Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hattori Hanzo

Have you heard of Hattori Hanzo. Many people have through the movie "Kill Bill". He was the greatest samurai sword maker in Japan who made the sword for Beatrix in order for her to seek her revenge against Bill and his clan of assassins.

However, the real Hattori Hanzo actually comes from the late Sengoku period in Japan (1467-1600), the Period of Warring States. Hanzo was a very loyal samurai retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu. In the book about Oda Nobunaga (Japonius Tyrannus), it was even reported that Hanzo may have practiced the arts of the Ninja. It is clear that Ieyasu did use Hattori Hanzo for special assignments such as reconnaissance and espionage during the turbulent and violent last days of the Sengoku period.

For those who have also been watching the NHK taiga drama Tenchijin, they have already heard of Hattori Hanzo as he has been mentioned in some of the episodes.

Hanzo earned the nickname Oni-Hanzo (Devil Hanzo) because of his fearless tactics he displayed in action. Hanzo died in 1596 supposedly of natural causes. However, rumor has it that Hanzo was killed by a ninja named Fuma Kotaro in battle.

Hanzo was succeeded by his 18 year old son. His son and his men would later act as guards of Edo Castle. Today, the legacy of Hattori Hanzo and his decendents remain. One of the gates of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the former Edo Castle of the Shogun, is named Hanzo's Gate. Also, the Hanzomon subway line which runs from central Tokyo is named after the gate and therefore named after Hattori Hanzo.

Hanzo's grave is located at the Sainen-ji temple in Shinjuku. The life of Hattori Hanzo is depicted in the fictional manga series Path of the Assassin as well as the video game series Samurai Warriors where he is depicted as a ninja as well as many other movies, manga and TV shows.

より大きな地図で 伊賀流忍者 を表示


  1. What, no comments? But this posting has opened to my eyes the swashbuckling past of the Hanzomon Line's name. Travelling by subway in Tokyo will from now on be a far more romantic and evocative experience.

    Benkyo ni narimashita, and thank you. I must visit this blog more often!

  2. Since I just posted it maybe their will be some more comments. Thank you for visiting.

  3. I was introduced to Honzo by people telling me about his [alleged] ninja past. I've been fascinated with him ever since.

    I even sought out his resting place when I was in Tokyo a few years ago.

  4. Were you able to find it and visit it?

    I have been interested in the Tokugawa, especially Ieyasu, so therefore I am interested in Hanzo's relationship to Ieyasu.

    I was actually watching the Tenchijin episode when I heard the Hanzo name and I said "wait a second, that name is from Kill Bill." That was the first I realized he was a real historical person.

  5. Boy that's a heck of a gate! Nice photo.

    Hyakumeizan's comment is really funny!

    The story of Hanzo is new to me, but sounds really interesting. As does the show that you are watching. I'm guessing you get Japanese TV on your Cable service in LA.... Or maybe it is online. I will have to look for the show you're talking about. It sounds really interesting.

    I had only heard of Hanzo from Kill Bill. Though, I figured that Tarentino had something up his sleeve when he used the name...

    Very interesting. I'll definitely have to track down Tenchijin.

    Thanks, great post.

  6. The gate at the top is the blog home page picture of a gate and Nikko Toshogu. Sorry for the confusion.

    I have J TV. What is great is that they have it with English subtitles. I have seen many Japanese historical dramas called Taiga dramas and this one is the best so far.

  7. Interesting story.