Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
is a little vase of bamboo in which they can put flowers.
When I was there crowds of Japanese were placing burning incense on each of the graves, and all the vases had flowers in them. This shows that the deeds of the forty-seven are still known to their fellow-countrymen and that their loyalty and bravery are still admired.
In a building belonging to the temple there are kept the portraits of the Ronins in the shape of small statues showing them in their favourite dress – some in armour and all in different attitudes, and fine, strong, brave-looking fellows they were.
I do not tell this story in order to make out that Oisbi and his Ronins were right to go and kill their master’s enemy, but we cannot judge them by what we should do nowadays, because they were then uncivilised and it all took place a long time ago.
But it is interesting to see that even in those days people thought a lot of men who were manly and loyal to their leader, and who were not afraid to sacrifice themselves, even by the most painful of deaths, in order to do their duty, and the Japanese of to-day look upon them as heroes and admire them for it.
In fact, since I wrote the above for you I read in a Japanese newspaper that a Japanese schoolboy recently told his schoolfellows that he was not afraid to commit hara-kiri, and proceeded to do it out in the middle o£ the playground; he had already dug the knife into his stomach when a teacher rushed forward and saved him just in time.
But it shows you how if you only make up your mind to stand the pain, and even death, it is easy to be brave in doing your duty.
In the war between Russia and Japan it happened on several occasions that Japanese officers and soldiers, when overcome by bigger numbers of Russians, refused to surrender, and killed themselves rather than be defeated. They did not kill themselves by the easy method of shooting themselves, but by the painful way of disemboweling themselves with their swords. They did this because it was the more honourable way in which the Samurai or Knights of Japan did it.
You will probably remember the case of bravery on the part of Japanese which I gave in “Scouting for Boys.” It was this in the late war between Japan and Russia some Japanese pioneers had been ordered to blow up the gate of a Russian fort so that the attackers could get in. Most of them were shot down in trying to get to the gate, but a few managed to reach it with their charges of powder.
These had to be “tamped” or jammed against the doors so as to give full force to their explosion.
The men carrying the sandbags with which to do the tamping had been shot. There was no way of getting the required pressure on to the charge, but the gates must be blown down without delay.
So the brave pioneers put the charge against the door and then pressing it there with their chests, ht the match and blew the gates and themselves to pieces. But their plucky self-sacrifice enabled their comrades to get in to win the place for their Emperor.