Japan History: Ishikawa Goemon

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Ishikawa Goemon

Photo credits: data.ukiyo-e.org

Ishikawa Goemon (石川 五右衛門, 1558 – 8 Ottobre, 1594) è stato un fuorilegge Giapponese semi leggendario che rubava oggetti di valore ai ricchi per darli ai poveri. Proprio per questa sua caratteristica viene a volte definito il Robin Hood del Giappone. Esistono molte storie che lo vedono protagonista e che lo descrivono come un eroe popolare che si batte contro i potenti per i più deboli. L’autenticità di queste storie tuttavia non è sempre certa.

La sua prima apparizione negli annali storici si ritrova nella biografia di Toyotomi Hideyoshi del 1642 che lo descriveva semplicemente come un ladro.

Ci sono varie versioni della vita di Ishikawa Goemon. Secondo una di queste, egli nacque come Sanada Kuranoshin nel 1558 da una famiglia di samurai al servizio del clan Miyoshi della provincia di Iga.  Nel 1573, quando suo padre, presumibilmente Ishikawa Akashi, fu assassinato dagli uomini dello shogunato Ashikaga, il quindicenne Sanada giurò vendetta. Cominciò quindi ad allenarsi nelle arti del ninjutsu a Iga sotto Momochi Sandayu. Allievo abilissimo ma di temperamento irruento, fu costretto a scappare quando il suo maestro scoprì la relazione di Sanada con una delle sue amanti.

Altre fonti gli danno il nome di Gorokizu, la cui provenienza viene individuata nella Provincia di Kawachi e non era un nunekin (ninja fuggitivo). Si era poi spostato nella regione del Kansai dove formò e guidò una banda di ladri e banditi come Ishikawa Goemon. Con questa banda rubava ai ricchi signori feudali, mercanti e clericali, condividendo poi il bottino con i poveri.

Secondo un’altra versione, che gli ha anche attribuito un attentato a Oda Nobunaga, sembra sia stato obbligato a diventare un ladro quando la rete organizzativa dei ninja fu distrutta.

Ciò che è certo è che Ishikawa Gomen divenne presto un personaggio popolare e apprezzato dal popolo, e non mancano gli aneddoti sulle sue avventure. Si dice che una volta, entrato in una stanza per compiere un furto, venne distratto dal sorriso di un bambino. Ishikawa cominciò a giocare con lui perdendo così il momento per mettere a segno il colpo. Un’altra storia riguarda il suo tentativo di assassinare il grande generale Oda Nobunaga. Una volta entrato nell’edificio di Oda, si nascose nell’attico proprio sopra la camera da letto del generale. Quando questi si fu coricato, Ishikawa praticò un buco sul soffitto proprio in corrispondenza della testa di Oda. Dal buco calò un tubicino tenendolo sospeso sopra la bocca del daimyo, tramite il quale fece passare un potente veleno. Ma il sonno di Oda Nobunaga era leggero e, svegliatosi, riuscì a sventare in tempo l’attentato.

Photo credits: wikipedia.org

Versioni molto conflittuali riguardano anche la sua pubblica esecuzione nell’olio bollente davanti al cancello del tempio Buddhista Nanzen-ji a Kyoto.

Secondo una prima versione, alcuni compagni di scorribande di Goemon furono catturati e costretti a confessare il nome del loro capo.

Una seconda versione afferma invece che Goemon provò ad assassinare Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Alcuni dicono che lo fece per vendicare la morte di sua moglie Otaki e la cattura di suo figlio Gobei, altri perchè lo shogun era ritenuto un despota. Entrato nella camera di Hideyoshi, nel castello di Fushimi, fu però scoperto dalle guardie perché urtò un tavolo facendo cadere una campanella. A volte si parla invece di un bruciatore di incenso magico capace di emettere un suono di richiamo. Fu quindi catturato e condannato a morire, gettato vivo nell’olio bollente in un calderone di ferro, insieme al suo figlio più giovane.

