12 Yamagata City: Hiding in history

The train station at Yamagata city felt like a little Tokyo, stiff, square and crowded by concrete.  It was a shock.  After 5 days on the farm, I felt part of the family.  Lunatic cousin perhaps, but kin all the same.  Now I was a nobody again.  

In a new place, I wanted to make new connections. I started with learning a little local history, walking from my minshuku to a stone memorial to a dead 15-year-old girl. 

On the way a sudden downpour. I hid alone under the eaves of a temple. The raindragon was in a foul mood, torrents of rain punctuated by ferocious cracks of lightning. Even halfway up the wooden steps, splashes still soaked by bag.

The 15-year-old was called Komahime, the pin-up girl of Yamagata city history. She lived the late 16th century, the second daughter of the Lord of Mogami.  She was considered the most beautiful woman in north Japan. News of her beauty went far. 

The teenage girl was ordered to move to Kyoto and live as a concubine to Toyotomi Hidetsugu, the regent and nephew of the ruler of Japan.  

A long journey from her distant Yamagata home.  Komahime travelled across the Japan Sea, overland, then across Lake Biwa.  When she arrived in Kyoto, the regent was already dead.  Accused of treason, Hidetsugu had been ordered to commit seppuku at a mountain monastery.  Along with the regent`s other concubines, Komahime was executed on the banks of the Kamo river.

The Lord of Mogami was obviously not too impressed with this behaviour.  He later avenged his second daughter`s death in battle.

The downpour began to ease off.  Walking around the side of the temple, I found Komahime`s memorial in a bamboo grove, a simple stone tablet standing alone in a big puddle.

I had made my historical connection and learnt two important lessons: don`t get executed and don`t stand alone in a big puddle.

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