Hidari Jingoro ( 左 甚五郎, Hidano Jingoro) was a legendary sculptor who is said to have been active in the early Edo period. He is famous for his works in Kodan, Nankyoku,Rakugo, and Shochiku Shinkigeki, and there are works in various places said to have been made by Hidari Jingoro.
There are nearly 100 carvings in various places in Japan that are said to have been made by Jingoro, including the Sleeping Cat at Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
However, since the carvings were made over a period of 300 years, from the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the late Edo period, and came from various places, the name “Sa Jingoro” seems to have been used as a synonym not for a single craftsman but for a group of craftsmen who were skilled in various places.
Even his existence is doubted by anecdotes, but there are some references describing him as a real person.
He was born in Akashi, Harima Province in 1594, the son of Itami Sakonen Masatoshi, a vassal of Ashikaga. However, there is a theory that he was born in Negoro Higashisakamoto ( Iwade City) in Kii Province.
After his father’s death, he moved to his uncle’s house, Kawai Chuzaemon, a warrior of the Hida Takayama domain. In 1606, he became a pupil of Youza Hohashi Yoheiji, a master carpenter of the Forbidden Imperial Palace in Fushimi, Kyoto.
The Edo Years
In 1619, he moved to Edo and became the son-in-law of Munehiro Koura, the head carpenter of the shogunate, and rose to fame as a master carpenter of Doumiya.
He participated in the reconstruction of Edo Castle and was attacked for maintaining the secret plan of the Nishinomaru underground passage, but he defeated the assassins and went into exile under Ikoma Takatoshi, the daughter-in-law of his protector, Doi Toshikatsu, an old lieutenant and lord of the SanukiTakamatsu domain, from 1634.
Return To Kyoto
Afterward, he returned to Kyoto in 1640 and succeeded to his master’s name, receiving the title of master carpenter of the forbidden house, and after receiving the official rank of Hohashi, he became the Hakubun churyo of the Takamatsu domain in 1642, but passed away around the 4th year of Keian ( 1651 ). He was 58 years old.
The model for the master craftsman Sa Jingoro, one of the Kishigami clan, Kishigami Jingoro Sa Yoshinobu I, was born in 1504 (Eisho 1) and is said to have died at the age of 66.
The Origin Of Hidari Jingoro’s Name
There are various theories on the origin of the family name. In the Edo period, he was called “Yamato Daiku ni Hida Takumi” (Yamato carpenter and Hida master) as a representative of skilled carpenters, and there is a theory that it is a corruption of “Hida no Jingoro”.
Another theory is that it was because he was left-handed. According to a story, he took the surname Left because a local carpenter was jealous of his skill and cut off his right arm, and also because he was left-handed. He also built the Thirteen Pagodas of Tamugamine when he was sixteen years old.