BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

29 October 2014
NottinghamNottingham

BBC Homepage
»BBC Local
Nottingham
Things to do
People & Places
Nature
History
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near Nottingham

Derby
Humberside
Leicester
Lincolnshire
South Yorkshire

Related BBC Sites

England
 

Contact Us


March 2003
Robin Hoods of the World: Japan's Jirokichi the Rat
a rat
A rat - Nezumi-Kozo was nicknamed Jirokichi the Rat because of the bag of rats he is said to have carried around with him whilst on the rob
Japan's Jirokichi the Rat robbed the rich and gave to the poor - sound familiar? We take a closer look at Japan's Robin Hood.

Article by Joseph Sinclair
A Nottinghamian in Saitama, Japan
SEE ALSO
Robin Hood:
Wintertime survival in medieval Sherwood Forest

Have Your Say:
Scrap Robin Hood!

Sense of Place:
Robin Hood - Audio documentary

Features:
Robin Hood Poem

E-cards:
Robin Hood
FACTS

Nezumi-Kozo lived in Edo, now Tokyo, at the beginning of the 19th century

He was nicknamed Jirokichi the Rat

Like Robin Hood it is said that he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor

Like Robin Hood he was immensely popular with everyday people who were stuck at the bottom of a rigid and oppressive hierarchy

Like Robin Hood Nezumi-Kozo`s life has since been celebrated in kabuki-plays, folk songs, short stories and films

PRINT THIS PAGE
View a printable version of this page.
get in contact
Japan has its very own Robin Hood character who is thought to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor. His name was Jirokichi the Rat, alias Nezumi-Kozo, which translates into English as "The Kid Rat".

He lived in Edo, now Tokyo, at the beginning of the 19th century, some 500 years after Robin Hood is thought to have been stalking the forests of Sherwood.

By day Nezumi-Kozo was a common labourer and a part-time volunteer in the local fire brigade. But he lived a mysterious double life.

By night he was Japan’s most prolific thief, carrying out daring robberies from the estates of Tokyo’s feudal lords and their samurai warriors.

There is some debate over the origins of his nickname.

Some say he was a small man with rat-like features.

Others say he broke into the wealthy estates through the roof, creeping through the attic like a rat and dropping down into the house at night undetected.

But perhaps the best explanation of his name is that he always carried a bag of rats with him.

When he entered the wealthy mansions he would let the rats loose, deceiving any wakened sleepers that they were just hearing the sound of scurrying rats.

In 1832, at the age of 36, Nezumi-Kozo was caught by a passing police officer as he left the scene of another crime.

Ten years earlier he had been caught, tattooed with a stripe across his arm and banished from Edo. There were no second chances. He was bound to a horse, paraded before a large crowd and then beheaded. His head was then displayed on a stake throughout the city.

Before his death he admitted to the burglary of almost 100 samurai estates. At a time when one ryo could support an ordinary family for a year and the theft of 10 ryo could earn the death sentence, Nezumi-Kozo claimed that over a period of 15 years he had stolen in excess of 30,000 ryo.

Nezumi-Kozo had become a legend in his own lifetime, immensely popular with everyday people who were stuck at the bottom of a rigid and oppressive hierarchy.

They were delighted to see their despotic feudal overlords humiliated by the daring thief.

In fact, many of the thefts went unreported because it was an embarrassment for the samurai and their poor security.

Popular stories of Nezumi-Kozo spread amongst the people. It came to be believed that he was a master of ninjutsu – the art of making oneself invisible – and that he shared his bounty with the poor.

Some historians suggest that these were just popular myths, that in fact he lavished his money on women and gambling. 1868 brought political revolution and the downfall of the feudal government.

Nezumi-Kozo`s life has since been celebrated in kabuki-plays, folk songs, short stories and films.

He remains a symbol of the small man`s victory over his oppressors - much like Nottinghamshire's Robin Hood.
Top | Features Index | Home
Also in this section
Features
Wicked summer out gallery

Xylophone Man memorial

Jamcams Weather forecast - today and tomorrow News in brief
Meet the team - the webmasters Contact Us
BBC Nottingham website
London Road
Nottingham, NG2 4UU
(+44) 0115 955 0500
nottingham@bbc.co.uk



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy