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Yagyu Jubei

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Yagyu Jubei

This article is about Jubei Yagyu. For other uses, see Jubei Yagyu (disambiguation).

Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi (柳生 十兵衞 三厳, 1607 – April 12, 1650) was one of the most famous and romanticized of the samurai in Japan's feudal era.

Life

Very little is known about the actual life of Yagyū Mitsuyoshi as the official records of his life are very sparse. Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi (born "Shichirō") grew up in his family's ancestral lands, Yagyū no Sato, now in Nara. He was the son of Yagyū Tajima no Kami Munenori, master swordsman of the Tokugawa Shoguns, especially Ieyasu and Tokugawa Iemitsu, who prized Munenori as one of his top counselors. Munenori fought for the first Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, at the Battle of Sekigahara, expanding the Shogun's territory. For his efforts, Munenori was made the Shogun's sword instructor and a minor daimyo or provincial ruler. Munenori would go on to train three successive Shoguns: Ieyasu, Hidetada, and Iemitsu.

Disappearance and Reappearance

In 1616, Mitsuyoshi became an attendant in the court of the second Tokugawa Shōgun, Tokugawa Hidetada and became a sword instructor for the third Tokugawa Shōgun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, occasionally filling his father's role. Records of Yagyū Jūbei, however, do not appear again until 1631, when Jūbei, by now regarded as the best swordsman from the Yagyū clan, is summarily and inexplicably dismissed by the Shōgun either due to Jūbei's boldness and brashness or his decision to embark on a Warrior's Pilgrimage (武者修行, Musha Shugyō).

His whereabouts are then unknown over the next twelve years—even the Yagyū clan's secret chronicles, which contained lengthy passages on numerous members, has little solid information on Jūbei—until Yagyū Jūbei reappears at the age of 36 at a demonstration of swordsmanship in front of the Shōgun. Following this exhibition, Jūbei was reinstated and serves for a short time as a government-inspector (御所印判, Gosho Inban), taking control over his father's lands until Yagyū Tajima no Kami Munenori's death in 1646.

Jūbei also authored a treatise known as Tsukimi no Sho (月見の諸) or The Text of Looking at the Moon, outlining his school of swordsmanship as well as teachings influenced by the monk Takuan Sōhō who was a friend of his father's. In this work he briefly provides hints on his whereabouts during his absence from Edo Castle from 1631 to 1643 - traveling the countryside in perfecting his skills.

Due to Yagyū Jūbei's disappearance and the fact of no existing records of his whereabouts, his life has bred speculation and interest and was romanticized in popular fiction. After residing in Edo for several years after his father's death, Jūbei left his government duties and returned to his home village where he died in early 1650 under uncertain circumstances. Some accounts say he died of a heart attack; others say he died while falcon hunting; some during fishing, while still others presume he was assassinated by his half-brother's attendants.

Jūbei was laid to rest in a small village called Ohkawahara Mura, nearby his birthplace, which was also the resting grounds for his half-brother, Yagyū Tomonori. In keeping with tradition, Yagyū Jūbei was buried alongside his grandfather, Yagyū Muneyoshi, and was survived by two daughters and his brother Munefuyu, his successor. Jūbei was given the Buddhist posthumous name of Sohgo.

Eyepatch legend

Legend has it that Yagyū Jūbei had the use of only one eye; most legends state that he lost it in a sword sparring session where his father, Yagyū Munenori, struck him accidentally. However, portraits from Jubei's time portray him as having both eyes. Several authors of late have chosen to portray Jūbei as having both eyes, though the classical "eyepatch" look remains standard. Others have chosen to have Jūbei lose an eye as an adult in order to incorporate the eyepatch legend.

Fictional appearances

In popular culture, Jūbei's eye patch is usually a sword guard with leather wrapped through it. An alternate dramatization to this is found in the manga Samurai Legend, in which a swordsman is seen walking with a sword guard on his right eye, matching the popular culture image, while another character of similar stature follows behind. A group of samurai assume the eye-patched man is Yagyū. The target is disarmed, only for the two-eyed Yagyū Jūbei following behind to reveal himself a second later.

Yet another variation can be found in the anime Shura no Toki. In this version Jubei was initially known as having only one eye, but actually covered the other to challenge himself. However, upon taking the eyepatch off to duel the fictional Mutsu Takoto, Jubei actually loses his eye.

Director/writer Yoshiaki Kawajiri in his enormously popular animated film Ninja Scroll, created the lead character Jubei Kibagami as a homage to Yagyū Jūbei. He is voiced by Japanese voice actor Kōichi Yamadera. The movie also had a sequel - Ninja Scroll: The Series - that features a recurring character named Yagyu Renya, a one-eyed master swordsman from the Yagyū Clan.

Yagyū Kyūbei from the manga Gin Tama takes her name from him.

Jubei also appeared in the manga-anime Yaiba as one of the hero's resurrected allies and as a model to the main antagonist in the manga Lone Wolf and Cub- Yagyū Retsudō.

Another one is Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl where a modern highschool girl becomes an unwilling heir to the Yagyu Jubei school of swordsmanship.

In Yagyuu Hijouken Samon by Ryu Keiichiro and Tabata Yoshiaki, Jubei is said to have lost his eye in a fight with Yagyuu Samon, his younger brother. Samon is killed by Jubei in the end.

Arc System Works' BlazBlue video game series features an anthropomorphic cat character named Jubei. He is said to be one of the greatest warriors in the world, and is depicted with a sword guard for an eye patch.

The SNK video game Samurai Shodown features a master swordsman named Yagyu Jubei who wears an eyepatch.

References/Sources

  • Yagyu in Japanese Pop Culture

See also

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