Hanzōmon (Hanzō Gate)
Today’s place name is from a request from a reader who’s working near Hanzōmon Station. Thanks for your request, Nate! Anyone else who interested in making a request about Tokyo place names, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get to it!
This one is pretty much straight forward.
It’s named after a famous samurai named 服部半蔵 (Hattori Hanzō).
The dude is semi-mythical and even in the Edo Period he was a bit of a legend. He was portrayed as a crucial figure in the seemingly destined rise to power of Tokugawa Ieyasu (the first Tokugawa shōgun and the man who establish Tokugawa hegemony).
☆ He was from Mikawa – the same area the Tokugawa came from.
☆ He saved Ieyasu’s life by giving him safe passage through Iga Provice.
☆ He was a ninja.
ok… without going into much about ninjas… let’s just say… always take the ninja thing with a grain of salt.
Like I said, “Legend says…”
Anyhoo, regardless of what really happened, what we know for sure is that Hanzō died in 1596 and never saw the Tokugawa shōgunate established. His family was given prime real estate next to Edo Castle and they and their retainers served as guards for certain areas of the castle. His family was supposedly the hereditary masters of some elite ninjas from the Iga province who served the shōgun loyally… and of whom we never hear doing anything… ever.
Again, that ninja thing…
But, I can believe the Edo Castle security detail thing…
And with the proximity of the gate to the residence of the Hattori clan and their retainers, one can imagine those security detachments coming and going from the castle through that particular gate – all the while boasting of their clan’s connection to saving the life of the man who established Tokugawa hegemony. As samurai in the Edo Period became increasingly bureaucratic and needed some martial claim to fame for their family, you can easily see the legend of Hattori Hanzō getting played up… big time.
The dude has mad fans today, though.
- What does Okubo mean?
(This more recent article gives way more detail about Hattori)