In a Grove

In a Grove Summary and Analysis of Tajōmaru’s Confession


In the second section of the story, the narrative switches to Tajōmaru’s verbal confession. With a matter-of-fact attitude, he says he killed the man in the bamboo grove, but not the woman. He says he doesn’t know where she went, and that, as much they torture him, he can’t tell them something he doesn’t know. He suggests that he has no cowardly motivation to lie now that they have caught him.

Tajōmaru recounts the details of the day before. He spotted the couple a little after noon. The wind lifted the woman’s veil and he saw how beautiful she was, comparing her to a bodhisattva—an enlightened being who helps others attain enlightenment. He decided to rape Masago, even if it meant killing Takehiro. The bandit suggests that it is no big deal to kill a man; while he does it with his sword, figures of legal authority kill people with their power, money, and words. Though a man may still be alive, Tajōmaru suggests, if imprisoned, he may as well be dead. With a sarcastic smile, he says he doesn’t know whose sin is greater, his or the legal authority to whom he speaks.

Tajōmaru says he had hoped to rape the woman without needing to kill the man. Since this was impossible to do on the Yamashina post road, he lured the couple away by telling them that he had found a burial mound in the hills—a burial mound full of swords, mirrors, and treasure. He told the couple he hid it in a bamboo grove and that he would sell it cheap to the right buyer. Intrigued, Takehiro allowed the bandit to lead him, Masago, and their horse up a mountain trail. He suggests it is scary what greed can do to people.

Tajōmaru says he and Takehiro went into the bamboo thicket, leaving Masago with the horse on the trail. Fifty yards in, they reached a clump of cedars and Tajōmaru claimed the treasure was buried beneath one of them. Tajōmaru then pinned Takehiro down, tied him to a cedar using a piece of rope he always carries on his belt, and stuffed his mouth full of bamboo leaves to muffle his speech.

After walking back to Masago, Tajōmaru claimed Takehiro had fallen ill. He led Masago by the hand into the grove. When she saw Takehiro tied up, she whipped out a dagger and came after Tajōmaru, who dodged her attack and knocked the dagger from her hand. He says he then raped her while Takehiro was still alive.

Tajōmaru says he planned to escape without killing Takehiro, but Masago suddenly grabbed his arm and, in between sobs, said either Tajōmaru had to kill himself or he had to kill Takehiro; for her, it was worse than death for two men to have “seen her shame,” a euphemism for sex. She said she wanted to stay with the one left alive, which gave Tajōmaru the strong desire to make her his wife by killing Takehiro. But as much as he wanted to kill Takehiro, the bandit didn’t want to kill him in a cowardly way, so he untied him and they had a sword fight. Tajōmaru says he killed Takehiro on the twenty-third thrust; he cheerfully reports that Takehiro was the only man who ever lasted more than twenty thrusts.

As Takehiro fell to his knees, Tajōmaru turned to find that Masago had fled. He searched for her in the cedars and bamboo, concluding that she must have run for help when the fight began. Fearing for his life, Tajōmaru stole Takehiro’s bow, arrows, sword, and the gray horse, which was still on the trail.

He says anything else he could say would be a waste of breath, then finishes his confession by commenting on how he always knew he would end up hanging in the tree outside the prison. Defiantly, he asks for the ultimate punishment, by which he means death by hanging.


While previous testimonies covered the aftermath of Takehiro’s death and the reason that Masago and Takehiro were near the grove, Tajōmaru’s confession provides the first lurid details of how Takehiro died and Tajōmaru’s motivation for his crimes. Tajōmaru also touches on the thematic preoccupation of subjective perspectives: he suggests that the murders he commits are no different than the power and authority that the magistrate to whom he is speaking exerts over people’s lives. In saying this, Tajōmaru suggests that there is no objective moral authority in life, only varying viewpoints on what is right and wrong.

The motif of Masago’s beauty recurs when he says that the glimpse he caught of her face motivated him to rape her. Tajōmaru explains how he took Takehiro deep into the grove on the pretense that there was treasure, and the reader finally understands why the body was found in such a remote location. The presence of the length of rope is justified when he says he always carries it on his belt, and that he used it to tie Takehiro to the tree.

Masago’s characteristic boldness becomes relevant when she tries to fight Tajōmaru off with her dagger—another of the story’s significant objects. Her boldness also manifests in the way she insists that one of the men has to die. The sword fight Tajōmaru details would explain the trampled leaves that the woodcutter mentioned.

The claims Tajōmaru makes in his confession are difficult to verify. By confessing to the murder, Tajōmaru gains some credibility, and the reader is inclined to believe him when he says he doesn’t know what happened to Masago. However, his pride and egotism are evident in the way he self-mythologizes his cunning and sword-fighting abilities. Add to this the fact that he is a self-confessed rapist and murderer, and he ultimately comes off as dishonest. The zeal with which he accepts his death sentence suggests that he may be more interested in perpetuating a sensationalist narrative to fuel his infamy than delivering a true account of his actions.