Copped and cropped from Ono Collection

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun
No. 951
   1875-3-6 (no seal)
Gambler's luck runs out

Story translation (partial)

The likes of gamblers and long swords have lately been sweeping the land and good people who encounter this [their] harm are not few. And there is someone, who recently submitted to roping, and who calls [himself] Yoshimura Kumagoro, the changed named of Matsujiro, son of Katsuta Kakujiro, a farmer of Tomizu village in the Isshi district of the province of Ise, and he is truly a robber who does not fear heaven. During the 2nd month of the 2nd year of Meiji [circa March 1869] he fled the province and drifted here and there, but around the bottom third of the 8th month of the following year he was staying with the gambler Takegoro of Shakumaku village in Shinshu. Inviting his [Takegoro's] underling Kikutaro he went to the pleasure-girl house Komatsuya at Toguraeki. While frolicking with some prostitute entertainers, they were suddenly interrupted by underlings of gambler Daigoro of Yawata village Kotaro, Kiichiro, Sadakichi Kotaro, Aizawa Shiro, Matsushiro Shigezo and others totalling 56 each carrying a short lance. . . .

[ Matsujiro, while cutting down numerous opponents, sustained four wound on his hands and arms and four on his legs but survived, while Kikutaro died after being treated for more serious wounds. After recuperating, Matsujiro joined with others as he continued his life of gambling, whoring, and fighting. Turf battles, some involving similarly large numbers of gamblers, followed him all over the region . . . on Meiji 3-12 bottom third, Meiji 5-11-5, Meiji 6-12-16, and Meiji 7-2-9. He and an accomplice, Tamagoro, then pass through Koshu, and . . . ]

. . . when ascending on Tokyo, on Meiji 7-12-22 [22 December 1874], in Takaido village, they immediately submitted to capture and roping.


[Translated by William Wetherall]


Of the six triptychs in the TNS series, three concern the Taiwan Expedition. The other three, including this one, deal with fights or battles involving gangsters or rebels.

The story on this triptych, the longest of any on prints in the TNS series, is a practically vertabtim transcription of the newspaper article (see Tsuchiya 2000).


The drawing shows the first fight described in the story.

The red cartouches show Gambler Kiichiro (博徒喜一郎) and Gambler Matsushiro Shigezo (博徒松城繁蔵) on the right, and Gambler Aizawa Shiro (博徒合澤四郎), Gamble Kotaro (博徒幸太郎), and Gambler [Sadakichi] Kotaro (博徒光太郎) on the left, surrounding Katsuta Matsujiro / alias / Yoshimura Kumagoro (勝田松次郎 / 變名 / 吉村熊五良) in the middle -- while Takegoro Underling / Kikutaro (竹五郎子分 / 菊太郎), identified by the white cartouche, lies (and hides) wounded under a sliding door. The women right and left are not identified.


gamblers reflects 博徒 (bakuto) -- literally "followers" (徒 to) of "gambling" (博 baku). Gamblers and other outlaws are also romanticized as 侠客 (kyōkaku) or "person adept at" (客 kyaku) "valor" or "chivalry" (侠 kyō).

long swords reflects 長脇差し (nagawakizashi) -- 長脇差 (nagawakizashi) as the term is also written. A nagawakizashi is a long (長 naga) verson of a short sword that is worn at the side (脇 waki) by insertion (差し sashi) through a sash at the waist. In the Kanto region centering on Edo/Tokyo, it was also, as here, a tag for the gamblers, ruffians, and other outlaws who wore such swords.

good people reflects 良民 (ryō) -- meaning, here, people in general -- as opposed to "bad persons" (悪者 warumono) and "evil people" (悪人 akunin) among other knaves, rogues, rascals, scoundrels, and generally unpleasant or dangerous varieties (類 rui).

submitted to roping reflects 縛に就たる (baku ni tsukitaru), an attributive phrase which qualifies the protagonist of the sentence -- Katsuta Matsujiro alias Yoshimura Kumagoro. A similar expression is echoed in the closing line (see below).

The expression 縛に就く (baku ni tsuku) and its more Sino-Japanese equivalent 就縛する (shūbaku suru) -- both meaning "submit to roping [tying, binding]" -- are also used as metaphors for being tied or bound by time, money, work, status, and other such physical and social constraints.

province of Ise (伊勢の國 Ise no kuni) is now part of Mie prefecture.

a robber who does not fear heaven reflects 天を畏れざる賊 (ten o osorezaru zoku). 賊 (zoku) has been rendered "robber" merely as a tag for any outlaw, hoodlum, ruffian, or bad guy by any other name. Katsuta Matsujiro alias Yoshimura Kumagoro is fearless of heaven -- laws [the law] -- and the net or ropes that await all who commit offenses.

pleasure-girl house reflects 遊女屋 (yūjoya), an extablishment where men drank and frolliced with female entertainers.

Toguraeki (戸倉駅), in Chikuma city in Nagano prefecture, is now a station (駅 eki) on the Shinano Railway line running from Karuizawa in Gunma prefecture to Shinonoi station in Nagano prefecture -- formerly the province of Shinano (信濃国 Shinano no kuni), otherwise known as Shinshu (信州 Shinshū).

prostitute entertainers reflects 娼妓 (shōgi), entertainers who were also licensed prostitutes.

hand spear reflects 手鎗 (teyari), a short lance which could be thrown but was usually thrusted like a bayonet, and used to parry an opponent's weapon.

Takaido village (高井戸村 Takaidomura) is now part of Suginami ward -- one of the three western-most wards of Metropolitan Tokyo. The village was the locale of Takaidojuku (高井戸宿) on the Koshu Kaido -- the last major lodging stop on the Koshu Highway (甲州街道 Kōshū kaidō) before Naito Shinjuku, which is now Shinjuku.

A "shuku" (宿 shuku) was a "post" along a major road with provisions for travelers and transporters. An "eki" (駅) was more specifically a "station" for horses and men who carried people and cargo.

The two words, which overlap, are combined in the term "shukueki" (宿駅) -- a place with provisions for travelers to rest or lodge, and facilities for changing men and horses transporting freight. Such posts and stations -- sometimes called "post towns" and "stages" -- were established every 30 ri (里) or so -- about 16 kilometers -- a distance that can be walked in day -- or trotted or run in less time. By early standards, 1 ri was equivalent to 6 chō (町), 360 ho (歩), or 1800 shaku (尺), or about 540 meters (1 shaku = 30 centimeters).

Stations and posts naturally became the centers of villages and towns. The train stations that were built along the same or parallel routes during the Meiji period continue to largely define towns and cities today.

submitted to capture and roping reflects 捕縛に就きたり (hobaku ni tsukitari). The roping corresponds to the "net of heaven" (天の網 ten no ami) in which Matsujiro, despite his lack of fear of heaven's reach, was eventually caught.

The ropes used to capture and restrain a criminal are called 捕縄 (hojō), 捕縄 (torinawa), or 取縄 (torinawa) -- meaning "capture ropes".

Another expression is 早縄 (hayanawa) or "fast ropes" -- called such because that faciliate quick and nimble capture and binding. The effective use of ropes to capture and restrain people required training in "fast-rope [tying] techniques" (早縄術 hayanawajutsu).