Shômonki: The Story of Masakado's Rebellionby Judith N. Rabinovitch

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<ul><li><p>Shmonki: The Story of Masakado's Rebellion by Judith N. RabinovitchReview by: Wayne P. LammersThe Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Nov., 1987), pp. 197-199Published by: American Association of Teachers of JapaneseStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/489318 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 16:56</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>American Association of Teachers of Japanese is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extendaccess to The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from 62.122.79.38 on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=atjhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/489318?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese </p><p>fuiryui induce relatively easy agreement and are broadly applicable. The categorization of Japanese prose genres, complex and difficult though it is, is a major contribution to Japanese literary scholarship. </p><p>SHOMONKI: THE STORY OF MASAKADO'S REBELLION, translated by Judith N. Rabinovitch. Tokyo: Sophia University (Monumenta Nipponica), 1986. Pp. 168. $16 or Y3000 (hardbound); $10 or Y2000 (paper); $2 or Y450 mailing fee when ordered from the publisher. </p><p>Reviewed by Wayne P. Lammers </p><p>Shomonki, of which the book under review provides a complete translation, is a chronicle of Taira Masakado's mili- tary progress from battling his relatives "over a trivial mat- ter involving a woman" (p. 74) in 935, to terrorizing the eight eastern provinces and proclaiming himself "New Emperor" of Japan in the last month of 939, and thence to his death in bat- tle barely two months later. Throughout these developments, the legitimate imperial court in Heian-kyo was a mostly help- less onlooker: it could but issue its directives and hope that other military chieftains in the eastern provinces would re- main loyal to the imperial authority and be able to reestab- lish peace. The chronicle is thought to have been written in the year 940, shortly after Masakado's fall, by a man of some learning, perhaps in government service, who had viewed events from close to the scene rather than from the capital. </p><p>In her discussion of the historical significance of the uprising, Judith Rabinovitch speculates that Masakado's mo- tives for expanding his private feud into an adventure of conquest probably involved a complex of "regional ties, eco- nomic interests, and political problems not adequately ex- plained in this or any other contemporary document" (p. 20). </p><p>fuiryui induce relatively easy agreement and are broadly applicable. The categorization of Japanese prose genres, complex and difficult though it is, is a major contribution to Japanese literary scholarship. </p><p>SHOMONKI: THE STORY OF MASAKADO'S REBELLION, translated by Judith N. Rabinovitch. Tokyo: Sophia University (Monumenta Nipponica), 1986. Pp. 168. $16 or Y3000 (hardbound); $10 or Y2000 (paper); $2 or Y450 mailing fee when ordered from the publisher. </p><p>Reviewed by Wayne P. Lammers </p><p>Shomonki, of which the book under review provides a complete translation, is a chronicle of Taira Masakado's mili- tary progress from battling his relatives "over a trivial mat- ter involving a woman" (p. 74) in 935, to terrorizing the eight eastern provinces and proclaiming himself "New Emperor" of Japan in the last month of 939, and thence to his death in bat- tle barely two months later. Throughout these developments, the legitimate imperial court in Heian-kyo was a mostly help- less onlooker: it could but issue its directives and hope that other military chieftains in the eastern provinces would re- main loyal to the imperial authority and be able to reestab- lish peace. The chronicle is thought to have been written in the year 940, shortly after Masakado's fall, by a man of some learning, perhaps in government service, who had viewed events from close to the scene rather than from the capital. </p><p>In her discussion of the historical significance of the uprising, Judith Rabinovitch speculates that Masakado's mo- tives for expanding his private feud into an adventure of conquest probably involved a complex of "regional ties, eco- nomic interests, and political problems not adequately ex- plained in this or any other contemporary document" (p. 20). </p><p>197 197 </p><p>This content downloaded from 62.122.79.38 on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Volume 21, Number 2 </p><p>The unknown author of Shomonki attempts to present him, in his attacks upon provincial offices, as a defender of the lone- ly and weak, and, in his ultimate fall, as a victim of bad coun- sel from grasping advisors. On neither count does the author persuade, owing to internal inconsistencies in the narrative. When the narrator calls Masakado a defender of the weak, it is after describing him at length as a notorious outlaw, bane of the citizenry; and Masakado's chief advisor is introduced as a man who had a particular fondness for squeezing the com- mon people during his tenure as provisional governor. Fur- ther, Masakado's