Katakiuchi (Revenge) (敵討)

Katakiuchi is the practice of taking out one's revenge, by taking the law into his own hands, against someone who has killed a direct ancestor of the avenging party. This practice existed in Japan from around the medieval period; it was legislated in the Edo period and was called Adauchi (revenge).

The History of Katakiuchi

The "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan), Vol. 14, "Yuryakuki" (period of Emperor Yuryaku), contains an article on the "Conspiracy of Prince Mayowa," which occurred in 456, and this is regarded as the oldest case of Katakiuchi remaining in historical materials. At one time in the past, Emperor Anko, who was the father-in-law of Prince Mayowa, killed Prince Mayowa's father, Imperial Prince Okusaka, and married Prince Mayowa's mother, Imperial Princess Nakashi. One day Emperor Anko inadvertently mentioned this fact, and consequently Prince Mayowa, who overheard it, stabbed Emperor Anko to death while he was in a deep sleep.
When Prince Mayowa was pressed for his motive after the affair, he replied: 'I wasn't seeking the Imperial Throne, I was only avenging my father.'

Later, Katakiuchi became prevalent along with the rise of the samurai hierarchy, and when the practice was legislated by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), it took a complete form. Its extent was limited to the case of having one's direct family member (such as a parent or older sibling) killed, so basically it wasn't allowed when it was intended for a descendent (including one's wife, child or younger sibling). Furthermore, since this custom arose out of the sense of blood ties in the medieval period, it was rarely carried out against someone who had no blood relationship, such as one's lord.

If the avenging party was of samurai status, he received a permit from his lord; if he was to travel to another province, he needed to report it to a magistrate's office in order to have the information recorded on the Katakiuchi List at the town magistrate's office, whereupon he received a copy of the original. There were unauthorized cases of Katakiuchi as well, but if local officers investigated such a case and did not acknowledge it as Katakiuchi, the avenging party would be punished as a murderer. Furthermore, Ju-Katakiuchi (double Katakiuchi), or the act of taking revenge on the originally avenging party, was prohibited.

Basically, Katakiuchi was permitted only to those of the samurai hierarchy, although it was occasionally performed by those of other social standings; such cases were overlooked as deeds by dutiful children, as with the Katakiuchi by those of the samurai hierarchy who did not go through the above-described procedures; and in some cases these deeds were praised. Furthermore, the custom in which, if the head of a samurai family was killed, his legitimate child had to get his revenge or wouldn't be allowed to succeed the family name, was widespread.

Because Katakiuchi was a duel, it was allowed for the target of the revenge, or the opponent, to act in self-defense by a counterattack; if the opponent killed the avenging party, this was called 'Kaeriuchi.'

Cases of revenge after the killing of a close relative are found in various parts of the world, including southern Italy; however, the characteristic of Katakiuchi in the Edo period is that it was legitimized as a method to supplement Kenka Ryoseibai (in a quarrel both parties are to blame) and that the aim was not the revenge but the pride or honor of a samurai.

Particularly in the Edo period, of the cases of Katakiuchi, the Adauchi cases by the Soga brothers were known as the 'Three Major Adauchi Cases' and became known to people in many works ("Story of the Soga Family" in 1193; the duel at Kagiya no Tsuji in 1634; and the Genroku Ako Incident, or "Chushingura," in 1702).

By the arrival of the Meiji period, a judicial system was developed by Shihokyo (administrator of Ministry of Justice) such as Shinpei ETO, and on February 7, 1873, Katakiuchi was banned by the Meiji Government through the issuance of "Katakiuchi kinshirei (ban on revenge)" in Decree No. 37.

Goseibai-shikimoku (Samurai Code of Conduct) and Katakiuchi

Article 10 of Goseibai-shikimoku, or Joei-shikimoku (another term for Goseibai-shikimoku, later named after the Joei period during which Goseibai-shikimoku was established), contains provisions on murder, injury, murder targeted at a post, and murder-robbery; the prohibition of Katakiuchi is stipulated therein.

Modern Japanese translation (synopsis): If a son or a grandson kills the foe of his father or grandfather, the father or grandfather (of the perpetrator of the killing) will be punished for the same crime (death penalty, deportation or asset forfeiture) regardless of whether such person was aware of the crime. This is because the killing was committed in order to satisfy the cherished desire of the father or grandfather.

It goes without saying that this would be irrelevant if the father or grandfather were already dead; however, this provision stipulates that if the son or grandson avenged his father or grandfather while his father or grandfather was still alive, his father or grandfather would also be punished for being guilty by association. Under the Goseibai-shikimoku, Katakiuchi for the father or grandfather was the subject of punishment; this is different from the context of Katakiuchi seen in the Edo period. In the Adauchi by the Soga brothers, the younger brother, Goro Tokimune SOGA, who was captured after Katakiuchi, was beheaded; and the provisions of Goseibai-shikimoku, which conform to the precedents during the reign of Yoritomo (MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, a shogun), reflect this disposition.

Megatakiuchi
Megatakiuchi referred to the killing of one's wife in adultery along with the man with whom she had committed the adultery. Megatakiuchi was the duty of a samurai once the adultery came to light, but since it did no one any great credit even when Megatakiuchi was achieved, such cases were often settled in private without being made public.

Major Cases of Adauchi

There is the traditional expression 'Mount Fuji for first, hawk for second and eggplant for third' as the lucky items to dream about in the first dream of the new year. According to one theory, this expression referred to the Adauchi cases that were widely known from the middle of the Edo period as the 'Three Major Adauchi Cases': 'Adauchi by the Soga brothers' (the Soga brothers performed Adauchi by taking advantage of the makigari (a form of hunting by surrounding the target from various directions) which took place in Susono City at the foot of Mount Fuji); 'Ako Roshi no Uchiiri' (since the seal of the Asano family of the Ako clan, in Harima Province, was a 'hawk's feather without a circle'); and 'Igagoe no Adauchi' (since Iga Province was known as an area for the production of eggplant).

Major cases of Adauchi are as follows:
Adauchi by the Soga brothers;
The death of MINAMOTO no Sanetomo;
Adauchi at Tengachaya;
The duel at Kagiya no Tsuji;
Adauchi at Joruri Zaka;
Adauchi at Kameyama;
The duel at Takadanobaba; and
The Genroku Ako Incident.

Adauchi in fiction
Works on the subject of Katakiuchi have been widely supported, so much so that there is a genre called "Adauchi kyogen" (comic drama on Adauchi) in Kabuki and Joruri. Even today, Katakiuchi is often portrayed in the stories of samurai dramas. Katakiuchi is also frequently adapted as the behavioral principle of the main character in comic books, novels and movies. Especially in works of fiction, such as suspense stories and mysteries, Katakiuchi is often made the setting for the motive of crime. Even real criminal cases include those in which the crime developed with the aim of revenge.