Honda Shigetsugu’s letter

When Honda Shigetsugu (本多重次, 1529-1596) was in camp at the Battle of Nagashino in 1575, he wrote a brief letter to his wife, using the classical 5-7-5 syllable Haiku form for the middle part, the actual message:


Ippitsu mōsu: Hi no yōjin – O-Sen yasasuna – uma koyase! Kashiku…

“This will just be a short note: Be careful about fire, don’t let O-Sen (their son Senchiyo, later Narishige) loose weight, and feed well the horses! Yours sincerely …”

At first glance, this letter may appear to just contain some heartless orders by a ruthless Sengoku warlord, but Shigetsugu (not sure if he will survive the battle and ever see his family again) knew that his wife will understand the true meaning behind his words, which is: “As I am in battle, all domestic responsibilities are with you my dear, so take care that everyone, including all servants, pays attention so that nothing catches fire. We have five children but our oldest son Senchiyo will become my heir. Thus, if it comes down to that certain members of the household have to step back, it should not be him. Also, take good care of the horses as our lives as warriors are depending on them on the battlefield. Yours sincerely …”


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