Hirayama Kôzô


Picture 1: Hirayama Kôzô

This time I want to tell you from the life of the swordsman Hirayama Kôzô (平山行蔵, 1759-1829). He was born in the ninth year of Hôreki (宝暦, 1759) as eldest son of the bakufu-gokenin (御家人) Hirayama Jingozaemon Katsutoshi (平山甚五左衛門勝籌, ?-1806). Later he worked as dôshin (同心, a low-ranking policeman) for one of the four teppô guards of the bakufu, namely the so-called „Iga-kumi“ (伊賀組). The task of his unit was to guard the major three gates of Edo Castle and escort the shôgun when he was visiting either the Kan´ei-ji (寛永寺) or the Zôjô-ji (増上寺). But this post was with 30 hyô and a stipend for the support of two persons not very well paid. Therefore he erected a dôjô at his house, or rather turned his house into a dôjô, where he trained students for money. Kôzô himself was well-versed in most of the major martial arts, namely besides of swordsmanship also in military science (strategy and tactics), jûjutsu, iaidô, sôjutsu (fighting with the yari), fighting with the naginata, gunnery (of course, this was his job), combat swimming, riding, archery and bôjutsu (fighting with the stick). But he also studied Confucianism, agriculture and civil engineering. Students reported that his living room was a big mess of several long swords, bokutô, shinai, naginata, yari, large-calibre weapons, rifles and the like, stored more or less in wooden boxes or armor chests and similar devices. Also his garden was covered with weeds. By the way, Katsu Kokichi (勝小吉, 1802-1850), the father of the famous Katsu Kaishû (勝海舟, 1823-1899) had trained under Kôzô. Apart from that, Kôzô was together with the bakufu-retainer and explorer Kondô Jûzô (近藤重蔵) and the explorer and spy Mamiya Rinzô (間宮林蔵, 1775-1844), one of the so-called „Three Zô of the Bunsei Era“ (Bunsei no sanzô, 文政の三蔵) or „Three Zô of the Ainu Lands“ (Ezo no sanzô, 蝦夷の三蔵). This grouping with the two explorers goes back to the fourth year of Bunka (文化, 1807) when the Russian-American Company attacked the Japanese garrison on Kuril island Iturup (jap. Etorofu-tô, 択捉島). The bakufu sent troops and both Rinzô and Jûzô as they had mapped the Ainu lands before. Kôzô was the one who forwarded their reports to the bakufu.


Picture 2: Kôzô with his ôdachi.

Despite of his rather small stature, he had chosen an oversized ôdachi of Samonji (左文字) with a nagasa of 3 shaku 8 sun (~ 115 cm) in a plain black koshirae as his main sword (picture 2). Apart from that he also wore an ôdachi with the same length of Niô Kiyonaga (仁王清長) which was mounted in a red-lacquered saya. When he got up in the morning, the first training was to wield a 7 shaku long (~ 212 cm) 500 times and to draw a 4 shaku long (~ 121 cm) and 3 sun (~ 9 cm) wide iaitô 200 to 300 times. Whilst reading, he constantly boxed with both fists against a zelkova board to toughen his hands. Until the age of 61, he slept on the bare floor with no mattress, cushion or blanket. He stacked the bags of rice he received as payment just in the entranceway and cooked the unpolished brown rice without pre-treatment as it was. But he had a liking for cold sake and had therefore a 72-litre sake bottle installed in the closet of his living room. He did not give up this lifestyle even after it became quite uncomfortable when he suffered from a paralysis (presumably from a stroke). It is said that he had the habit of calling people by default „moron“ and that he constantly complained about the trend towards effeminacy of his time. Kôzô died on the 14th day of the twelfth month Bunsei eleven (文政, 1828) at the age of 70. His civilian first-name was „Shiryô“ (子龍) and he used the pseudonyms „Heigen“ (兵原) and „Hei´an“ (兵庵) and his name „Kôzô“ is quoted in some puclications as „Gyôzô“ and also „Yukizô“ and „Ikuzô“ but „Kôzô“ should be considered as the correct reading.

I came across Hirayama Kôzô during my research on the life of the swordsmith Kiyomaro (清麿) for my book Legends and Stories around the Japanese Sword 2. Kôzô lived namely in a so-called „kumi-yashiki“ (組屋敷), a house provided by the bakufu for all those policemen doing office in a kumi (like Kôzô for the Iga-kumi). His kumi-yashiki was located in Kitaiga-machi (北伊賀町) along the Inari-yokochô (稲荷横丁) in Edo´s Yotsuya district (四谷) and this was namely only about 60 m to the north where Kiyomaro lived later in Yotsuya (picture 3).


Picture 3: Map of Yotsuya. 1: Kôzô´s former place of residence, 2: Kiyomaro´s former residence (© Google, ZENRIN)

2 thoughts on “Hirayama Kôzô

  1. What a badass old man he was… Hirayama Kôzô !

    Could you please tell us (maybe in this comment section) about this russian american attack on Etorofu-tô in 1807 ? I Wonder about the role of Hirayama in this battle, if he managed to cut down some (many) ennemies and such things. It’s verry hard to find anything about this story and other similar things on the English speaking web. ^^’

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