving Lady Yü, and that (in our own country) Kiso Yoshinaka lamented his parting from Lady Matsudono. I have now abandoned all hope about our future together in this world, and, mindful of their example, I have resolved to take the ultimate step while you are still alive. I shall be waiting for you at the end of what they call the road to death.

I pray that you may never, never forget the great bounty, deep as the ocean, high as the mountains, that has been bestowed upon us for so many years by our lord, Prince Hideyori.