Gintama / Historical Influences
Here are some small history lessons behind the names of some of the characters and places in Gintama!
His name overall is a reference to the Japanese legend of Kintaro, which is about a child with massive strength during the Heian period (rather the later Edo period that Gintama takes place in). Kintaro became friends with the animals that lived on the mountain where he was raised, and was even capable of battling with them. After certain events, he became a samurai and eventually went under the name Sakata Kintoki (坂田公時). In one of the Question Corners, Sorachi explains this and doesn't intend on making Gin-san a descendant of Kintaro.
There are random times when he is actually called Kintoki. Sakamoto mistakes Gintoki's name all the time, the OWee gaming console was unable to fit all the characters of his name (き/ki took one space while ぎ/gi took two), and the Gintoki in Gintama's alternate universe "Kintama" had golden hair and was called Kintoki.
Kagura's name comes from a Japanese folktale called "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", also known as "Princess Kaguya". She grew up to be a beautiful young girl, knowing that she would one day need to return to the moon where she came from.
It should be noted that Takasugi references the legend when Kagura appears behind him on the Kiheitai ship during the Benizakura arc.
When the characters of Gintama were being made, Shinpachi was originally going to be a part of the Shinsengumi as Nagakura Shinpachi (永倉新八), who was the captain of the Shinsengumi's second unit. Instead, he was given glasses and became the one to throw the punch lines, receiving his last name from Shimura Ken (志村けん), a Japanese comedian.
The special police force of Gintama is undoubtedly based on the historical special police force of the late shogunate period, previously known as the Mibu Roshigumi. Sorachi-sensei simply used a different kanji for "shin" ("true" instead of "new") which preserved the pronunciation, changing 新選組 to 真選組. The uniforms are obviously different, but the names of some of the main faces remain loosely based on their real-life counterparts.
Sorachi-sensei revealed the rest of the captains and inspectors in Volume 11.
|1st Unit||Okita Sogo (沖田総悟)||Okita Soji (沖田総司)|
|2nd Unit||Nagakura Shinshichi (永倉新七)||Nagakura Shinpachi (永倉新八)|
|3rd Unit||Saito Shu (斉藤終)||Saito Hajime (斎藤一)|
|4th Unit||Sugihara Chuji (杉原忠司)||Matsubara Chuji (松原忠司)|
|5th Unit||Takeda Kannensai (武田観念斎)||Takeda Kanryusai (武田観柳斎)|
|6th Unit||Inoue Genjiro (井上源二郎)||Inoue Genzaburo (井上源三郎)|
|7th Unit||Oka Sanjuro (丘三十郎)||Tani Sanjuro (谷三十郎)|
|8th Unit||Todo Bokosuke (藤堂凹助)||Todo Heisuke (藤堂平助)|
|9th Unit||Niki Jiro (二木二郎)||Suzuki Mikisaburo (鈴木三木三郎)|
|10th Unit||Harada Unosuke (原田右之助)||Harada Sanosuke (原田左之助)|
|Yamazaki Sagaru (山崎 退)||Yamazaki Susumu (山崎 烝)|
|Shinohara Shinnoshin (篠原進の進)||Shinohara Tainoshin (篠原泰之進)|
|Yoshimura Oretaro (吉村折太郎)||Yoshimura Kanichiro (吉村貫一郎)|
Based on Kondo Isami (近藤勇), commander of the Shinsengumi and close friend to Hijikata Toshizo. Kondo was known to own a katana named Kotetsu, but some think that it was fake. Perhaps that's why, in Gintama, Kondo accidentally breaks Kotetsu-chan before paying off the loans, and later purchases Kotetsu Z-II which easily (and purposely) gets broken by Sogo.
Based on Hijikata Toshizo (土方歳三) who, with Kondo Isami, formed the Shinsengumi. He was the Shinsengumi's vice-commander, and was known as the demon of the Shinsengumi. Hijikata strictly enforced rules in the Shinsengumi, leading to the creation of the Kyokuchu Hatto (the clauses or regulations for the Shinsengumi) to control the members, but it also caused many to lose their lives.
Based on Okita Soji (沖田総司), the captain of the first unit of the Shinsengumi. Soji was a prodigy and was seen as one of best swordsmen of the Shinsengumi. Though just a rumor (but at least true in Ryotaro Shiba's novels), he may have owned a katana called Kiku-ichimonji. In Gintama, he bought the Kiku-ichimonji RX-78.
Okita Soji had two older sisters, the eldest being Mitsu (沖田みつ). Soji later suffered from tuberculosis and Mitsu took care of him until his passing. In Gintama, Mitsuba was in poor health and Sogo took care of her.
Based on Yamazaki Susumu (山崎 烝), a Shinsengumi officer who also acted as their spy.
Based on Matsudaira Katamori (松平容保) who was military commissioner to maintain peace in Kyoto. As well as other units, Katamori had some control over the Shinsengumi. Not so historical, but Sorachi said Matsudaira's model is Robert De Niro.
