Iioka no Sutegorō

Stories of Modern Chivalrous Men


Titel Iioka no Sutegorō Iioka no Sutegorō 飯岳捨五郎
Serientitel Stories of Modern Chivalrous Men 近世侠義傳
Künstler Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839–1892)
Datum 11/1865
Herausgeber Iseya Kisaburō (Man’yōdō) 伊勢屋喜三郎 (万葉堂)
Holzschnitzer Ōta Tashichi 太田多七
Ort Edo
Unterschrift Kaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu 魁齋芳年筆
Künstler Siegel paulownia
Zensursiegel(s) aratame, Ox 11 改丑十一
Verlagsiegel(s) Nantenma 2 Ise-Ki 南てん馬二いせ喜
Blockschneider-/Druckersiegel(s) hori Ōta Tashichi 彫太田多七



Stories of Modern Chivalrous Men is a series of 36 designs Yoshitoshi made early on in his career. The set revolves around two rival gambling gangs that clashed in a bloody turf war during the 1840s, in around the area of the Tone River bedding in present-day northeastern Chiba Prefecture. The two gangleaders (oyabun) were Iioka no Sukegorō (1792–1859) and Sasagawa no Shigezō (1810–1847), their names derived from their turfs around Iioka Beach and the Sasa Riverbed. In the texts written by light novel author Sansantei Arindō (real name Jōno Saigiku, 1832–1902) the two rivals were renamed Sutegorō and Higezō to avoid censorship. Their feud continued for a couple of years until Sukegorō had Shigezō assassinated in 1847, in such an underhanded way that even some of his underlings (kobun) disliked it. A few of Shigezō's henchmen, including his successor Seiriki no Tomigorō, wanted to retaliate and attacked Sukegorō but failed, and Tomigorō committed suicide when he was surrounded by Sukegorō's men. The conflict seems to have stopped afterwards. The turf war was on such a large scale that it caught the attention of the Edo populace and reminded them of the large-scale samurai battles of old. It was soon heralded by professional storyteller (kōdanshi) Takarai Kinryō I as the "Suikoden of the Tenpō Era", referring to the extremely popular novel Suikoden (Water Margin) about 108 heroic bandits who defied the corrupt authorities. The Japanese of the Edo period loved rough strongmen with a disregard for authority, and later a kabuki play based on these events was performed in Edo, turning the gambling kingpins and their followers into exaggeratedly strong, rough, yet noble characters. Yoshitoshi followed suit, and depicts them displaying superhuman feats of strength, with the texts emphasizing their chivalry and kind-heartedness.

The text explains how, as a young man, Sukegorō made a name for himself by stopping Ikeda Kaku, a notorious rōnin, from terrorizing a small town during a drunken rampage. The image shows how he subdues an armed Kaku, a renowned swordsman, using his bare hands. The text also highlights his personal traits: level-headed, reserved, and calculated, Sukegorō values wealth and power above all and has little regard for human life (“has more disdain for human life than for a goose’s feather” inochi o gamō yori mo karonzu 命を鵞毛よりもかろんず). It also lists his most important followers: Sunosaki Matakichi 洲の崎亦吉, Niimachi Kanta 新待勘太, Oshita (Oshita no Rishichi) 尾下 ([sic] 小下), Kirishima (Kirishima Matsugorō) 桐島, and Sageo (Sageo no Isuke) 下緒. Lastly, it briefly describes the conflict between Sukegorō and his rival Sasagawa no Higezō (Shigezō), and ends with saying that he scaped death three times and died peacefully from old age.