Hidari Jingorō

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The Famous, the Unrivalled Hidari Jingorō (Meiyo migi ni teki nashi Hidari Jingorō); by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Hidari Jingorō (左 甚五郎) was a possibly fictitious Japanese artist, Hidari Jingoro was a renaissance man, specializing in many artistic talents, he worked as a sculptor, painter, comedian, actor, koudan (Rhythmical storyteller), and a professor of art. Although various studies suggest he was active in the early Edo period (around 1596-1644), there are controversies about the historical existence of the person. Jingorō is believed to have created many famous deity sculptures located throughout Japan, and many legends have been told about him, his famous nemuri-neko ("sleeping cat") carving is located above the Kuguri-mon Gate amidst the sacred mountain shrines and temples of Nikkō, Japan. Amongst these shrines and temples is Nikkō Tōshō-gū, a shrine that honors the Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu; the two dragon carvings at the karamon in Ueno Tōshō-gū are also attributed to him.[1]

Other sculptors were jealous of how skilled a carpenter Hidari was, the other carpenters became so angry that they chopped off his right arm. Luckily Hidari was left handed and was able to keep working. Hidari in Japanese means left hand, a name he acquired for being left handed, and only having a left hand. Jingorō was a famous Edo period artist, designer, sculptor, carpenter, and architect, he was an apprentice to a blacksmith and made katana swords. After working with the blacksmith Jingorō felt he deserved to know what temperature the oil was kept at. Against his boss's permission he attempted to test the temperature of the oil by touching it and his boss cut off his right hand; when he realized he could no longer be a blacksmith he became an apprentice for the Chief Architect Hokyo Yoheiji Yusa of the Imperial Court in Kyoto where he studied how to build temples, shrines, and sculptures. he learnt to work with his left hand and became Hidari Jingorou[2] (Hidari (左) means "left").

Stories about Jingorō are well known in Japan. According to one, he saw a woman of exceptional beauty and created a sculpture of her. Jingorō begins to drink in the company of the sculpture, and it emotionlessly begins to imitate his moves; when a mirror is placed before the sculpture, the woman's spirit comes to life.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ English information panel at Ueno Tōshō-gū
  2. ^ Minna no Nihongo Shokyuu, Lesson 37

Further reading[edit]

  • Zempei Matsumura, Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine and Hidari Jingorō, Nohi Publishing Company, Japan, 1975.