Matasaburou and Comet C/1664 W1
By Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara
Part 3: January 3 - February 6, 1665
January 3, 1665 [November 17, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. I got up early and fed my bird. Tonight I went to Mr. Hikobe's. As his house, we saw the Tiger Tail Star. Five kids and five adults were there together. Yohachi told his servants that the light of the Tiger Tale Star has gotten stronger, so we watched it too. It was like what I drew here.
[Indicating points to which he has drawn lines] It [the tail] was gone, but it's bright again. This star and here (sic) are shining [indicating the tail and probably referring to the tail having more of a point and being more distinct]. This light [nucleus] is extremely strong.
At first, it was standing to the NW from the corner of the SE, but now it is to the corner of the NE from the corner of the SW [again showing his observation of the movement of the comet as well as change in the direction of its tail]. The light of the star [comet] is white and about 3 shaku [1 shaku=0.303 meters], and the lights around it are really strong.
Hisabe said it was not like that when he first saw it. He wondered "What's going on now? What's causing that now?" Sukekurou said that farmers in Shimabara in Hizen country [present day Nagasaki] caused a riot about 50 years ago [again referring to the Shimabara conflict which included riots by farmers; these occurred in the early part of the Edo era, around 1637-38]. He said the farmers occupied the castle, and that again this time, farmers and bankers and everybody's causing a riot. He says the military from Edo [Tokyo] will go to Hizen to put down the riots. But I know that all that is not true.
... Another person said [that] ... 7 or 8 days ago the Tiger Tail Star was standing toward the West from the East, but that now it is standing toward the direction of the NE from the SW. They said that because the star is twinkling [literally brightening and dimming], it's like it's fighting against something. They said Shimabara riots might really happen. Also, Sukekurou said that people call it "Tiger Tail Star", but he thought that it is an evil star. Some people think it should be called "Youmou Boshi" [wool star].
January 4, 1665 [November 18, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. Tonight, I saw the Tiger Tail Star, and this is what it looks like.
This star's light [indicating nucleus] was white and bright. It [tail] was shining white.
At first, it was standing toward the E from the SE, but now it is standing toward the NE from the SW.
Continuing Path of Comet C/1664 W1 and Position of the Moon through January 4, 1665 (The Sky Simulation)
January 5, 1665 [November 19, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. Today is a celebration for the big gate of the castle. Tosa's government [literally "feudal domain"] asked the Shogunate [central government in Edo (Tokyo)] if they could make the big gate toward the East when it was rebuilt, but that didn't happen. The gate is now toward the South. The construction was so big.
The comet is visible This is what it looked like.
This [indicating the little star] was a bit smaller than the usual red star (sic) above the comet. Tonight, there was moonlight, so stars were faint. But as it gets darker, starlight was brighter.
Though the comet's position is now in Cetus and very near the star Alpha Cet, the star Matasaburou refers to is probably Betelgeuse. Both Betelgeuse (magnitude 0.40) and Alpha Cet (magnitude 2.5) are in the same spectral class (M0) and have a somewhat similar visual appearance. However, again looking at the way Matasaburou draws, Betelgeuse would be toward the SE and at about the same level or "above" in altitude as C/1664 W1.
Relative Position of Betelgeuse and Comet C/1664 Looking South at 8:00 P.M.
January 8, 1665 [November 22, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. This morning, I did some homework and went to see Dr. Jian. But he was gone to the castle because Governor Tadayoshi's illness is much worse. I heard that Samurai in the castle are in a panic. On the way back from Dr. Jian's house, I went to see the big gate of the castle. Though the big gate was quite beautiful, I couldn't stay there and watch it peacefully because there were many horses and vehicles and people and swords and spears. They were all visiting the sick governor. The poles of the big gate were covered with "urushi" [Japanese lacquer (the gate in modern times is not painted with this)].
Tonight, it was very cold and drizzly. The comet was quite visible after it stopped drizzling.
It was seen like what I draw here.
The length was about 3 ken. Tonight, it's standing a little to the N from the SE.
January 9, 1665 [November 23, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. In the morning, Hikozaemon and I went to Jinzenji [Jinzen Shrine area north of Kochi]. In Jinzenji there are 7 hectare fields that my family owns...
The governor, Tadayoshi, has been coughing, and phlegm comes out of his throat. Servants are picking up the phlegm with bird feathers. Tonight's comet was like this.
It was standing to the N from the SE as well as last night, and the light is much fainter than it was last night.
January 10, 1665 [November 24, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. This morning, the governor, Tadayoshi, died at the age of 73. It is wrong to say that he died "last night" [a bit of astute observation of when the day changes]. Citizens and farmers are really sad about it. People say that Yamauchi [who was a person of high status in old Tosa] must have been upset when he was told of his death. Tonight, the comet is like this drawing.
The length is about 3 ken, and it's much brighter than last night.
