You are on page 1of 14

The murder of Kobayashi Kinpei, the money lender boss, by

Arashi Rikaku III 嵐璃鶴 (3代目) (later Ichikawa Gonjūrō II 市川權十郎 (2代目)
1848 -1904) and Yoarashi Okinu 夜嵐おきぬ (1844-1872)

A strangely compelling story of a crime of passion, a murder committed by Arashi

Rikaku III, a popular Kabuki actor, who during the Meiji era, spent three years in
prison for his complicity in the infamous murder of the lover of his mistress.嵐璃珏
…and Rikaku’s mistress, Yoarashi (night storm) Okinu, a geisha, who was sentenced
to death and beheaded夜嵐おきぬ

Rikaku and Okinu

Tōkyō Nichi Nichi Shimbun (Tokyo Daily News) 東京日日新聞 No. 3 – 31st March
1872 nishiki-e (minature woodblock) with the story

Article by Mainichi Shimbun’s Otama Akiko (Translated by Trevor Skingle)

On the 23rd of February 1872 the forerunner of the Mainichi Shimbun (Daily News)
毎日新聞 newspaper, Tōkyō Nichi Nichi Shinbun (Tokyo Daily News) 東京日日新聞,
established the same year, published the charges against him.

Tokyo Prefecture office report states that a thief taker entered Okinu’s Harada shop
on 4th avenue (yonban) off Komagata-chō in the neighbourhood of Kobayashi,
Asakusa. A 29 year old person who gave a false identity and Arashi Rikaku were
both arrested for the criminal poisoning of a local person. Having committed such a
shameful and nefarious deed they were imprisoned and placed in solitary
confinement. Twenty days later they were both sentenced to be executed twenty-two
days after sentencing and their heads exposed publicly for three days. Tōkyō Nichi
Nichi Shinbun 23rd February 1872

Arashi Rikaku, whose later name was Gonjurō, was ordered to be executed at
Kodukahara’s keijō (execution ground)
…and his head exposed in public for three days, a type of execution and public
exposure of heads called ‘to perform the Kyōboku (tall tree)’. Kobayashi Kinpei, a
Government official (Trans note: he was actually the boss of a money lending gang
and almost certainly an unpleasant character; money lenders were extremely
unpopular and were attacked in 1884 in the Gunma Incident by 3,000 people and the
Kabasan Incident by 16 people), had been drugged and poisoned with rat killer
(arsenic) from Iwami Ginzan silver mine in Shimane Prefecture, a crime for which his
mistress, Okinu, was also charged. At one of Rikaku’s theatre appearances he had
fallen in love with his neighbour (Okinu) and into a relationship which became
complicated by her becoming pregnant. Finally, together with Rikaku she plotted the
murder of Kinpei. When the crime was discovered Okinu was arrested and then, in
June 1871, at the Moritaza (Kabuki Theatre –,
…in the middle of a performance Rikaku, who was also under suspicion of being an
accomplice, was arrested as well and sent to Kodenma-chō prison. In November of
that year, while in prison, Okinu gave birth to a son. At first, given the evidence, both
Rikakau and Okinu were preparing themselves to die. It seems that because of their
deeds their children’s future was deemed bleak. Rikaku’s part in the murder was an
issue for the court which began deliberations. As was the custom Okinu was to be
beheaded whilst, as a result of a judicial decision, Rikaku’s death sentence was
commuted to 3 years in jail and he was sent down to serve his sentence in
Ishikawashima Prison. The involvement of Rikaku, the nimaime (handsome man)
actor and the ‘evil woman’ Yoroashi Okinu in a florid murder was in the news and the
subject of a book ‘Yoarashi Okinu’ (夜嵐お絹) which cited her as motivated by an
infamous hatred. Another nimaime, Onoe Matsusuke IV (at the time Onoe Umegorō),尾上松助_(4代目)
…was implicated but acquitted of having been an accomplice of Okinu, criticising her
in his rehearsed appeal as a voluptuous woman.

