There is no historical figure by the name of Kakogawa Honz?. However, in the first part of Ch?shingura, Honz? actions bear similarities to those of the Kajikawa Yosob?, who held Asano back during his attack on Kira. It is likely that Honz?'s character was patterned after an account, most likely fictional in nature, of a retainer of the Daimy? Kamei who supposedly bribed Kira to prevent his lord from committing the same spontaneous act of violence as Asano.
There is no Kakogawa Honz? in the Taiheiki, nor is there any obvious counterpart.
Other Literary Models: (see appendix for
Taita Takeday? (Ch?shin kogane tanzaku)
Okahei (Goban taiheiki)
Many critics of Ch?shingura agree that Honz? is one of the more appealing characters of the play - in fact, a few critics have gone so far as to say that he, not Yuranosuke, is the true 'hero'. As the chief retainer of Wakasanosuke, Honz?'s position parallels that of Yuranosuke, and, although upstanding and virtuous, the part that he plays could not diverge from Yuranosuke's to a greater degree. In essence, he is Yuranosuke's alter ego, a sort of road not taken.
In the first half of Ch?shingura, Honz?, along with Okaru, is the unwitting accomplice in Enya's demise. In response to the crises that arises from the conflict between Moronao's vindictive mouth and Wakasanosuke's short temper, Honz?, forgoing what was seen as traditional conceptions of samurai honor, reacts with a display of bureaucratic pragmatism and proceeds to buy Moronao's affections with a large gift. A short while later, again behaving pragmatically, Honz? prevents Enya from killing Moronao, believing that Enya's life will be spared so long as Moronao does not die. Both of these acts, with their basis in common sense and wisdom, doom Enya to death and, consequently, render Honz? the agent of tragedy, despite the fact that he is not the villain of the play. This aspect of Honz?'s character is representative of the discourse that appeared in the various debates that concerned themselves with the ethics of the r?nin's slaying of Kira and samurai virtue: of primary importance was the question of whether or not deliberation, pragmatism and bureaucratic behavior were to be considered examples of honorary conduct for a samurai.
While it is certainly inviting to read Honz? as something of a failed samurai,
whose actions bring nothing but suffering despite his good intentions, another
reading is also possible: that of a tragic hero. In the second half of Ch?shingura,
Honz? gives his own life - intentionally guiding events so that Rikiya will
stab him - to redeem his past mistakes and erase the blot on his family's
honor. This selfless death, willingly offered to those who misjudged him,
elevates Honz? and the warrior ethic he represents to a level equal with,
if not greater than, that of Yuranosuke.