The following sample essay on The Samurai’s Garden Stephen was sent from China to Japan to recover from tuberculosis. He goes and stays in the small town of Tarumi with his family’s servant Matsu. During his stay with Matsu, Stephen discovers that there is more to Matsu than meets the eyes. Throughout the story, Stephen begins to see Matsu showing characteristics of a Samurai. One of the first characteristics we see in Matsu is his loyalty to Stephen’s family.
Matsu’s parents had served Stephen’s grandfather in that house before him, and even after his parents had passed away, instead of moving away like his sister Fumiko did, he stayed and took care of the house and Stephen’s grandfather. In a sense, Matsu is the bodyguard and watcher of the house and family, just like how a samurai is to his lord. Throughout the story Matsu seems to be a much respected man to everyone in Tarumi.
Stephen even told Matsu that “You have a strong face. A face someone doesn’t forget. Like a samurai”.
Matsu and Stephen are perfect examples, in it that Matsu is the samurai who must watch over his wealthier master which happens to be Stephen, who indeed is wealthy. Although Matsu is only a servant, Stephen shows great respect for him. Matsu’s silence also brings out the samurai in him. His silence occurs in many parts of the book. At first, Stephen assumed that Matsu just didn’t like to engage in conversations, but Sachi explains how his silence is powerful when she told Stephen that “with Matsu, everything is in what he does not say”.
His strength in silence guided him through his childhood to the present day. Because Matsu wasn’t the best looking guy when he was younger, he kept to himself and always stayed back at the house to help out his parents. I guess you can say he was born to become and samurai, unlike his sisters. Even when his younger sister Tomoko took her life, Matsu showed no emotions. He knew what she planned on doing the night that she did it, and he kept quiet. Another event that shows how his actions speak louder than words is during Kenzo’s burial.
At the Kenzo’s burial, “Matsu was silent throughout the entire procession, simply bowing his head to those who showed their sympathy at the loss of his good friend” (109). His silence showed how strong he was holding up. Furthermore, other than his messages through silence, Matsu also shows great inner strength within these two events. Much like how a samurai who never grieves over a comrade’s death, Matsu’s inner strength allowed him to remain calm and prevent an emotional breakdown first after seeing the suicide of his sister, and seeing the death of his best friend Kenzo.
When Sachi came down to visit after the storm, she told Stephen that “Matsu once told me the bridge represented a samurai’s difficult path from this world to the afterlife. When you reach the top of the bridge, you can see your way to paradise”. I believe that Matsu has reached the top of this bridge already and saw his way to paradise. While this bridge represents a link between this world and the afterlife, Matsu acted similarly. The people of Yamaguchi are considered dead to those in the city. Matsu acts as the link between the two, delivering to the people of Yamaguchi.
On a side note, a person who acts as a link between this world and the next is called a shaman. Matsu once said that the people of Yamaguchi are basically dead to their family, and the only one who knew of their existence until Stephen was introduced to them was Matsu. In their early stages of development, Matsu served as a shaman who helped out the “dead” people of Yamaguchi. He brought building equipment from the city up to Yamaguchi, and helped them build houses. Furthermore, Matsu has shown great bravery throughout the novel.
One specific example of his bravery was shown when they were on their way to visit Sachi in Yamaguchi and they saw that one of the villagers house was on fire. Like a true samurai, Matsu ran to help put out the fire without even considering his own safety first. Like Sachi said, “bravery is when you step in to help when you have nothing to lose. Matsu-san and you, Stephen san are the brave ones”. In addition, Matsu is very a nonjudgmental guy. He never jumps to conclusion about a person and never judge a person by the way they look, or what has happened in their past.
Instead he acts as a samurai does what he believes is right and sticks to it. For example, Matsu never judged any of the lepers in Yamaguchi for how they looked, and got to know all of them very well. The way Matsu is portrayed in the novel, sometimes he almost seems like a middle aged man instead of a man in his seventies. But because he is at such an age, we can say that he is a man with much wisdom and experience. Samurai’s grow through each battle and with each battle, win or lose, come strength and wisdom. Every day is a battle for Matsu, and with it he has gained from it.
With his wisdom he always knows what to say or do when there is a situation in front of him. For example, after Keiko had told Stephen that they can no longer see each other, Matsu passes down his wisdom to Stephen when he told Stephen “ get quote from book”. Matsu, the man with undying bravery and wisdom, gentle and loving is the samurai in The Samurai’s Garden. But his garden didn’t stop in just his backyard, no; his garden was also all of Yamaguchi. And as most great samurais, the last thing Matsu does is leaves behind his legacy within Stephen.