Rashomon (Rashomon Gate, a novel) (羅生門 (小説))

"Rashomon" is a novel written by Ryunosuke AKUTAGAWA early in his career. It is a short story inspired by No. 18, 'Rashomon no uhakoshi ni noborite shinin wo miru nusubito no koto' (a story about a thief who climbed upstairs within the Rashomon gate and saw dead people there) in the "Konjaku Monogatarishu" (The Tale of Times Now Past). Rashomon was the main gate of Heian-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Kyoto) on the Suzaku-oji Street. The correct kanji for Rashomon was 羅城門, but it is regarded that Akutagawa intentionally used '羅生門' to make readers aware of life (生 in Chinese character). This novel is well-known, and is selected to be used for high school textbooks.


The story was first published in November 1915 in a magazine called the 'Teikoku Bungaku' (literally, literature of the empire) when Akutagawa was still an unknown author and a student at Tokyo University. In the same year, his first short story 'Ronen' (Old Age) was published in the "Shin-Shicho" (New Thought) magazine, and in 1916, the following year, the same magazine ran another one of his short stories titled 'Hana' (The Nose) which he set to take place around the same period as Rashomon. In May 1917, "Rashomon" together with 'The Nose' and 'Imogayu' (Yam Gruel), were included in his first collection of short stories entitled "Rashomon" published by Oranda Shobo, and in 1922, the "Rashomon" story was included in his collection called the "Sara no hana" (Sal flowers) published by Kaizosha. This story is famous for its detailed description of the human egotism displayed by acts of evil in the name of survival.

The last sentence has been altered several times.
In its first publication in the "Teikoku Bungaku," the story ended with, 'Cutting through the rain, the man was ready to hurry into Kyoto to commit robbery.'
In the short story collection, it is slightly different version can be seen, 'The man was already hurrying to Kyoto in the rain to commit robbery.'
Today, the story ends with the sentence, 'No one knew where he was headed for.'

Akira KUROSAWA's film "Rashomon" (1950) was actually based on Akutagawa's short story "In a Grove" published in 1922, but the film takes the setting and the scene of robbing clothes (from a baby, in the film) from Rashomon.

Plot Summary

One day, a young lowly servant, who was recently fired and who had no place to go and no one to turn to, sat beneath the devastated Rashomon gate in the heavy rain. He was contemplating whether to become a thief in order to survive, but was hesitant. When he went upstairs within the Rashomon, he felt someone's presence there. It was an old woman stealing hair from a corpse to earn her food, though she knew it was morally wrong. The old woman said that it was for survival, and furthermore, she claimed that this dead person also committed evil deeds when she was alive, thereby entitling the old woman to steal from her. The man was furious at the old woman's act being righteous as he was, but her words made him decide to brutally rob the woman of her clothes. He then said, 'That's what I have to do to keep from starving to death,' and disappeared into the darkness of the night. No one knew where he was headed for.

[Original Japanese]