Based on Ito Kashitaro (伊東甲子太郎), formally known as Suzuki Okura before joining the Shinsengumi. He was highly educated and was admired by Kondo Isami. Rumor has it that Hijikata disliked Ito when he joined and became suspicious of his true motives for joining. While gaining the Shinsengumi's trust, Ito was secretly meeting with Satsuma clan members and had even made plans to assassinate Kondo. Ito was later assassinated by the Shinsengumi members.
Ito also likely got his name from Serizawa Kamo (芹沢鴨) who was also a commander of the Shinsengumi.
Like the Shinsengumi, the Mimawarigumi too was a special police force, created to restore order to Kyoto. The Mimawarigumi were made up of higher-ranking samurai and retainers who served feudal lords, as opposed to the Shinsengumi which consisted of ronin.
In Gintama, the Mimawarigumi appeared wearing opposite colors of the Shinsengumi.
Sasaki Isaburo is the commander of Mimawarigumi, who shares his name with the leader of the real Mimawarigumi, Sasaki Tadasaburo (佐々木只三郎).
Playing a vaguely similar role to his real-life counterparts, Tetsunosuke gets his name from a combination of two persons related to Hijikata.
Imai Nobume is a female member and a part of the assassination unit of the Mimawarigumi. She is influenced by ex-Mimawarigumi member Imai Noburo (今井信郎), who had confessed that he was involved in the assassination of Sakamoto Ryoma with Tadasaburo and others.
Based on Hijikata Tamejiro (土方為次郎), the eldest son of the Hijikata family. He was born blind and was unable to inherit the family property.
Otose is the wife of Isuke (not Tatsugoro!), a farmer from Terada Village. Isuke founded the Terada Inn, which was a gathering place for ronin pro-imperal loyalists. Two big events transpired at this location, one which was Sakamoto Ryoma's encounter with a dangerous ambush.
Katsura gets his name from Kido Takayoshi who went under the name Katsura Kogoro (桂小五郎) when he was adopted into the Katsura family at a young age. At one point in time, he was also given the title "Runaway Kogoro" (逃げの小五郎/nige no kogorou). In the Japanese drama "Shinsengumi!" that Sorachi-sensei used to get some of his ideas from, he would always be known to elude capture.
History says Kido Takayoshi was forced into hiding with a geisha named Ikumatsu who eventually became his wife. If you remember Lesson 55/Episode 39, Katsura was injured by the Shinsengumi and had to go into hiding. He ended up staying at Ikumatsu's ramen shop, and in return helped her out with her troubles. He later revisted when Edo TV was doing an interview with him.
Influenced by Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬) of the Bakumatsu period who was an imperial loyalist. Another way to pronounce the "ryou" kanji in Ryoma's name is "tatsu" (kanji means "dragon"), but Sorachi-sensei cleverly uses a different kanji to achieve the same results. At one point, Ryoma envied the west for their power and technology but eventually became familiar with them. Though proficient in Kendo and was a samurai, he preferred guns over the sword.
In Gintama, Tatsuma is the leader of the Kaientai, which is also the name of the first modern corporation in Japan that was founded by Ryoma.
Ryoma was married to Oryo. In Gintama, Otae's friend Oryo briefly mentioned a man named Sakamoto being clingy to her in episode 36, and in an anime original (episode 57), the crew finds Sakamoto asking Oryo to marry him only to get rejected.
Gets her name from Mutsu Munemitsu (陸奥宗光), a diplomat and one of the members of Sakamoto's Kaientai.
Receives his name from Takechi Zuizan, otherwise known as Takechi Hanpeita (武市半平太). Takechi was a low-ranked samurai who recruited anti-Bakufu members for his party. Being a mastermind in violent attacks is what caused his close friend Sakamoto Ryoma to be wary of him.
Gets his name from Okada Izo (岡田以蔵), who, like Kawakami Gensai, was also known as one of the four assassins.
Shoyo-sensei, the teacher of Gintoki, Katsura, Takasugi, and others during the previous war receives his name from Yoshida Shoin (吉田松陰) who once became the teacher of Takasugi Shinsaku and others. Shoin began to study tactics when he was 5, attended college when he was 8, and even taught in college when he was 9. At one point, Shoin was sent to a jail and sentenced to house arrest. He ran a school in jail, and after being released he taught the youth about military arts and politics. His students travelled around Japan in his place as he was forbidden to.
Based on Yagyu Jubei (柳生十兵衞) who was later regarded as the best swordsman of the Yagyu Clan. There is a legend in which Jubei had only one eye and wore an eyepatch. The "kyuu" in Kyubei is the word for "nine", and the "juu" in Jubei is the word for "ten".
Kyubei's father gets his name from Yagyu Munenori (柳生宗矩), a swordsman and founder of the Edo branch of the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu school.
The grandpa's name is slighty based on Yagyu "Sekishusai" Munetoshi (柳生石舟斎宗厳)'s name, father to Yagyu Munenori. "Binbokusai" is a word that literally means "smells of poverty".