Okinu was beheaded at a nearby execution ground by the Bakufu’s executioner

Yamada Asaueimon VIII (八代目山田朝右衛門)山田浅右衛門 He was one of the last of their official sword
testers (sword testing was legislated against in 1880 and the ban came into force in
1882). The famous katana (Japanese long sword) used was called Seki Magoroku
(made by Kanemoto in about 1651).
Just before Okinu was executed Rikaku appeared enquiring after her in a halting
voice. A record of the conversation survives

Artilce by Otama Akiko which appeared in the 毎日新聞 Mainichi Shinbun on

2010年6月10日 10 June 2010 東京夕刊 Tōkyō evening paper
(Translated and adapted by Trevor Skingle)

Timeline of the murder and subsequent events

December 1870 - Rikaku and Okinu tryst at the Mukojima, a
restaurant in Tōkyō’s geisha district and begin
to plot the murder. A few nights later they
finalise the plan in discussions with another
Kabuki actor by the name of Insokue
(probably Onoe Matsusuke IV who was
implicated in the original trial)
New Years Day 1871 (evening) – Koabayashi Kinpei is poisoned and dies
May 1871 – Okinu is arrested
27 June 1871 - Rikaku is arrested in the middle of a
performance at the Moritaza (see footnote)
November 1871 - Okinu gives birth in prison
20 Feb 1872 - Okinu is beheaded at Kodukahara execution
Ground and Rikaku jailed for three years
1874 - Rikaku is released from prison and returns to
the world of Kabuki becoming a disciple of
Ichikawa Danjurō IX
1904 - Ichikawa Gonjurō II, formerly Arashi Rikaku III,
dies from pneumonia in Tōkyō

Yoarashi (Night Storm) Okinu pays for an actor and then runs amok
committing a last crime
(Translated and adapted by Trevor Skingle)

嵐璃鶴のち市川權十郎に改名 - お絹との一件で有名になった
The name change ceremony (shumei) of Arashi Rikaku III (right) to Ichikawa Gonjurō at the Kawarazakiza October
1874 at the Nakamuraza
With (left) Ichikawa Danjurō IX
He was involved in the famous case concerning the money lender Kobayashi Kinpei and Okinu

An account concerning an example of an evil Asakusa woman in the period from the
Bakumatasu (last days of the Shōgunate) to the Meiji (era 1868 - 1912). The last part
of the death poem (jisei) that remains is ‘Yoarashi (Night storm) is awake again
dreaming of arranging flowers‘.
On the 20th day of the 2nd month of Meiji 5(20th Feb 1872) at Kodukahara execution
ground the beautiful woman ‘Yoarashi (night storm) Okinu’ was dead and the Harada
Kinu incident closed.

It is certain that Kinu was originally from Bōshū (房州) province’s Jōgashima (island),
though an influential theory is that she occasionally travelled to and from, and
eventually moved to live in, Edo.

At the time she was a young lady working as a leading music hall performer, a
magician and acrobat.

(Note: she was a fisherman’s daughter and after losing her parents at the age of 16
she was taken in by her uncle’s family in Edo)

At 16 years old at the Owari-ya (尾張屋) restaurant (Note: Owari-ya was established
in 1870 in Asakusa and is still open she announced
her early autumn (age of maturity, and became a geisha working there calling herself
Kamakura Koharu). She began to peddle herself hidarizuma (左褄 - her artistic skills
though not her body). Ōkubo the guardian of Sado and Daimyō of Karasuyama
domain made overtures to Kinu and for the first time, star struck, she began a steady
relationship and from Kinu’s early autumn onwards she became the nobleman’s
concubine, accepting hanadai (money for a woman’s companionship). Naively, in
Ansei 4 (1858), Sado’s guardian discarded her and as a result later they mutually
absolved their partnership. With her young woman’s beautiful, lustrous black hair that
she wore shorn she changed her name to Shingetsu-in (真月院) as she became a
nun and moved to a temple. As she started her calling she wished for her guardian
Sado’s happiness in the next world. Just about everything was peace and harmony
and in her calling she experienced good fortune. Then, somehow or other, a sense of
unease began for Okinu.

Note: Hidarizuma 左褄: When dressing in a kimono with a long hem both Geiko and
Maiko grip the right Tsuma (the edge of the kimono) with the left hand and pull it over
to the left hand side so a man’s hand can’t slip inside the kimono. When dressed in
such a way this indicates that both Geiko and Maiko will only sell their artistic skills
and not their bodies. Hidari means ‘left’ and zuma is a euphonic change to Tsuma
and could also be a pun on tsumaru meaning ‘blocked’, so combined the meaning
would be ‘by the left hem/blocked.

