Jirocho
TRAVELS OF JIROCHO SERIES
aka, JIROCHO'S TALES OF THREE PROVINCES
or, JIROCHO THE MIGHTY. 1952-1954
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: NAGURIKOMI KOJINYAMA
(JIROCHO'S TALE OF THREE PROVINCES) 1952
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: JIROCHO HATSUTABI
(THREE PRIVINCES 2: FIRST JOURNEY) 1953
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: JIROCHO TO ISHIMATSU
(THREE PR0VINCES 3: JIROCHO & ISHIMATSU) 1953
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: SEIZOROI SHIMIZU MINATO
(THREE PROVINCES 4: ALL GATHERED AT SHIMIZU HARBOR) 1953
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: NAGURIKOMI KOSHUJI
(THREE PROVINCES 5: VIOLENCE ON THE KOSHU ROAD) 1953
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: TABI GARASU JIROCHO IKKA
(THREE PROVINCES 6: JIROCHO'S FAMILY OF WANDERERS) 1953
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: HATSU IWAI SHIMIZU MINATO
(THREE PROVINCES 7: FIRST CELEBRATION AT SHIMIZU HARBOR) 1954
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI DAI HACHI-BU: KAITO-ICHI NO ABARENBO
(THREE PROVINCES 8: THE MOST VIOLENT MEN ON THE ROAD
aka, LAST OF THE WILD ONES) 1954
JIROCHO SANGOKUSHI: KOJINYAMA ZENZEN
(THREE PROVINCES 9: THE HOLY MOUNTAIN) 1954
Director: Masahiro Makino

JIROCHO'S SIDE-STORIES OF SANTARO
(JIROCHO GAIDEN) 1957-1958
HAIKAGURA NO HAIKAGURA 1957
OABARE SANTARO GASA. 1957
OABARE JIROCHO IKKA. 1957
HAIKAGURA KISO NO HIMATSURI. 1958

Directors: Nobuo Aoyagi (Part I, II, IV)
& Shigeaki Hidaki (Part III

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



JirochoThe films make Jirocho of Shimizu an undefeatable super-swordsman rushing to the aid of the innocent, assisting good gambling bosses against incursions of evil gambling bosses, & avenging wrongful deaths.

History's actual Jirocho (his portrait heads this page, with another photo of his sour puss by the present paragraph) became known in his lifetime as "The Number One Boss of the Tokaido Highway," one of the main roads along which gangs operated after being expelled from Edo.

Born of the merchant class, he had become a common gambler, but one of such charisma, fencing ability, & leadership capacity that he rose swiftly through the underworld's ritualized system of advancement.

Magistrates & rival gangs fought him every inch upward. But eventually he became a respectable lawkeeper, though his "magistrate" post was only quasi-official.

He retired to Shimizu where he was a notable citizen involved in local government, taught swordsmanship, & lived to the ripe old age of 74.

He is a perfect example of how the likes of the legendary Chuji Kunisada really could exist, though of course Jirocho by right out outliving an era was able in later life to contribute to his own legend.

There's plenty of reason to believe he didn't exaggerate much, though. Late in his life, Jirocho was asked how it was he never lost a duel, & his answer was quite simple: "If someone was skillful enough to defeat me, I ran away."



Jirocho sangokushi 1 The great jidai-geki director Masahiro Makino made more films about Jirocho than any other single director.

One of his series consisted of eleven films, constituting the Jirocho sangokushi series, made from 1952 to 1955. The films has been known in English both as "Travels of Jirocho" or "Jirocho the Mighty" series.

The "sangokushi" films beginning with Jirocho sangokkushi: Nagurikomi kojinyama (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces, 1952) were based on a novel by Genzo Murakami (1910-2006), who had films based on other of his books on Musashi Miyamoto's adversary Sasaki Kojiro, as well as the wandering shogun Mito-kimon, & others.

Jirocho sangokushi 1The first film of the series is included on the Kinema Jumpo List of the 100 Best Japanese Films right up there with films of Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, & suchlike.

In order of release, the eight follow-up films were Jirocho Sangokushi: Jirocho Hatsutabi (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 2: First Journey, 1953); Jirocho sangokushi: Jirocho to Ishimatasu (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 3: Jirocho & Ishimatsu, 1953); Jirocho sangokushi: Seizoroi Shimizu minato (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 4: All Gathered at Shimizu Harbor, 1953); Jirocho sangokushi: Nagurikomi koshuji (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 5: Violence of the Koshu Road, 1953); & Jirocho sangokushi: Tabi garasu Jirocho ikka (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 6: Jirocho's Family of Wanderers, 1953).

Jirocho sangokushi 1The series concluded the following year with Jirocho sangokushi: Hatsu iwai Shimizu minato (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 7: First Celebration at Shimizu Harbor, 1954); Jirocho sangokushi: Kaito-ichi no abarenbo (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 8: The Most Violent Men on the Road, 1954) avenging the death of Jirocho's lieutenant Ishimatsu; & Jirocho sangokushi: Kojinyama zenzen (Jirocho's Tale of Three Provinces 9: The Holy Mountain, 1954).

The series starred Akio Kobori, & launched his acting career in 1952. His sincere visage makes him a precursor to the ninkyo or chivalrous yakuza stars of the '60s, such as Koji Tsuruta & Ken Takakura. He was also ahead of the vanguard among youth actors who started out mostly in the mid-1950s, but somehow he ended up surpassed by Kinnosuke Nakamura, Hashizo Okawa, Hiroki Matsukata & other youth actors who matured into timeless actors.

Despite recent revival of the entire nine-film series with fresh new prints (chambara fans at the 2008 Kyoto Film Festival celebrating 100 years of Japanese cinema, stayed up all night long for the whole series shown back-to-back until dawn). Even so, Akio Kobori is not today a well-remembered star. In the west, absurdly, he's known if for anything for his appearance in the flying-monster film Rodan (1956).

Jirocho gaiden 1He reprised his role in another set of films, in which Jirocho is largely relegated to the background cast. The goofiest of his followers, Santaro, becomes the protagonist.

These films from Toho Studios were Jirocho gaiden: Haikagura no Santaro (1957); Jirocho gaiden: Oabare Santaro gasa (1957); Jirocho gaiden: Oabare Jirochi ikka (1957); & Jirocho gaiden: Haikagura kiso no himatsuri (1958). Most Jirocho stories have at least a spark of humor, but Santaro's tales are over-the-top comedies.

These featured commedian Norihei Miki as Jirocho's follower Santaro, who is the three stooges roled up in one. He's shown here in a still wearing a stripped jacket which emphasizes his status as a clown. The word "gaiden" means "subsidiary tale" & several other gaiden about Jirocho's followers have been filmed.

Part III: Forthcoming.
But for now, return to:
Part I: Jirocho of Shimizu, His Life & Early Films

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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