Hattori Hanzō
Hanzo Hattori (NAS)
Born ~1542

Mikawa Province

Died December 23, 1596


Hattori Hanzō (服部 半蔵?, ~1542[1] – December 23, 1596), also known asHattori Masanari (服部 正成?), was a famous samurai and Ninja master of theSengoku era, credited with saving the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu and then helping him to become the ruler of united Japan.[2][3] Today, he is often a subject of varied portrayal in modern popular culture.


 [hide*1 Biography


Born as the son of Hattori Yasunaga, a minor samurai in the service of the Matsudaira (later Tokugawa) clan.[4][5] He would later earn the nickname Onino Hanzō (鬼の半蔵 Devil Hanzō?)[5] because of the fearless tactics he displayed in his operations; this is to distinguish him from Watanabe Hanzo (Watanabe Moritsuna), who is nicknamed Yari no Hanzō (槍の半蔵 Spear Hanzō?).[6]

Though Hanzō was born and raised in Mikawa Province, he often returned to Iga Province, home of the Hattori family. He fought his first battle at the age of 16 (a night-time attack on Udo castle[4])[5] and went on to lay siege to Kakegawa Castle in 1569. He served with distinction at the battles of Anegawa (1570) and Mikatagahara (1572).[4] His most valuable contribution came in 1582 following Oda Nobunaga's death, when he led the future shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu to safety in Mikawa Province across Iga territory with the help of remnants of the local Iga ninja clans as well as their one-time rivals in Koga.[9][10] According to some sources, Hanzō also helped in rescuing the captured family of Ieyasu.[11]

Hanzō was known as an expert tactician and a master of spear fighting. Historical sources say he lived the last several years of his life as a monk under the name "Sainen" and built the temple, Sainenji, which was named after him and mainly built to commemorate Tokugawa Ieyasu's elder son, Nobuyasu, who was accused of treason and conspiracy by Oda Nobunaga and who was then ordered to commit seppuku by his father, Ieyasu. When Nobuyasu was ordered to end his own life, Hanzo was called in to act as the official second to end Nobuyasu's suffering, but he refused to take the sword on the blood of his own lord. Ieyasu valued his loyalty after hearing of Hanzo's ordeal and said, "Even a demon can shed tears."[12][13]

Tales of his exploits often attributed various supernatural abilities, such as disappearing and appearing elsewhere, psychokinesis, and precognition,[5] and these attributions contribute to his continued prominence in popular culture. He died at the age of 55.[4]


[1][2]Edo Castle's Hanzōmon gate during theMeiji period (1868-1912)[3][4]Imperial Palace's Hanzōmon gate in 2007

After his death in the fourth of November 1596, Hattori Hanzō was succeeded by his son, whose name was also Masanari, though written with different kanji. He was given the title of Iwami no Kami[14] and his Iga men would act as guards of Edo Castle, the headquarters of the government of united Japan. There have been also as many as three other Hattori Hanzō leading his clan at one point or another (including one before him).[5]

To this day, artifacts of Hanzō's legacy remain. Tokyo Imperial Palace (formerly the shogun's palace) still has a gate called Hanzō's Gate (Hanzōmon), and the Hanzōmon subway line which runs from Hanzōmon Station in central Tokyo to the southwestern suburbs is named after the gate, where his house was once located.[15][16][17] The neighborhood outside Hanzo’s Gate is known as Wakaba, but prior to 1943 was named Iga-cho ("Iga Town").[18] Hanzō’s remains now rest in the Sainen-ji temple cemetery inYotsuya, Tokyo. The temple also holds his favorite spear and his ceremonial battle helmet. The spear, originally 14-feet long donated to the temple by Hanzō as a votive offering, had been given to him by Ieyasu and suffered damage during the bombing of Tokyo in 1945

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