Kawachi Juningiri (Ten killings in Kawachi area) (河内十人斬り)

"Kawachi juningiri" was a murder case occurred in Akasakasuibun Village at the foot of Mt. Kongo in the southwest of Osaka Prefecture.

As the name suggests, ten people were killed due to sex and money troubles, and that made a headline at that time. The story was adapted for novels and plays, and became a representative song of Kawachi ondo (Kawachi dance), a traditional performing art in Osaka.

Onset of the incident

The perpetrators of the incident were kumataro KIDO, a gambler living in the village, and his sworn young brother, Yagoro TANI, and it started from Kumataro's troubled relationship with a woman. Kumataro's common-law wife, Onui was found to have been in an affair with Torajiro MATSUNAGA, a younger brother of an influential man in the village, Denjiro MATSUNAGA.

Kumataro became infuriated and talked about breaking up with her, but her mother, Otora taunted him saying, 'When you married Onui, you promised to send money to me every month, but I've never received it. If you want to break up with her, you must pay the unpaid money first.'

Kumataro reluctantly accepted it, but Kumataro, a gambler living from hand to mouth, did not have a large sum of money at hand, so he made every effort to raise money. Then, Kumataro remembered that he lent money to Denjiro MATSUNAGA once and asked him to pay back. Denjiro, however, refused it insisting that he could not remember the debts, and made his followers gang up on Kumataro. Being robbed of his wife, not paid back the money he lent and beaten nearly to death by the Matsunaga family, Kumataro, supported by his sworn young brother, Yagoro, decided to get square with them.

Preparation toward the crime

Kumataro, who was beaten nearly to death by Denjiro, recuperated at Yagoro's house and started preparation for revenge. After healing the wounds, Kumataro prepared a tomb for himself to fight the enemy at all risk, and then, visited Kyoto, Nara and Osaka to buy Japanese swords, sword canes and hunting guns, and bode his time.

The day they committed the crime

On May 25, 1893, Kumataro and Yagoro, wearing swords and holding guns, committed the crime intentionally in the rainy midnight. First, they killed Kumataro's wife, Onui and her mother, Otora, and then broke into Matsunaga's home and killed Denjiro MATSUNAGA, his wife and his two children. Next, they broke into the house of Kumajiro MATSUNAGA, Denjiro's eldest son, and killed Kumajiro, his wife and his three children including a newborn baby, and the number of victims totaled 11 at the end.

However, Torajiro MATSUNAGA, who had an affair with Onui and caused the incident, was in Uji, Kyoto then and escaped from the mass murder. After the killing spree was over, they set gunpowder, scattered oil and set fire to the houses they broke in, and made their escape to Mt. Kongo.

The end of Kumataro and Yagoro

On the following day, May 26, a report to a local police station, Tondabayashi Police Station brought light to the incident. With support coming from Osaka prefectural police headquarters, the police cordoned Mt. Kongo where they were believed to have escaped, but only to receive report that they robbed of food.

Running out of patience, the investigation headquarters started hunting all over the mountain, but they could not hunt down easily. Two weeks after the incident, however, the case came to an end as they committed suicide and their corpses were found in Mt. Kongo.

Spreading Kawachi juningiri

The cruel murder case, which occurred in rural Osaka, was featured by many newspapers as a story involving various factors such as sex, money, and humanity and justice, and became the talk of the town. In the very year of the incident, it was adapted to a play and a novel.

Umekichi IWAI (his real name was Umekichi UCHIDA), a retained rickshaw driver of the Chief of Tondabayashi Police Station, thought of writing lyrics for his favorite Kawachi ondo based on the investigation information, but he was illiterate. Then, his friend, Kichisaburo MATSUMOTO (father of Umekichi IWAI who was the sixth leader of the existing society for Kawachi ondo, Iwai-kai, that now has the ninth leader) wrote the words for the plain melody of Kawachi ondo.

In June, one month after the incident, Naka-za, one of the five za (theater) (Asahi-za, naka-za, benten-za and Kaku-za) held the performance of "Kawachi ondo Urami no shirasaya," and it soon became a great hit and ran for 45 days.

Ondo in those days were mostly adapted from old stories such as loyal retainers and yakuza stories. "Kawachi juningiri" sang by Umekichi IWAI featured incident that had just happened, which was new to the people at that time. To compose ondo based on real stories are called "Shinmon-yomi" (reading newspapers). In those days, compulsory education was not spreading enough, and most people were unable to write letters, much less to read newspaper. A large number of people knew the incident through Kawachi ondo.
That is to say, Kawachi ondo played the role of kawaraban (commercial newssheet of the Edo period), which 'sells news reading.'

Sung in Kawachi ondo as 'if you have a man, he should be Kumataro and Yagoro, they left their names by killing ten people,' the program became a major hit and was adapted to 'rokyoku' (also known as naniwa-bushi, storytelling with samisen accompaniment) and handed down to the present day. A novelist, Ko MACHIDA wrote a novel called "Kokuhaku" (confession) based on the incident.

[Original Japanese]