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The Tale of Watanabe Tatsuzo
It was a spring day, the 5th of April, and the cherry blossoms were in full glory. The residents of Hiratsuku under Mount Fuji were celebrating the defeat of the Tokugawa army.
Celebrations continued throughout the day but with night came stormy weather. Saigo Takamori and his troops were making the most of the bad weather at his Headquarters when the sounds of the shakuhachi were faintly heard at the gates.
There appeared a blind beggar.
The beggar was wet and in discomfort but had been playing all day near the temple.
“The poor man was led in by a side door and brought into the presence of the officers. ‘Gentlemen,’ said he, you have done me a very great honour, and a kindness, for it is not pleasant to stand outside playing in the rain with cotton clothes on. I think I can repay you, for I am said to play the shakuhachi well. Since I have been blind it has become my only pleasure, and not only that but also my only means of living. It is hard now in these unsettled days, when everything is upside-down, to earn a living. Not many travellers come to the inns while the Imperial troops occupy them. These are hard days, gentlemen.’
‘They may be hard days for you, poor blind fellow; but say nothing against the Imperial troops, for we have to be suspicious, there being spies of the Tokugawa. Three eyes, indeed, does each of us need in his head.’”
The man played all through the late night both lively and mournful tunes, matching the spring wind through the cherry trees.
As midnight approached the officers thanked the man for his services and he left the Headquarters.
Later that night a man was spotted stealthily climbing a huge tree in attempt to gain access to the Headquarters. A sentry spotted the man and called for help. The man was captured within the minute.
The prisoner was brought into the presence of Saigo Takamori and four other imperial officers. The prisoner gave his name as Watanabe Tatsuzo, one of the bodyguard of the Tokugawa Government.
Watanabe explained that it was his mission to kill anyone of importance whose death might strengthen the Tokugawa Government. He was the last of the samurai to defend the government. He swore to sacrifice his life for his cause.
Saigo Takamori asked if he would join him and the Imperial family. He called Watanabe’s loyalty admirable.
Watanabe quickly responded
“No—never. Though alone, I will not be unfaithful to my cause. You had better behead me before the day dawns. I see the strength of your arguments that the Imperial family must and should reign; but that cannot alter my decision with regard to my own fate.”
Saigo stood up and said here is a man whom we must respect. He is a noble man and true to the death.
Watanabe Tatsuzo was lead to the Sambon matsu hill near Hommonji Temple where he was beheaded.
Adapted from Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan, by Richard Gordon Smith, 
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