Ma se Goemon incontrò così la sua fine, le storie divergono sul destino del figlioletto. In alcune, Goemon riuscì a salvarlo tenendolo in alto sopra la testa, e il figlio fu poi perdonato. In altre invece, si dice che il padre all’inizio provò a salvare il figlio tenendolo sopra la testa ma, resosi conto della futilità del suo gesto, lo spinse sul fondo del calderone per ucciderlo il prima possibile. Rimase poi con il corpo del bambino sollevato in alto in segno di scherno verso i suoi nemici, fino alla morte per il dolore e le ferite.

Anche la data della sua morte è incerta, alcuni dicono che avvenne in estate, mentre altri la datano l’8 Ottobre, quindi in autunno. Prima di morire, Goemon lasciò un poema d’addio nel quale diceva che qualunque cosa fosse successa, al mondo ci sarebbero sempre stati dei ladri.

Una pietra tombale dedicata a lui può essere visitata ancora oggi nel Tempio Daiunin a Kyoto, mentre le tradizionali vasche verticali giapponesi, solitamente di ferro o legno, prendono ancora oggi il nome di goemonburo (Vasca di Goemon)

Teatro Kabuki e Cultura Popolare

Photo credits: img00.deviantart.net

Ishikawa Goemon è il soggetto di molte rappresentazioni teatrali kabuki. Quella che ancora oggi  viene messa in scena è Kinmon Gosan no Kiri (Il Portale d’Oro e lo Stemma di Paulonia). Consiste in cinque atti scritti da Namiki Gohei nel 1778, di cui il più famoso è quello intitolato Sanmon Gosan no Kiri (Il Portale Sanmon e lo Stemma di Paulonia). In questo atto Goemon è visto seduto in cima al portale Sanmon del tempio Nanzen-ji. Sta fumando una pipa d’argento molto grande chiamata  kiseru ed esclama “La vista primaverile merita un migliaio di pezzi d’oro, o così dicono, ma è troppo poco, troppo poco. Agli occhi di Goemon ne vale diecimila!” Goemon presto capisce che suo padre, un cinese chiamato So Sokei, era stato ucciso da Mashiba Hisayoshi e comincia a preparare la sua vendetta.

Il suo personaggio appare anche nel famoso racconto Quarantasette Ronin, messo in scena per la prima volta nel 1778. Nel 1992 invece, Goemon appare nella serie kabuki di alcuni francobolli postali Giapponesi.

Nella cultura popolare moderna ci sono in generale due modi in cui Goemon viene rappresentato: un giovane, scaltro ninja, o un potente bandito Giapponese.

Goemon è il personaggio principale della serie di video games Konami Ganbare Goemon dalla quale è stata tratta una serie televisiva. È anche il personaggio principale dei romanzi Shinobi no Mono e della serie di film ad essi ispirati, interpretati da Ichikawa Raizō VIII nel ruolo di Goemon. Nel terzo film, Shin Shinobi no Mono, conosciuto in inglese come Goemon Will Never Die, il protagonista sfugge all’esecuzione mentre un altro uomo viene buttato al suo posto nell’olio bollente. Goemon è anche il protagonista di alcuni film Giapponesi girati prima della seconda guerra mondiale come Ishikawa Goemon Ichidaiki e Ishikawa Goemon no Hoji.

Più recentemente invece, nel film Goemon del 2009 è interpretato da Yōsuke Eguchi e viene descritto come il più fedele seguace di Nobunaga assieme a Hattori Hanzō.

 

Il personaggio di Goemon appare anche in numerosi altri videogame come nella serie Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi,  Blood Warrior, Kessen III, Ninja Master’s: Haō Ninpō Chō, Shall We Date?: Ninja Love, Shogun Warriors, e Throne of Darkness. È anche una Persona iniziale in Persona 5 di Yusuke Kitagawa, e fa la sua comparsa anche nel drama taiga Hideyoshi, nel film Roppa no Ôkubo Hikozaemon, e nei manga Kaze ga Gotoku e Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo.

