Some years ago my daughter came home from school with an assignment to create a power point presentation on her family history. I told her what I remembered about my family and then urged her to call her father in Japan. He had always been very quiet about his family history but because it was a school assignment he rallied to the cause and sent photos and stories of his famous ancestor, Jirocho.
My daughter and I were both astonished to discover that Jirocho was a 19th century folk hero, known as the Robin Hood of Japan. Legend has it that he was a young, charismatic samurai who started out as nothing more than a common gambler. In time he became an undefeated super-swordsman who rushed to the aid of the innocent in Edo era Japan.
His legend grew until over one hundred films were made about his life and adventures. Twenty five of these were silent films that have been all but lost. For most, only the still photos survive. No one knows just how much of Jirocho’s legend is true but he was very famous in his own lifetime and he was the only person to ever receive a commendation from the Emperor Meiji.
Though many of his exploits were probably embellished, Jirocho himself was not prone to exaggeration. Late in his life, someone asked how it was that he had never been defeated in a duel. Jirocho replied, “If someone was skillful enough to defeat me, I ran away!”
Good stories are what we are made of. Share them and we live forever.