By Blood and By Choice

"Confucius presenting the young Gautama Buddha to Laozi." This is a picture of Confucius himself, but it represents the importance of mentors and father figures.

This is a picture of Confucius himself, but it represents the importance of mentors and father figures.

The characters of Yoshikawa’s novel Taiko pay special attention to the Confucian relationships that play roles in their lives. One of these is the father to son relationship. Both Hideyoshi’s biological father to son relationship with Yaemon and his surrogate father to son relationship with Nobunaga influence the man he becomes.

Bonded by Blood: Hideyoshi and Yaemon

Although it is rather short lived in the novel, the relationship between Hideyoshi and his biological father, Yaemon, has major impacts on the way adult Hideyoshi thinks and acts. When he was young, Hideyoshi eventually learned that he could get the things that he wanted. When he wanted to play with the sword in the shed, his mother told him no after Hideyoshi fought her on it, but his father said that he could have the sword (Yoshikawa 8). This event specifically encouraged Hideyoshi to work at things until he eventually got what he wanted. His father’s handicap also caused Hideyoshi to strive for success in all his endeavors. Yaemon told him “I’m not great, in the end I’m just a cripple. Therefore, Hiyoshi, you must become a great man!”(Yoshikawa 11). This instilled in him a great desire to prove himself and become even greater than his father. In accordance with Confucian relationships, he owed honor to his father and could provide it by granting his father’s wishes. Yaemon also influenced Hideyoshi’s treatment of women. Yaemon told the young Hideyoshi that women ought to be respected and protected. When he has wronged and neglected the women in his life, Hideyoshi returns to apologize to them, realizing that he has not fulfilled his duty (Yoshikawa 455). Yaemon also plays a significant role in Hideyoshi’s decision to become a samurai. He hopes that by being a warrior he can bring the honor that his father was unable to bring and fulfill his Confucian duty as a son.

Bonded by Choice: Hideyoshi and Nobunaga

Hideyoshi and Nobunaga do not have the same relationship seen between Hideyoshi and Yaemon, but it is just as influential in Hideyoshi’s life. Upon meeting Nobunaga, Hideyoshi has finally found a master that he considers worthy of serving and for once in his life, Hideyoshi starts to put his whole heart into doing his job well. Hideyoshi has the upmost respect for Nobunaga and, wanting to please him, he works above and beyond his station. When Nobunaga is preparing for battle he finds that Hideyoshi is the first man ready and he wonders “Why was his sandal bearer, whose duties were in the garden, the first to appear ready for battle?” (Yoshikawa 123). Because Nobunaga is such a good role model for Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi comes to understand respect and taking orders. He still does things his own way, but he has more than just himself in mind now. Nobunaga encourages him to continue the hard work by rewarding him with promotions (Yoshikawa 125).

These two relationships, though they are genetically different, affect Hideyoshi’s character as he grows up. Both Yaemon and Nobunaga teach Hideyoshi important lessons and encourage him to become a better man. Their lessons and examples help Hideyoshi to become stronger, more charismatic, more determined and more respectful as he grows older.

Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. Kodansha International, Ltd., 1992. Print.


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