A Soga Hills Revenge Story

I want to tell you a story. A story, though ancient, still lives on as Japan's greatest story of revenge.

In a century of great power two clans fought for land. Lord Kudo and Lord Ito battled to rule the many territories of eastern Japan. On a hunt, an attempt to kill Ito was made, Kudo missed and killed the man sitting next to Ito. His name was Kawazu Saburo and was the son of Ito and Kudo’s cousin. Soon Kawazu’s wife heard the news and wept at his body. Kawazu’s had two sons one 3, Goro, and the other 5, Juro. She told the news to her two sons and said, “ You both are too young to understand, but when you grow up, I want revenge for your father.” The elder son of only 5, staring at his father's body, replied, “ I swear that someday I will get revenge for him.”

The wife remarried to the Soga family but the elder son never forgot the words of his mother or his vow to avenge his father's death. Several years passed and though loved by their step father the eldest son longed for his father Kawazu.

As the years passed the Minamoto family (allied with the Kudo clan) defeated the Taira family to become rulers of Japan. Minamoto family headed by Minamoto-Yoritomo, established the Kamakura Shogunate, the first samurai government. In time the brothers were informed of a great hunt to take place at the foot of Mt. Fuji. This was the very moment the brothers decided to avenge their father's death. Because of the grand scale of this hunt, it was easy for the two brothers to slip into the followers of Yoritomo and plan their attack. The brothers plan was to find where Kudo would stay at night. The brothers always kept an eye on Kudo but night time was the best opportunity for their revenge since he would be alone.

Under the cover of night and rain the brothers snuck into Kudo’s room. Its was nearly midnight and Kudo was fast asleep and unaware that his life would soon end. “Wake up Kudo! I am Kawazu Saburo’s son Juro.” and “I am his younger son Goro. Now you pay your debt for the death of our father.” Kudo, without thought, instinctively reached for his sword, but not swift enough. Juro slashed Kudo from his left shoulder to his right armpit rendering Kudo defenseless, while Goro severed his waist and finished him off with a stab to his stomach. With roaring voices, “ Ye who are afar, hear and tremble! Ye who are near, behold and wonder. We are Kawazu Saburo’s sons: Juro and Goro. We’ve just slain Kudo, in the name of vengeance, who killed our father.” Kudo’s men heard the proclamation of their leader’s death and swarmed the two brothers. Both brothers fought bravely, but during the fight Juro was slaughtered and Goro captured.

Held captive, Goro was drug in front of Yoritomo to face investigation for his assassination of Kudo. Goro knew that because of Kudo’s high stature, his revenge would lead to nothing but his death. Unafraid, Goro recounted what Kudo had done to his father. Yoritomo sympathised with Goro because he too, as a child, experienced life in exile. He wanted to save his life even though Kudo’s sons demanded the execution of Goro. Goro said, “Give me death, I’ve been resolved to die. I want to meet my father and brother in the next world as soon as possible.” Under the orders of Yoritomo, Goro was beheaded with a blunt sword. Goro gave honor to his father, mother and brother.

The revenge of the Soga brothers was sealed and their story would be told and passed on through the generations. Jump 819 years into the future where Kristina and I traveled to the Soga Hills on a hiking trip not knowing this story. Winding through the lush hills, we encountered breathtaking views of the oceanic coast where you could see the Volcano Island and the snow covered Mt. Fuji guarding the city of Odawara. Within the trees, bright orange tangerines peek through and a bamboo forest shoots into the the unreachable sky. You can feel a sense of history, whether it’s knowing that these hills are named for a famous revenge story or the hidden buddhist shrine where ancient monks were buried. Hiking through these hills remind you that there is so much more to life.

It was also the time of year when festivals began to start up. At the base of the Soga Hills was a Plum blossom festival in full swing. There were many performances that were occurring, like plays and dances. We even got venturous with our choice for food by trying Mochi for the first time. Mochi is a Japanese delicacy that is usually eaten as dessert. It is made of pounded sweet rice flour that is made into really chewy balls. Mochi is generally served with some sort of sweet powder, but it can be served with other toppings as well. We tried some Mochi with a savory sauce that was made from soy sauce, daikon (Japanese radish), and sprinkled with bonito (dried fish flakes). This was not our favorite topping on the Mochi, but we decided to try some more. This time we ended up getting Mochi dusted with sweet rice flour. This we definitely liked, or more importantly Kristina liked it. All in all it was a great trip to the countryside away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Soga Hill and Plum Festival

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