Ma forse il personaggio più conosciuto di tutti è quello di Ishikawa Goemon XIII in Lupin III (Rupan Sansei), diretto discendente del leggendario ladro e ideato dal mangaka Monkey Punch.[:en]

Ishikawa Goemon

Photo credits: data.ukiyo-e.org

Ishikawa Goemon (石川 五右衛門, 1558 – October 8, 1594) was a semi-legendary Japanese outlaw hero who stole gold and other valuables to give to the poor. It is precisely because of this characteristic he is sometimes referred to as the Robin Hood of Japan. There are many stories with him as the protagonist and that describe him as a popular hero who fights against powerful enemies to help the weakest. The authenticity of these stories, however, is not always certain.

In his first appearance in the historical annals, in the 1642 biography of Hideyoshi, Goemon was referred to simply as a thief.

There are many versions of Goemon’s background and accounts of his life. According to one of them, he was born as Sanada Kuranoshin in 1558 to a samurai family in service of the powerful Miyoshi clan in Iga Province. In 1573, when his father, possibly Ishikawa Akashi, was killed by the men of Ashikaga shogunate, the 15-year-old Sanada swore revenge. He then began training the arts of Iga ninjutsu under Momochi Sandayu. Very skilful pupil but of impetuous temperament, he was forced to flee when his master discovered Sanada’s affair with one of his mistresses.

Some other sources state his name as Gorokizu, whose origins were traced to Kawachi Province and he was not a nunekin (runaway ninja). He then moved to Kansai region, where he formed and led a band of thieves and bandits as Ishikawa Goemon. With this gang he robbed the rich feudal lords, merchants and clerics, sharing the loot with the oppressed peasants.

According to another version, which also attributed him a failed attempt on Oda Nobunaga’s life, he was forced to become a robber when the ninja networks were broken up.

What is certain is that Ishikawa Gomen soon became a popular hero especially loved by peasants, and there are numerous anecdotes about his adventures. It is said that once, he had entered a room to perform a theft but was distracted by the smile of a child. Ishikawa began to play with him losing the right moment to pull it off. Another story is about his attempt to assassinate the great general Oda Nobunaga. Once inside Oda’s building, he hid in the attic right above the general’s bedroom. When he went to bed, Ishikawa made a hole in the ceiling right where Oda’s head was. From that hole he lowered a thread aiming at the daimyo’s mouth, dripping poison down it. However, Oda Nobunaga’s sleep was light and, awakened, he managed to foil the attack in time.

Photo credits: wikipedia.org

There are also several conflicting accounts of Goemon’s public execution by boiling in front of the main gate of the Buddhist temple Nanzen-ji in Kyoto.

According to one version, some of Goemon’s followers were eventually caught and forced to reveal the name of their leader.

In another version, Goemon tried to assassinate Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Some say he did it because he wanted to avenge the death of his wife Otaki and the capture of his son Gobei, but some others say it is because the shogun was a despot. He entered Hideyoshi’s room, in Fushimi Castle, but was caught red-handed by the guards because he knocked a bell off a table. Some legends speak about a magical incense burner that was able to sound the alarm in case of intrusion. He was then captured and sentenced to death, thrown alive in boiling oil into an iron cauldron, along with his younger son.

But if Goemon met his end like this, then the stories diverge on his child’s fate. Some say he was able to save him by holding him above his head, and his son was then forgiven. In other versions the father at first tried to save the son by holding him high above his head but, once realised that it was futile, he plunged him deep into the bottom of the cauldron to kill him as quickly as possible. Then he stood with the body of the boy held high in the air in defiance of his enemies until he eventually succumbed to pain and injuries.

Even the very date of his death is uncertain, as some records say this took place in summer, while another dates it on October 8, in autumn. Before he died, Goemon wrote a famous farewell poem, saying that no matter what, there always shall be thieves.

A tombstone dedicated to him is located in Daiunin temple in Kyoto, while the traditional Japanese bathtub, usually made of iron or wood, is now called goemonburo (Goemon bath)

Kabuki theatre and Popular Culture

Photo credits: img00.deviantart.net

Ishikawa Goemon is the subject of many classic kabuki plays. The only one still in performance today is Kinmon Gosan no Kiri (The Golden Gate and the Paulownia Crest). It is a five-act play written by Namiki Gohei in 1778, in which the most famous act is Sanmon Gosan no Kiri (The Temple Gate and the Paulownia Crest). Here Goemon is first seen sitting on top of the Sanmon gate at Nanzen-ji. He is smoking an oversized silver pipe called a kiseru and exclaims “The spring view is worth a thousand gold pieces, or so they say, but ‘tis too little, too little. These eyes of Goemon rate it worth ten thousand!”. Goemon soon learns that his father, a Chinese man named So Sokei, was killed by Mashiba Hisayoshi, and starts to prepare his vengeance.