Gets her last name from Sarutobi Sasuke (猿飛佐助), a ninja in children's stories.
Our JUMP-loving shinobi is named after Hattori Hanzo (服部半蔵), a famous samurai who served Tokugawa Ieyasu and was known to be fearless during his work. He is often portrayed as a ninja in popular culture. The ninja group Oniwabanshu (お庭番衆) that Hattori and Sarutobi are a part of is based on a group of ninja of the same name who served under Tokugawa Yoshimune.
Gets his name from Umibozu (海坊主), a spirit in Japanese folklore. Umibozu is said to have a large, round head like a monk. Sorachi-sensei tags on the kanji for star (星) in front of the name, as this Umibozu travels in space.
Based on Hiraga Gennai (平賀源内) who was a pharmacologist, physician, author, painter, and inventor of the Edo period.
Mademoiselle Saigo of Kabukicho gets his name from Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛) of the late Edo period, a samurai who made a huge impact in Japanese history.
Not based on a real life character, but based on a fictional Edo character named Zenigata Heiji (銭形平次), created by Nomura Kodo in 1937. He catches criminals by throwing coins. Both Heijis have a sidekick.
Shimizu Jirocho (清水次郎長), a famous member of the yakuza. After joining up with gamblers and having a drunken fight with some hoodlums, he left his wife and business as a traveler for three years where he made a name for himself.
His real name is Yamamoto Chogoro. "Doromizu" is "muddy water" and "Shimizu" is "clear water".
Gets his name from Kurokoma Katsuzo (黒駒勝蔵).
Seimei is based on Abe no Seimei (安倍晴明) who was a famous onmyoji in the Heian Period, believed to have been skilled in manipulating shikigami. Myths involve him in magical battles with his rival Ashiya Doman (芦屋道満) who wanted to take his position. In Gintama, Seimei summons a fox-like shikigami called Kuzunoha (葛葉) who is based on the actual Kuzunoha (葛の葉), a kitsune in folklore who is the mother of Abe no Seimei.
The current shogun in Gintama's time, Tokugawa Shigeshige (徳川茂茂), probably gets his name from Tokugawa Iemochi (徳川家茂), the 14th shogun.
Tokugawa Sadasada (徳川定定) probably gets his name from Tokugawa Iesada (徳川家定), the 13th shogun.
The spirits/stands Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Akechi Mitsuhide, Tokugawa Ieyasu were pretty much based on themselves. Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu were famous major feudal lords (daimyo) who contributed to Japan's unification. Nobunaga had a successor Hideyoshi, who would eventually conquer Japan. Mitsuhide was under Nobunaga, but betrayed him and forced him to commit seppuku during the Incident at Honnoji. After losing his lord and his eldest son (who also committed suicide after getting attacked by Mitsuhide), Hideyoshi fought in revenge and defeated Mitsuhide during the Battle of Yamazaki. Ieyasu was the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate who ruled after their time. In Gintama, the symbol on the litter/kago and on his underwear is that of the Tokugawa clan crest.
Kabukicho's top cat lost his ears to protect a kitten. It may be more than a coincidence that there happens to be a Japanese myth about a minstrel known as Hoichi the Earless.
Ishikawa Goemon (石川五右衛門), a famous outlaw who attempted the assassination of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
The grandfather of the Gin look-a-like baby is based on a successful merchant named Takadaya Kahei (高田屋嘉兵衛).
The evil magistrate who "kidnapped" Elizabeth to lure Katsura out gets his name from a town magistrate of the Tokugawa shogunate, Toyama Kinshiro (遠山金四郎).
The man who Okita arrested for involvement in an embassy attack and the murder of an officer gets his name from the founder of the Roshigumi, Kiyokawa Hachiro (清河八郎). "Shichi" is "seven" and "hachi" is "eight".
Seeing how Gintama takes place in an alternate past, it makes sense to say that Edo was what Tokyo used to be called.
Otose's Snack House is located in Kabukicho outside of the city where the terminal is. Yep, there's an actual Kabukicho in Tokyo out there.
While running away from the Amanto, Katsura leads Gintoki and the gang to Ikedaya where we learn about the past, his anti-foreigner tactics and the revealment of his trick to get Gintoki to join him since they were now considered to be terrorists. Gintoki tries to persuade him otherwise but Katsura pushes on and plans to use a time bomb. Kagura mistakenly sets the timer off right before the Shinsengumi rushes in, so Gintoki takes it and runs out, and with some assistance from Kagura, chucks it up to the sky while falling out of the building.
No doubt this was influenced by the actual Ikedaya Incident which involved an encounter between exclusionists and the Shinsengumi at the Ikedaya Inn.
The incident is more apparent in a Shinsengumi one-shot when they raid a hotel called the Ikezuya the night before a planned attack on the terminal.
The Yoshiwara in Gintama was an underground red-light district. It's based on the actual Yoshiwara in Edo.