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Why is Hanzomon called Hanzomon?

In Japanese History on February 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

半蔵門
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(Hattori Hanzō).

hattori hanzo

will the real hattori hanzo please stand up?

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).

Legend says
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…

hanzomon gate edo period

donkey people coming in and out of edo castle… or are they just donkey people walking by….. or… are they fucking NINJAS?????

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.

hazomon gate from above!

these days, hanzomon is a massive business district. if you are lucky enough to work on a high floor, you might enjoy this view of the hanzomon gate. it’s pretty fantastic, wouldn’t you say?

  1. […] What does Hanzōmon mean? […]

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