Goemon ISHIKAWA as 石川五右衛門 (石川五右衛門)

About Goemon ISHIKAWA
He was a bandit who is said to have lived during the Azuchi-Momoyama period in Japan. A detailed description will be given here.

A fictional character that appears in manga animation Lupin the 3rd. The official notation used is 石川五ェ門, Goemon ISHIKAWA, (different kanji writing, same reading), and he is set up to be a descendant of 1. See Goemon ISHIKAWA (Lupin the 3rd) for further details.

The main character of 'Ganbare Goemon' series, a software for family computer from Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. Created with 1. as the model.

Goemon ISHIKAWA (date of birth unknown - October 8, 1594) was a bandit who lived during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. There are various opinions regarding his place of birth, including Iga province, Kawachi province, Tango province and Totomi province (present day Hamamatsu City). According to one theory he was a son of Meiseki ISHIKAWA, who was a vassal in Miyoshi clan, he was a large man with strength of 30 men, broke into the treasure house of his master at the age of 16, killing 3 guards along the way, stole a gold-mounted sword, fled and wandered in various provinces and stole, but he was caught in 1594, and he was roasted to death in a cauldron along with his child at Sanjo-gawara in Kyoto. An alternate story says that he was born in Enshu Hamamatsu and was named Hachiro SANADA, but he was renamed Goemon ISHIKAWA by a doctor family named Kotei YAMAUCHI in Ishikawa county, Kawachi province.

Mention of Goemon ISHIKAWA in historical resources

Records of Goemon ISHIKAWA in historical resources all pertain to his execution. First of all, according to "Relation of Japan (Relacion del Reino de Nippon a que llaman Corruptante Japon)" written by Avila GIRON who lived in Japan as a trading merchant for about 20 years between the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the early Edo period, it is noted that there was a group that ransacked Kyoto at one time, but 15 ringleaders were caught and they were boiled alive in oil at Sanjo-gawara in Kyoto. Pedro MOREJON, a missionary of the Society of Jesus made an annotation here, and commented on the execution of the bandits, "This incident took place in 1594. Those who were boiled in oil were "Ixicava Goyemon" and 9 or 10 of his family members."

Furthermore, as a comment of October 8, 1594 in "Tokitsune-kyo Ki" (a diary of a court noble, Tokitsune YAMASHINA) it is described that, "10 robbers and thieves, and one of them was roasted to death in a cauldron. The associated 19 were impaled on stakes. Punishment took place on the riverbank between the Sanjo-bashi Bridge," and even though there is no mention of who were punished, this is in agreement with the comment by the missionary.
In addition, further down in history, in "Toyotomi Hideyoshi Fu" (edited by Razan HAYASHI) edited in 1642, it is recorded that 'During the years of Bunroku a bandit named Goemon ISHIKAWA committed robbery, theft and unspeakable crimes, and after he was caught by Geni MAEDA (of Kyoto Shoshidai) under the order of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI he was roasted to death in a cauldron along with 20 associated people including his mother.'
Although the historical resources mentioned above all have flaws it can be said that it is indisputably evident that a character named Goemon ISHIKAWA existed during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, and that he ganged up to commit robbery and that he was executed in Kyoto.

Moreover, "Zoku Honcho tsugan" and "Rekicho yoki" both mention Goemon ISHIKAWA's execution similar to the ones mentioned above.

Goemon ISHIKAWA as a fictional hero

During the Edo period he was publicly acknowledged as a legendary thief. The reason for the popularity of a bandit like him lies in the fact that he was used as a subject in joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a samisen accompaniment) and kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) and he was gradually portrayed as a thief who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and furthermore, the script in which he tries to kill the powerful ruler, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, won the hearts of the commoners.

The 'temple gate' scene in Kabuki, "Kinmon Gosan no Kiri (Sanmon Gosan no Kiri)" (The Temple Gate and the Paulownia Crest), is a famous scene in which he takes a flamboyant pose with a tobacco pipe in one hand and says, 'What a glorious view, what a glorious view, the scenery of spring is worth its weight in gold, how small that is, how small that is,' and he reads a poem as a part of his line in the temple gate scene, 'Although there maybe an end to ISHIKAWA and sand on the beach, there is no end to the seeds of robbers in this world (said to be his poem at his death)' as he is roasted to death in a cauldron. The temple gate is set up to be the temple gate at Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto. However, in reality, the temple gate of Nanzen-ji Temple was built in 1628, after the death of Goemon. In addition, in this scene, Goemon wears a thick kimono jacket and a hyakunichi katsura (wig with long, overgrown hair) to portray him with overgrown hair, and this has become a generally accepted image of Goemon.

His posthumous name is 'Yuzenin Ryogaku Jukan Zenjomon.'
This is an extremely unusual, unfittingly praiseworthy posthumous name for a bandit who was executed.