His character also appears in the famous tale the Forty-seven Ronin, first staged in 1778. In 1992, he appeared in the kabuki series of Japanese postage stamps.

In popular culture, there are generally two ways in which Goemon is portrayed: either as a young, slender ninja or as a powerful bandit.

Goemon is the protagonist of the Konami video games series Ganbare Goemon, as well as a television series based on it. He is the subject of the Shinobi no Mono novels and film series, starring Ichikawa Raizō VIII as Goemon. In the third instalment, Shinobi no Mono, known in English as Goemon Will Never Die, he escapes execution while another man is boiled in his place. Goemon was also a subject of several pre-WWII Japanese films such as Ishikawa Goemon Ichidaiki and Ishikawa Goemon no Hoji.

More recently, in the 2009 film Goemon, he is portrayed by Yōsuke Eguchi and depicted as Nobunaga’s most faithful follower and as associated with Hattori Hanzō.

 

Goemon’s character also appears in many other video games like the series Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi,  Blood Warrior, Kessen III, Ninja Master’s: Haō Ninpō Chō, Shall We Date?: Ninja Love, Shogun Warriors, and Throne of Darkness. He is also an Initial Persona in Persona 5 by Yusuke Kitagawa and makes his appearance in the taiga drama Hideyoshi, as well as in the film Roppa no Ôkubo Hikozaemon, and in the manga series Kaze ga Gotoku and Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo.

But perhaps, the most famous of all is Ishikawa Goemon XIII from Lupin III (Rupan Sansei), the direct descendant of the legendary thief created by the mangaka Monkey Punch.[:ja]

Ishikawa Goemon

Photo credits: data.ukiyo-e.org

Ishikawa Goemon (石川 五右衛門, 1558 – October 8, 1594) was a semi-legendary Japanese outlaw hero who stole gold and other valuables to give to the poor. Precisely because of this characteristic he is sometimes called the Robin Hood of Japan.There are many stories with him as the protagonist and that describe him as a popular hero who fights against powerful enemies to help the weakest. The authenticity of these stories however is not always certain.

In his first appearance in the historical annals, in the 1642 biography of Hideyoshi, Goemon was referred to simply as a thief.

There are many versions of Goemon’s background and accounts of his life. According to one of them, he was born as Sanada Kuranoshin in 1558 to a samurai family in service of the powerful Miyoshi clan in Iga Province. In 1573, when his father, possibly Ishikawa Akashi, was killed by the men of Ashikaga shogunate, the 15-year-old Sanada swore revenge. He then began training the arts of Iga ninjutsu under Momochi Sandayu. Very skilful pupil but of impetuous temperament, he was forced to flee when his master discovered Sanada’s affair with one of his mistresses.

Some other sources state his name as Gorokizu, whose origins where traced in Kawachi Province and he was not a nunekin (runaway ninja). He then moved to Kansai region, where he formed and led a band of thieves and bandits as Ishikawa Goemon. With this gang he robbed the rich feudal lords, merchants and clerics, sharing the loot with the oppressed peasants.

According to another version, which also attributed him a failed attempt on Oda Nobunaga’s life, he was forced to become a robber when the ninja networks were broken up.

What is certain is that Ishikawa Gomen soon became a popular hero especially loved by peasants, and there are numerous anecdotes about his adventures. It is said that once, he had entered a room to perform a theft but was distracted by the smile of a child. Ishikawa began to play with him losing the right moment to pull it off. Another story is about his attempt to assassinate the great general Oda Nobunaga. Once inside Oda’s building, he hid in the attic right above the general’s bedroom. When he went to bed, Ishikawa made a hole in the ceiling right where Oda’s head was. From that hole he lowered a thread aiming at the daimyo’s mouth, dripping poison down it. However, Oda Nobunaga’s sleep was light and, awakened, he managed to foil the attack in time.

