Kusunoki Masatsura

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Kusunoki Masatsura, the son of Kusunoki Masashige continues his father's struggle against the Ashikaga forces. This print shows the final stage of the battle of Shijonawate in 1348.
In this Japanese name, the family name is "Kusunoki".

Kusunoki Masatsura (楠木 正行?, 1326 – February 4, 1348), along with his father Masashige and brother Masanori, was a supporter of the Southern Imperial Court during Japan's Nanbokucho Wars.

Masatsura was one of the primary military leaders who revived the Southern Court in the 1340s. The Court had had little to no resources for three years; the strategy was too focused on defending their base at Yoshino, and not on gaining allies, land, or income. The Kusunoki family, and Masatsura in particular, fought to gain power and support for the Emperor. In 1347, Masatsura led an attack on bakufu (shogunate) sympathizers in Kii Province and ended up attracting supporters from Kii, as well as Izumi and Settsu Provinces. When the Shogun's Northern Court sent Hosokawa Akiuji to stop him, Masatsura met Hosokawa and defeated him in the battle of Sakainoura.

After several more campaigns against the bakufu, Masatsura was killed in the Battle of Shijō Nawate, in February 1348 at the age of 22. Before he died, he composed a death poem:

帰へらじと
兼ねて思へば
梓弓
亡き数に入る
名をぞとどむる
kaeraji to
kanete omoeba
azusayumi
nakikazu ni iru
na wo zotodomuru
I have a feeling
I will not be returning,
so among the names
of those who died by the bow
I inscribe my own.

Cultural references[edit]

In Equinox Flower (彼岸花, Higanbana), a 1958 color Japanese film directed by Yasujirō Ozu, one of the characters declaims a poet "based on a death poem of patriot Kusunoki Masatsura". Whether it has to do with the precious poem is unknown.

An approximate translation is :

My father's precepts are engraved in my heart.
I will faithfully follow the emperor's edict.
10 years of patience, and finally the time has come.
Strike a powerful blow
for the emperor's cause we are struggling now.
To fight and die as men, we make an oath.
We, 143 companions of war, united as one,
determined to fight until victory, yes, we are.
By dying, heroes earn an immortal glory,
the cowards suffer an eternal shame.
With the edges of our arrows, we engrave our story,
the blades of our swords shine in the evening.
Against the approaching enemy, let's walk with the same step,
At their general, let's give the final blow.

References[edit]

  • Sansom, George (1961). "A History of Japan: 1334-1615." Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Turnbull, Stephen (1998). 'The Samurai Sourcebook'. London: Cassell & Co.