Tales of Old Japan eBook

Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 481 pages of information about Tales of Old Japan.


The doughty deeds and marvellous experiences of Funakoshi Jiuyemon are perhaps, like those of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, rather traditional than historical; but even if all or part of the deeds which popular belief ascribes to him be false, his story conveys a true picture of manners and customs.  Above all, the manner of the vengeance which he wreaked upon the wife who had dishonoured him, and upon her lover, shows the high importance which the Japanese attach to the sanctity of the marriage tie.

The 50th and 51st chapters of the “Legacy of Iyeyasu,” already quoted, say:  “If a married woman of the agricultural, artisan, or commercial class shall secretly have intercourse with another man, it is not necessary for the husband to enter a complaint against the persons thus confusing the great relation of mankind, but he may put them both to death.  Nevertheless, should he slay one of them and spare the other, his guilt is the same as that of the unrighteous persons.

“In the event, however, of advice being sought, the parties not having been slain, accede to the wishes of the complainant with, regard to putting them to death or not.

“Mankind, in whose bodies the male and female elements induce a natural desire towards the same object, do not look upon such practices with aversion; and the adjudication of such cases is a matter of special deliberation and consultation.

“Men and women of the military class are expected to know better than to occasion disturbance by violating existing regulations; and such an one breaking the regulations by lewd, trifling, or illicit intercourse shall at once be punished, without deliberation or consultation.  It is not the same in this case as in that of agriculturists, artisans, and traders.”

As a criminal offence, adultery was, according to the ancient laws of Japan, punished by crucifixion.  In more modern times it has been punished by decapitation and the disgraceful exposure of the head after death; but if the murder of the injured husband accompany the crime of adultery, then the guilty parties are crucified to this day.  At the present time the husband is no longer allowed to take the law into his own hands:  he must report the matter to the Government, and trust to the State to avenge his honour.

Sacred as the marriage tie is so long as it lasts, the law which cuts it is curiously facile, or rather there is no law:  a man may turn his wife out of doors, as it may suit his fancy.  An example of this practice was shown in the story of “The Forty-seven Ronins.”  A husband has but to report the matter to his lord, and the ceremony of divorce is completed.  Thus, in the days of the Shoguns’ power, a Hatamoto who had divorced his wife reported the matter to the Shogun.  A Daimio’s retainer reports the matter to his Prince.

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Tales of Old Japan from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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