January 11, 1665 [November 25, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. I didn't eat fish this morning because of my respect for Governor Tadayoshi. At noon, above Yamauchi's house in Tanezaki town, about 100 crows were flying and cawing. It's not for good when crows caw. Around 7 o'clock in the evening, I saw the comet. It was like what I draw here.
The length was about 3 1/2 ken, and the light was faint. It was difficult to recognize and much dimmer than the comet's light last night. The length is 1 1/2 ken longer. [Indicating the "dot"] Also tonight, there was a star about 5 to 6 sun [1 sun=3.03 cm] big in the direction of the SW [no doubt, Venus]. The light was like the light on a paper covered lantern. The star is not round. It is shining like the back light above the head of "Amitabha" [Buddha]. People call these lights horns, and it is called "Oni Boshi" [ogre star].
Some say this is a bit smaller than the comet. I think it looks like a star which was seen in the West on the night of November 5th [See Part 2] at Mr. Hisabe's house; Ihei called it a clam. It has been visible since the end of October [lunar]. My mother and I were both surprised. The star is not visible at the end (sic) [probably referring to Venus' setting]. It shines the same as the fixed stars when they are not visible. When the sky is filled with fixed stars, that star shines like a lamp, about 5 sun big and a bit bluish.
January 13, 1665 [November 27, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. Tonight, when the comet was visible, people were talking. "How long will this star be up? It's been here for about 2 months." Tonight, the comet is faint and long, about 3 ken long.
This star [indicating the comet's nucleus] is lower than the SE, a bit to the E.
It [pointing to mid tail] is a bit toward the W from the NW; it was in the North around October.
It [again pointing to the nucleus] is in the South. Considering these things, they [all of the comet] are turning around as the days pass.
Also, this star [indicating the "fuzzy" round object in the upper right hand corner; probably Venus] appears before the other stars appear. When the others are all in the sky, it jumps into the West as fast as a bird. This star shines bluish and reddish. The sky around this star is like a place where the sun is, though it's in the dark. As the star shines so strongly, I have to squint my eyes. That makes me feel that the star has horns. So people call the star "Oni Boshi" (ogre star). This star is bigger and brighter than the others. It's about 7 sun big.
I think the time that the comet appeared was in the middle of September, although some people say it appeared in the later half of September.
January 16, 1665 [December 1, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. ...At 8 o'clock tonight, it is raining. We had an eclipse today.[Simulating with The Sky software, there was indeed a partial solar eclipse here in Kochi on that day. It began at 4:37 P.M. local time and ended at 7:18 P.M.]
[Indicating the white part] This looks like the usual sun.
Here [indicating the darker part] it's red. We saw it a little before the sun set.
There was also an eclipse of the moon last New Years Day [January 28, 1664 in the Gregorian calendar].
This [indicating the light part] was like a usual moon.
This [indicating the dark part] was red. It was like this from 10 to 12 o'clock at night.
[Again simulating using The Sky, there was an annular lunar eclipse in Kochi February 11 (Gregorian Calendar). It began at 8:57 P.M. local time. Maximum eclipse was at 11:41 P.M. Of course, this was at "full moon" 14 days after the Lunar New Year.]
The Sky Simulation of Comet C/1664 W1 Through January and February, 1665
February 4, 1665 [December 20, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. This morning I went to study with Dr. Jian, but they were cleaning house for New Year's. So I just came back home. On the way back, there were plum flowers blooming. These white flowers are so beautiful.
Tonight, we could see the comet faintly.
Around the 7th and 8th day of this month, people were saying the comet was gone, but yesterday and today it is visible. My opinion is that the comet is visible in a dark sky but invisible in the moonlight.
Around the 7th and 8th day of this month, there was a moon, so the comet was only faintly visible as the night fell. But as it got darker and darker, the comet became brighter and brighter. People in the town don't know that the comet becomes brighter as the night gets deeper.
February 6, 1665 [December 22, 1664 in the lunar calendar]. Spring starts from today. The visiting star has been here for 4 months. Next year will be a new era, but the new calendar has arrived, and the name has not been changed. Now is the time to be a Spring monkey ["Haru no Saru"; still a very popular expression in Japan]. Today is the luckiest day!
Matasaburou's perception of Spring starting is based on the sectional term "Risshun" or "Spring Begins" (Solar Longitude 315 degrees). Matasaburou's lunar calendar was over two days in error (see The Lunar Calendar in Japan). If accurate astronomical events are considered, "Spring Begins" would have actually been on February 3, 1665 (Gregorian) or December 19, 1664 in the lunar calendar. His allusion to a "new era" indicates that if the comet had indeed "changed" things, there would be a new era; obviously, such was not the case. Another comet appeared in 1665, but if Matasaburou drew it, we have no record. While Matasaburou kept a diary for the rest of his life, only a few excerpts, such as his drawings of Comet C/1664 W1, remain. In the last entry above, there is an innocence in the exuberance and wonder of this 12 year old boy and little hint of the later tragedy that would befall him as the adult Katsurai Soan. As we look at his last entry, the world is full of promise, as it is for many 12 year olds.
Steven L. Renshaw
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