Strolling on Denbouin dori in Asakusa, I suddenly noticed on a roof a man with the face half-hidden, dressed in the old Edo style, with a box in his hands…
“A thief!” I thought, and I immediately took a picture.
And I was right… this original statue really represents a thief who lived during the Edo period, Nakamura Jirokichi, better known by his nickname Nezumi Kozō (Nezumi means “rat” and kozō is a Japanese word for errand boys working in shops during the Edo period).
It seems that Nezumi Kozō, over a period of 15 years, robbed over 100 samurai residences, gathering a huge amount of money. But when he got caught, he was having only a small sum of money… and so the legend started, because people said that he gave his money to the poor… A real Robin Hood? Nobody really knows.
The punishment for theft was extremely harsh in Edo and Nezumi Kozō was decapitated and his head was exposed in a public place…
… but he remained in the memory of the people until today, especially as a character in a kabuki play (Nezumi Kozo Noda Version, which is played by Nakamura Kanzaburo, my favorite kabuki actor). Nezumi Kozō also appears in folk songs and… in this statue from Asakusa:
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: