Saturday, September 20, 2014

TAIKO, some thoughts about a novel

Oriental-American Garden
Bellingrath Gardens, Theodore, Alabama
Japanese Peace Garden
Fredericksburg, Texas

Are you attracted to such things as Oriental-American gardens or Japanese Peace Gardens? There is something about such places that make me thirst for more knowledge of the Japanese people and the country of Japan.

That is why I attempted to read a very big, long book recently. 

One can tell from the book jacket that it is not a peaceful book.
The front inside book leaf reads:

In the tempestuous closing decades of the sixteenth century, the Empire of Japan writhes in chaos as the shogunate crumbles and rival warlords battle for supremacy. Warrior-monks in their armed citadels block the road to the capital; castles are destroyed, villages plundered, fields put to the torch.

Amid this devastation, three men dream of uniting the nation. One extreme is the charismatic but brutal Nobunaga, whose ruthless ambition crushes all before him. At the opposite pole is the cold, deliberate Ieyasu, wise in counsel, brave in battle, mature beyond his years. But the keystone of this triumvirate is the most memorable of all, Hideyoshi, who rises from the menial post of sandal bearer to become Taiko -- absolute ruler of Japan in the Emperor‘s name.

When Nobunaga emerges from obscurity by destroying an army ten times the size of his own, he allies himself with Ieyasu, whose province is weak but whose canniness and loyalty make him invaluable. Yet it is the scrawny, monkey-faced Hideyoshi -- brash, impulsive, and utterly fearless -- who becomes the unlikely savior of this ravaged land. Born the son of a farmer, he takes on the world with nothing but his bare hands and his wits, turning doubters into loyal servants, rivals into faithful friends, and enemies into allies. In all this he uses a piercing insight into human nature that unlocks castle gates, opens men’s minds, and captures women’s hearts. For Hideyoshi’s passions are not limited to war and intrigue -- his faithful wife, Nene, holds his love dear, even when she must share it; the chaste Oyu, sister of Hideyoshi’s chief strategist, falls prey to his desires; and the seductive Chacha, whom he rescues from the fiery destruction of her father’s castle, tempts his weakness.

As recounted by Eiji Yoshikawa, author of the international best-seller “Musashi,” “Taiko” tells many stories: of the fury of Nobunaga and the fatal arrogance of the black-toothed Yoshimoto; of the pathetic downfall of the House of Takeda; how the scorned Mitsuhide betrayed his master; how once impregnable ramparts fell as their defenders died gloriously. Most of all, though, “Taiko” is the story of how one man transformed a nation through the force of his will and the depths of his humanity. Filled with scenes of pageantry and violence, acts of treachery and self-sacrifice, tenderness and savagery,”Taiko” combines the panoramic spectacle of a Kurosawa epic with a vivid evocation of feudal Japan.

The author, Eiji Yoshikawa, was born in 1892 near Tokyo. Beginning his literary career at the age of twenty-two, he continued to work as a journalist while writing novels that reached a large and appreciative readership. At the Time of his death in 1962 he was one of Japan’s most popular and best-loved novelists.

William Scott Wilson, the translator, was born in Nashville in 1944. He now lives and works in Miami.

Jacket illustration (above) is courtesy of the Tozan-an Collection.

~ ~ ~

Perhaps as you read this summarization, your mind connected this narrative with some of the movies you have seen or some of the books you have read and some of the history you have stumbled across in various ways.

In some mysterious way, what I read in this book reminded me of the Old Testament in the Holy Scriptures (The Bible).

Here is how I read this large novel which is a translation of the Japanese to English.

I started at the beginning. The book is set up as ten books total and a total of 926 pages in print about the size of Times New Roman 12 point.

After reading from the beginning for awhile in at least BOOK ONE, I realized I could not stay with a book of this length because of the endless war and fighting in its pages. I went to BOOK TEN, and read it. The EPILOGUE was my favorite part of the book because it contains many philosophical conclusions. It would probably be illegal to copy it word for word in this blog post, but let me tell you I liked it so much, I typed it myself because of what appeared to me to be ancient wisdom.

Particularly the conclusion of the book made me think of a book I read many years ago, "Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," which contained some similar wisdom or philosophy.

Have you ever looked back on your life with its twists and turns and realized just how miraculous and wonderful it was.  I thank God that my entire life has been blessed, but some parts of it did not seem all that wonderful.  Yet, it was those very experiences that made me appreciate even more what followed.  

     When climbing a mountain, the top of the mountain is believed to be the reason for the climb. But, in life it is the adversities and overcoming  them that gives real satisfaction, joy and happiness.
Think about it: If each day were just a simple rocking along a path with no problems or obstacles to solve and overcome.  Wouldn't it be absolutely boring?
I challenge you to look back on your life and realize something bigger and more all-knowing must have been in charge of your life thus far here on earth.


A Final Gem of Wisdom at Japanese Bus Stops


Only buses will stop here – Not your time. So keep walking towards your goal.


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