The story opens with testimony made...
In Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's intriguing "Rashōmon"-like short story, "In A Grove" (sometimes titled "In A Bamboo Grove"), the murder of samurai warrior Kanazawa no Takehiro is presented from the perspective of three different people, each of whom claims to have killed Takehiro.
The story opens with testimony made in front of the High Police Commission by a woodcutter, a Buddhist priest, a policeman, and an old woman who claims that Takehiro's wife is her daughter, which sets the scene for the confessions that follow.
The first person to confess the murder of Takehiro is a "notorious brigand" named Tajomaru. The policeman testifies that he arrested Tajomaru early in the night before, after Tajomaru had been thrown from his horse onto the bridge at Awataguchi. Tajomaru had Takehiro's bow and arrows in his possession at the time of his arrest, which the policeman believes is reason enough to charge Tajomaru with the crime and execute him.
Tajomaru confesses that he killed Takehiro so that he could steal his wife away from him. Tajomaru admits that he violated Takehiro's wife in front of Takehiro, and that he ultimately killed Takehiro at the urging of Takehiro's wife, who said that she wished to be the wife of whoever survived single combat between Tajomaru and Takehiro.
The second person to confess the murder is Takehiro's wife, known in the story as "a Woman Who Has Come to the Shimizu Temple," but who was identified earlier in the story by her mother as Masago. Masago says that she made a suicide pact with Takehiro to relieve both of them of the shame, grief, and anger that she feels towards herself and the anger and contempt that Takehiro feels towards her because of her violation by Tajomaru in front of Takehiro.
Masago admits that she killed Takehiro, but that she was unable to go through with her part of the suicide pact, although she did try unsuccessfully to kill herself.
I stabbed my own throat with the small sword, I threw myself into a pond at the foot of the mountain, and I tried to kill myself in many ways.
Takehiro himself, although dead, is the third person to confess to his own murder, and he does so through a medium. Takehiro says that he felt shamed and humiliated after Tajomaru violated Masago in front of him. Even more than that, however, Takehiro says that he was stunned and dismayed by Masago's rejection of him as her husband, and by her cries of "Kill him! I cannot marry you as long as he lives. Kill him!" to Tajomaru. In his despair, Takehiro stabs himself with Masago's small sword, which had fallen to the ground in her struggles with Tajomaru.
Each of the three self-proclaimed murderers has their own unstated motivation for confessing to the murder, but each of their stories of the murder has discrepancies which tend to undermine their own confessions and which contradict the stories of the other two confessed murderers.
There is no resolution of the story, meaning that no murderer is named. The reader is left to determine the true identity of the murderer based on the evidence presented to them in Tajomaru, Masago, and Takehiro's flawed confessions, reconciled with the inconsistent and contradictory information provided to the High Police Commissioner by the woodcutter, the priest, the policeman, and Masago's mother.