At Hakone’s Health Resort

During her calling Okinu left one day for Hakone hot springs. She spent every day
soaking again and again by the side of the hot springs then, after taking a healthy
bath, she sweated on the hot porch in the refreshing breeze of an early summer
afternoon. She smiled as she listened to the sound of the music of an orchestra’s
shakuhachi, though from whence it came was uncertain. In her praise she thought
the tone enchanting, superb and indescribable. The music, Shingetsu-in noted,
obviously included a shamisen player plucking patiently. Thereupon, intoxicated, she
followed the passing, expansive tone of the muisc of the shakuhachi, clinging to the
sound surrounding her. A little while later, just after hearing the open air music, she
awoke as though from a dream, a little dizzy, and as she surveyed the scene from
the porch she glanced upstairs to see that a young man had arrived.

Now that young man was Narihira, which was the nick name of the sensible son,
Kakutarō, of Nihonbashi’s dry goods seller Kinokuniya (Note: Before 1923
Kinokuniya, today a book publisher and seller, used to sell charcoal and wood). At
the health resort they followed their whims against others wishes, both publicly
braiding each other’s hair in public exposing their spontaneously cheery behaviour
for all to see.
Subsequently, they returned to and waited a while in Edo. After they moved back all
Okinu could do was to think about growing back her glossy black hair, and
subsequently had it braided bun style. Afterward she sat in the youthful Kakutarō’s
lap all day, leaning against him as the sake server continue pouring. Taking his
chance Kakutarō offered and pressured her to accept his proposal of marriage.
Okinu, how should one say, drew back, giving Kakutarō the reason that he was
moving a little too fast.

The encounter with Kobayashi Kinpei

The gentleman Kakutarō was drowning in love for Okinu who, encouraged, returned
to her previous life as a geisha. At around that time the Boshin war (Japanese civil
war between Imperial and Shōgunate forces, 1868-1869) had reached the peak of its
violence, and had exhausted the lifeblood of the common people of Edo and
absorbed a substantial proportion of the economy.

So much so that many had fallen into unpaid debt and as a result the livelihood of
money lending had grown and Kobayashi Kinpei had become a boss and at the
same time Okinu was frequently seen as a revitalised source of authority. For Kinpei
this turmoil was cash profit, and in Meiji 2 (1869) he redeemed Okinu’s contract.
Then, close to the district boundary of Asakusa’s Kabuki Sanza (the area in which
were the three principal Kabuki theatres of Edo) in Saruwaka cho a shōtaku (a house
in which a mistress is kept) was set up as 26 year old Okinu continued her life as
boss Kinpei’s mistress, and with a haneri (kimono under collar) shop in the nakamise
(alleyways of shops) surrounding Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Though he was rather
ordinary he was actually a cruel and heartless miser and an unfair debt collector to
be in service to, yet because the easy money clouded Okinu’s judgement and she
believed that she thought of him with unlimited affection and that the sun shone from
his eyes. Okinu, in the meantime, was being supplied with an abundance of ready

In 1868, amidst an early summer downpour, the battle of Ueno began when the
Imperial forces led by Saigō Takamori, whose was using used the Ueno branch of
the Matsuzakaya Department store as the base for his staff officers, attacked from
Hongo Hill in a full on assault of the Kuromon (black gate) of Kaneiji Temple.

Rumour has it that Okinu rushed over from the Sensoji’s nakamise area which had
been set up as a field hospital to see what was happening when a stray bullet passed
through her umbrella and she fainted, collapsing in the mud and was taken back to

By chance she saw the actor Inosuke (Note: probably Onoe Matsusuke IV who had
also moved from Ōsaka to Edo and was indicted as a potential accomplice in the
murder and then acquitted) in a play at Saruwaka cho’s Moritaza (Kabuki theatre)
and then went to meet him again later.

Money continued to be loaned at the Kobayashi family home. With her allowances
Okinu went to and was introduced to actors one by one. As she had a naturally
amorous disposition she paid for actors for the next two days. In those days all the
great stars, Ichikawa Danzō (VI), Onoe Kikugorō (V), Ichikawa Metora (II) (later
Ichikawa Monnosuke VI), Suketakaya Takasuke (IV), Bandō Kakitsu (I) and so on,
were all connected. Paying for a Kabuki actor was a publicity stunt. At the time she
was a Kabuki actor’s modern style host.

Note: During the Edo era actor buying’ (役者買い yakusha gai やくしゃがい) was the
agreement of an exclusive personal contract with actors through a system
asymmetric patronage.役者買い

Pulled together by fate

In 1870 noticing a top actor Okinu was somewhat bemused. Inosuke had brought
Rikaku north from Kamigata in the south. Okinu heard a new sound, Rikaku’s soft
Kamigata accent, which delighted her and made her feel giddy. After Okinu’s
completely sheltered life she thought that damn it she truly wants to take up this
challenge. At the time Rikaku and Kikugorō’s rivalry in male attractiveness was well
known. Okinu was a sly old dog and in daily life was private and lofty as well as only
being attracted to physical looks. Steadily she and Rikaku formed a complicated
relationship. Okinu had been in hell waiting for this man and, to an extent, using her
money, acceptable in society in those days, was something which helped her to
create an acceptable and serviceable situation. Completely naive regarding the
young woman Okinu’s sorry wishes the patient Rikaku was easily caught up in a
strengthening love tryst.

