October 8, 1594
Kyoto, Japan
Ishikawa Goemon (石川 五右衛門) and his young son are executed by being boiled alive

Ishikawa’s story has been told and retold for centuries, forming him into a folk hero with blurry historical details. According to folklore, Ishikawa’s father was killed by men working for a shogunate when Ishikawa was 15, and he swore revenge on the feudal lords of Japan. To that end, he began studying Iga ninjitsu under Momochi Sandaya until Ishikawa impregnated Momochi’s wife, stole gold and/or Momochi’s sword, and fled. In some accounts, Ishikawa pushed his lover into a well, killing her, to expedite his escape.

Ishikawa’s revenge against the feudal lords turned to robbery. Time has likely embellished his accomplishments, which included using a giant kite to ascend to the top of a castle to steal a gold ornament. Additionally, popular folklore holds Ishikawa as an outlaw hero, similar to England’s Robin Hood: Ishikawa was said to have stolen from wealthy merchants, clerics, and lords then distributed his loot amongst the poor.

The downfall of Ishikawa came when he attempted to assassinate Toyotomi Hideyoshi. His assassination attempt failed, he was captured, and he was sentenced to die. Most accounts state Ishikawa’s execution included his young son as well for further punishment. The pair were placed in a large metal cauldron which was filled with water or oil (sources differ) and slowly heated. Tradition states Ishikawa held his son aloft out of the boiling liquid for as long as he could (illustrated) before both perished.

“Ishikawa Goemon Boiled Alive.” Woodblock print by Toyokuni III/Kunisada, 1852

“Ishikawa Goemon Boiled Alive, 1852.” Fuji Arts. Accessed: October 8, 2019. https://www.fujiarts.com/cgi-bin/item.pl?item=804934
“Ishikawa Goemon.” Samurai World. Accessed: October 8, 2019. https://samurai-world.com/ishikawa-goemon/
“Ninja Warrior Ishikawa Goemon: Charitable Hero or Violent Outlaw?” Ancient Origins. August 4, 2017. Accessed: October 8, 2019. https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/ninja-warrior-ishikawa-goemon-charitable-hero-or-violent-outlaw-008531
“Ishikawa Goemon: Japan’s Legendary Outlaw.” KCP International. September 17, 2015. Accessed: October 8, 2019. https://www.kcpinternational.com/2015/09/ishikawa-goemon-japans-legendary-outlaw/
“Kite-Flying Customs in Japan and Korea.” El Paso Herald. April 30, 1904

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