Quoted from the first chapter of “the Meiji Restoration Losers” written by Michael Wert (Harvard East Asian Monograph 358).
On the morning of the sixth day of the fourth intercalary month in 1868, imperial troops escorted Oguri Tadamasa from his temporary imprisonment to the banks of the Karasu River in Mizunuma Village. Typically, capital punishment for a high-ranking samurai, especially a direct vassal of the shogun, involved ritual gesture of suicide before an executioner’s coup de grace. That day, however, Oguri was forced to bend over, hands tied behind his back.
Besides calling the man who dared push his body forward with his feet a “disrespectful lout,” Oguri’s final words were a request to let his wife, daughter-in-law, and mother go free. A low-ranking samurai struck Oguri’s neck not once but three times before his head dropped unceremoniously into a pit. A villager who witnessed the execution as a boy recalled, “What was most impressive in my mind was how white the soles of his tabi appeared when the body fell forward.”
This scene weighs on Oguri’s commemoration, coloring explanations of his career up to the moment. It marks the origin of his commemoration both geographically, as ground zero for the historical memory about him, and temporally–almost immediately after his execution, former colleagues became his first apologists, protecting his legacy in death though they could not help him in life. The goal of this chapter is to impart a historical understanding of Oguri and clarify why memory activists and supporters found him a compelling figure worthy of appropriation.
小説の冒頭のように鮮やかな光景が浮かぶ。著者のいう memory landscape (仮に｢記憶の風景｣と訳しておく)の一端がこれか、と思わせる書き出しである。