However, there is only a few historical records on his actual conducts. On the other hand, this fact clearly stimulated creativity and imagination of the playwrights who wrote the plays, and many fictional works related to him have been produced in the past as well as in the modern days.

His Life

There are various theories regarding his life.

His childhood name was Gorokichi. He committed crimes repeatedly from a young age, and he lost his father and mother at the age of 14 or 15.
There are several theories on his life from around the age of 19, the main ones of which include 'He went to Iga province and became a disciple of a ninja, and then he went to Kyoto and became a bandit,' and 'he eloped with the wife of a man he came to serve.'

There also is a well-known lore, in which he studied Iga style ninjutsu under Sandayu MOMOCHI (Tanba MOMOCHI), but he committed adultery with Sandayu's wife, and furthermore, he killed his mistress and fled.

Later on, he gathered followers and cohorts, and with him as the leader they repeatedly committed crimes. He became a hero among the commoners because he was a thief who targeted only the powerful people, and also because of political pressure under Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI who was very unpopular due to his failure in trying to invade Korea.

He was requested to assassinate Hideyoshi by Shigekore KIMURA, a vassal of Hideyoshi's nephew, Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI, but he was arrested when the incense burner made a noise when he sneaked into Hideyoshi's sleeping chamber. After that, one of his men, who was also arrested, revealed all of the crimes and named his followers.

There are two theories on the famous boiling in the cauldron, one of which is that he was supposed to be executed with his child but he tried hold his child up until he himself died in the hot water, and the other one of which is that he drowned his child at once so that the child wouldn't have to suffer. Other than that, it is also said that he stepped on top of his child because he could not bear the heat.
The poem he read prior to death, 'Although there maybe an end to ISHIKAWA and sand on the beach, there is no end to the seeds of robbers in this world.'

Recently, it is more widely believed that he was roasted instead of boiled to death in a cauldron.

Japanese Classics

Joruri, Ningyo Joruri (Japanese puppet show)
Keisei Yoshiokazome (written by Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU)
Kamabuchi Futatsudomoe
Konoshita Kage Hazama Gassen
Kinmon Gosan no Kiri (Sanmon Gosan no Kiri)
Komayamato Kuomi no Shiranami
"Honcho Niju Fuko" (Saikaku IHARA) Chapter one of the second volume
Rakugo (traditional comic storytelling)

Modern Works

Shinobi no Mono (movie, 1962, original work by Tomoyoshi MURAYAMA, directed by Satsuo YAMAMOTO, featuring Raizo ICHIKAWA)
Sengoku Furyu Bushi: MAEDA Keijiro (novel by Chogoro KAIONJI), he appears before Keijiro, who opposes Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea, as someone with the same intent. He suggests to assassinate Hideyoshi as a means to thwart the dispatching of the troops but Keijiro did not agree, so Goemon acted on his own and failed, then he was boiled to death in a cauldron.

Fukuro no Shiro (Owls' Castle), (novel and movie by Ryotaro SHIBA), when ninja Gohei KAZAMA sneaked into the castle and was arrested as a ruffian by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, he called himself 'Goemon ISHIKAWA,' and then he was boiled to death in a cauldron.

Ogon no Hibi (The Golden Days), (NHK period drama) (novel, period drama, original work by Saburo SHIROYAMA). Hideyoshi (NHK period drama) (period drama, original work by Taichi SAKAIYA) (role of Goemon played by Hidekazu AKAI), he is set up as Hideyoshi's childhood friend.

Taiko Ansatsu (Taiko's assassination) (novel by Hidefumi OKADA).
MISTER Zipangu (manga by Takashi SHIINA)
Sengoku Cyber: Fujimaru Jigokuhen (Playstation 2, SCE)
Samurai Warriors (PlayStation 2, others, Koei)
Kawara no Ishikawa Goemon (song, produced by Eichi OTAKI, sung by Oshamanbe Cats, an alias of Singers Three). Pink Lady's "Nagisa no Shindobaddo" (Sinbad on the Beach) with alternate lyrics. It was supposed to be recorded in the album, "Lets Ondo Again" released in 1978, but because the lyricist, Yu AKU, did not give his permission the song was not included, but the lyrics alone were noted. It was recorded for the first time in "NIAGARA FALL STARS" which was released in 1981. The CD, "Lets Ondo Again" released in 1996 also contains this song.

Hanafubuki Koifubuki (performed by Takarazuka Revue Star Troupe at Takarazuka Bow Hall)


There remains a handprint that is said to have been left by Goemon ISHIKAWA at Minase-jingu Shrine in Shimamoto-cho (Osaka Prefecture), Mishima county, Osaka Prefecture.

Copying the historical event of boiling in a cauldron (roasted in a cauldron, to be precise), a bath in which a bathtub is heated on a direct fire is called a Goemon buro (Goemon bath).

[Original Japanese]