own hubris seems as much responsible for his overextension and fall as any advice from his deputies. Masakado has been remembered over the centuries as "a pop- ular hero, a so-called yonaoshi who tried to change the world for the better" (p. 3), and the Shomonki author appears to fa- vor such a sympathetic view of the rebel on those few occa- sions when he attempts to delve into Masakado's motives. The bulk of his narrative, however, portrays a man whose initial actions may indeed have been motivated solely by self- defense, but whose hunger for power increased with each victory, and whose violent rampages multiplied the suffering of the common people without offering the slightest promise or hope of a cure for the existing ills of the world. </p><p>As the only source of any detail recording the events of Masakado's rebellion, Shomonki is an important historical document. It is also of literary-historical interest as a distant precursor of the military tales that appeared more than two centuries later, such as Heike monogatari. Beyond this, the intrinsic literary merit of the work is slight. Rabinovitch cites the author's use of an ornate parallel prose as evidence of his "conscious literary intent," and as the basis for identi- fying the work as a literary piece (p. 58). In spite of such linguistic flourishes, however, the narrative remains little more than a bare-bones listing of a sequence of events, with- out local color, without development of character or romance, without any effort to recreate or dramatize the events and make them come alive. We are told of armies marching from one place to another, where they clashed, and which side won, all very mechanically. Battles are presented only in broad strokes, focusing on the outcome, usually in no more than four or five lines of translated text. Worse, as already suggested above, the author either did not know where his </p><p>198 </p><p>This content downloaded from 62.122.79.38 on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese </p><p>sympathies lay, or did not know how to express them coher- ently in a narrative; or, since he was writing so soon after Masakado met his demise, perhaps it was that he did not know how to express them safely, without risking reprisals from the authorities as a rebel sympathizer. In any case, Shomon- ki lacks the sense of thematic unity or coherence necessary for it to satisfy as a work of literature: its principal interest is historical--what it can tell us directly about Masakado's uprising, and indirectly about the climate of the times. </p><p>Rabinovitch has done an admirable job of making sense of a "sometimes broken, awkward, or barely intel- ligible" text (p. 2). On occasion I wished for a note not pro- vided: e.g., I became confused in trying to follow the geogra- phy until I learned from one of the Japanese editions that the Shida district mentioned on p. 81 is entirely unrelated to Shida hamlet mentioned on p. 75 (#9 on the map), and is located south of Kasumigaura (#20 on the map); and I would like to have had an explanation of the second Taira Yoshimasa on p. 13 but had to wait until p. 78, n. 31. As for the text itself, Rabinovitch has managed to reproduce much of the parallelism of the original without creating a redun- dant or cloying effect in translation. In a few places the English suffers from unnecessary literalism (e.g.: "How can you bring yourself to curry favor with the enemy when some of our relations have been murdered and a number of our valuables have been stolen?" p. 81), and in several instances ambiguities in language made me turn to a Japanese edition for clarification. But quibbling over minor details aside, Rabinovitch is to be commended for having surmounted the unusual difficulties of this text and seen to completion what must at times have been an extremely frustrating study. Her work is a welcome addition to the shelf of documents from Heian Japan available in English translation. </p><p>Corrections: p. 54, n. 4--the third and fourth charac- ters for ajikinaku are inverted; p. 84, last line of text--read kampuku for kampaku; p. 113, n. 184--read "denoting" for "donating"; map--missing key #8, for Mimori, should be placed approximately due south of key #9, just below the next east-west road. </p><p>199 </p><p>This content downloaded from 62.122.79.38 on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p>Article Contentsp. 197p. 198p. 199</p><p>Issue Table of ContentsThe Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Nov., 1987), pp. 129-247Front Matter [pp. 129-130]Correction: The Shwa Anthology: Modern Japanese Short Stories [p. 131]A Survey of the Status of Native and Non-Native Instructors of Japanese in Higher Education in North America [pp. 133-147]From Format Composition of Tanka to the Creation of the Renga Form [pp. 149-164]ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 165-172]Review: untitled [pp. 172-178]Review: untitled [pp. 179-184]Review: untitled [pp. 184-189]Review: untitled [pp. 189-192]Review: untitled [pp. 193-197]Review: untitled [pp. 197-199]Review: untitled [pp. 200-202]</p><p>Dissertations and Theses in Japanese Language, Linguistics and Literature [pp. 203-247]Back Matter</p></li></ul>