Famous magistrate Ōoka Tadasuke

A case came up in eighteenth century Japan before a famous magistrate, Ōoka Izen-no-kami (Ōoka Tadasuke), where the circumstances were similar to the judgement of Solomon in the Old Testament. Two women were disputing which was the mother of the infant, and Ōoka directed them each to take one arm and one leg of the baby. Then he told them to begin to pull slowly. “The one who wins the tug-of-war, wins the baby,” he added.

At the first pull the baby cried and one of the women at once let go. “That is the mother,” said the magistrate and awarded the child to her.

One of Ōoka’s friends however remarked to another that this was not actual proof which was the mother of the child. “It is there that we see the wisdom of our magistrate,” was the reply. “Even if she actually bore the child, a woman who let it be hurt, and possibly killed, is no mother to it; and the woman who gives up her claim rather than hurt it will be a true mother to it. When he said, ‘That is the mother’, he meant the mother-heart, which showed itself when she instantly let go.”

© Trevor Leggett


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