Photo credits: wikipedia.org

There are also several conflicting accounts of Goemon’s public execution by boiling in front of the main gate of the Buddhist temple Nanzen-ji in Kyoto.

According to a first version, some of Goemon’s followers were eventually caught and forced to reveal the name of their leader.

In a second version, Goemon tried to assassinate Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Some say he did it because he wanted to avenge the death of his wife Otaki and the capture of his son Gobei, some others because the shogun was a despot. He entered Hideyoshi’s room, in Fushimi Castle, but was caught red-handed by the guards because he knocked a bell off a table. Some legends speak about a magical incense burner that was able to sound the alarm in case of intrusion. He was then captured and sentenced to die, thrown alive in boiling oil into an iron cauldron, along with his younger son.

But if Goemon met his end like this, stories diverge on his child’s fate. Some say he was able to save him by holding him above his head, and his son was then forgiven. In other versions the father at first tried to save the son by holding him high above his head but, once realised that it was futile, he plunged him deep into the bottom of the cauldron to kill him as quickly as possible. Then he stood with the body of the boy held high in the air in defiance of his enemies, until he eventually succumbed to pain and injuries.

Even the very date of his death is uncertain, as some records say this took place in summer, while another dates it at October 8, in autumn. Before he died, Goemon wrote a famous farewell poem, saying that no matter what, there always shall be thieves.

A tombstone dedicated to him is located in Daiunin temple in Kyoto, while the traditional Japanese bathtub, usually made of iron or wood, is now called goemonburo (Goemon bath)

Kabuki theater and Mass Culture

Photo credits: img00.deviantart.net

Ishikawa Goemon is the subject of many classic kabuki plays. The only one still in performance today is Kinmon Gosan no Kiri (The Golden Gate and the Paulownia Crest). It is a five-act play written by Namiki Gohei in 1778, in which the most famous act is Sanmon Gosan no Kiri (The Temple Gate and the Paulownia Crest). Here Goemon is first seen sitting on top of the Sanmon gate at Nanzen-ji. He is smoking an oversized silver pipe called a kiseru and exclaims “The spring view is worth a thousand gold pieces, or so they say, but ‘tis too little, too little. These eyes of Goemon rate it worth ten thousand!”. Goemon soon learns that his father, a Chinese man named So Sokei, was killed by Mashiba Hisayoshi, and starts to prepare his vengeance.

His character also appears in the famous tale the Forty-seven Ronin, first staged in 1778. In 1992, he appeared in the kabuki series of Japanese postage stamps.

In modern popular culture there are generally two ways in which Goemon is portrayed: either a young, slender ninja, or a powerful bandit.

Goemon is the protagonist of the Konami video games series Ganbare Goemon, as well as a television series based on it. He is the subject of the Shinobi no Mono novels and film series, starring Ichikawa Raizō VIII as Goemon. In the third installment Shinobi no Mono, known in English as Goemon Will Never Die, he escapes execution while another man is boiled in his place. Goemon was also a subject of several pre-WWII Japanese films such as Ishikawa Goemon Ichidaiki and Ishikawa Goemon no Hoji.

More recently, in the 2009 film Goemon, he is portrayed by Yōsuke Eguchi and depicted as Nobunaga’s most faithful follower and as associated with Hattori Hanzō.

 

Goemon’s character also appears in many other video games like the series Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi,  Blood Warrior, Kessen III, Ninja Master’s: Haō Ninpō Chō, Shall We Date?: Ninja Love, Shogun Warriors, and Throne of Darkness. He is also an Initial Persona in Persona 5 by Yusuke Kitagawa, and makes his appearance in the taiga drama Hideyoshi, as well as in the film Roppa no Ôkubo Hikozaemon, and in the manga series Kaze ga Gotoku and Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo.

But perhaps, the most famous of all is Ishikawa Goemon XIII from Lupin III (Rupan Sansei), direct descendant of the legendary thief created by the mangaka Monkey Punch.[:]