In the 12th month of Meiji 3 (December 1870), with the snow falling, Rikaku went to a
tryst in a detached tatami room at a Mukojima (Tōkyō geisha district) restaurant
Daikokuya. Okinu leant hard against Rikaku, sitting in his lap.
Rikaku - ‘Okinu han, I am forgetting myself and whether or not it’s OK with you for me
to involve myself in your affairs. But Okinu han, look, about your patron, he is a lucky
and flourishing prominent money lender. Can you do this? By your deed from
tomorrow we will have a new life when will know if we’ll become a committed couple’.

Okinu - ‘My teacher, unless my patron is too clever if I need to do this to get away
from him, then I, his mistress, will do it’

Rikaku - ‘You’ve already acknowledged our love. Did you find it difficult to have to
wait until coming to Mukojima like this on this snowy day?’

Okinu - ‘I am honestly truly happy’

Rikaku - ‘If I am to be truthful it is unlikely that our meetings will concern anyone. In
this society, Okinu san, it’s trifling and expected of a woman’

Okinu - ‘It’s not wrong’

Okinu’s heart was intoxicated with sake and by Rikaku’s sweet words and she was
spellbound and in a drifting, dreamy state of mind about her fate. She thought about
her patron Kinpei’s greasy insistent face and looked up admiringly at the younger
Rikaku’s beautiful face and as a result was saved from her loneliness.

Iwami Ginzan (Iwami Silver mine - rat poison) gets the rat
(Note: The following text includes conversations involving Inosuke/Matsusuke and
may have been recorded as part of the transcripts of trial testimony)

As far as Rikaku was concerned, Okinu had admitted that the affair involving
Kakutarō was finished though she had since almost had a tryst in Kōtō (previously

A few nights later they finalised their plan in discussions with another nimaime
Kabuki actor, Onoe Matsusuke IV, who advised them, ‘Anyway, from our
conversations if your patron is to die, how is it to be done? First you must mix Iwami
Ginzan (silver mine – an analogy for arsenic rat poison) in with the kuzuyu (starch
gruel). You must also understand perfectly the plan that was put together a few
nights ago. Well I never! That patron Kinpei will be beaten by a rat’.

Implicated in the later trial he was acquitted of having been an accomplice of Okinu,
criticising her in his rehearsed entreaty as a debauched woman. On the evening of
New Year’s Day in 1871 Okinu followed his advice and poisoned and murdered

Later on, feigning ignorance, Rikaku enjoyed further trysts with Okinu because he
had decided that he would back her cause.

Society gossip then became rumour until finally, on Meiji 4 month 5 (May 1871),
Okinu was arrested.

The original murder was, according to one of a variety of excuses feigning ignorance,
‘A careless mistake which might have been made, damn it, because the kuzuyu
starch gruel was mixed with a jittei (a small truncheon)’ and ‘I guess Rikaku
instigated it’. A cross examination ensued and the ulterior motive, the reason for
Rikaku’s assistance, was confessed.
Rikaku was then arrested for the murder (June 1871 at the Moritaza theatre in the
middle of a performance) and his career ruined. Okinu, in silent tears, said ‘My
misbehaviour has offended my handsome master and I am sorry for the inexcusable

Left, Arashi Rikaku 嵐璃鶴 as Ishii Genzo 石井源蔵

Right Kawarazaki Gonjuro I (later Danjuro IX) as Akahori Mizuemon 赤堀水衛
in the play Katakiuchi Ukiki no Kameyama

Rikaku being arrested backstage at the Moritaza

The enforcement and then the adjournment of the sentence

The resulting arrest in connection with the case took place in Kodenma cho. At the
time Okinu, 5 months pregnant with Rikaku’s child, had been staying at an inn. The
sentence was adjourned until the child could be delivered. After the six month rainy
season, the summer’s heat wave had passed, when on the 1st of October the
expectant Okinu, mother of Rikaku’s baby boy gave birth whilst in confinement.
Throughout the hot summer pregnancy, whilst in jail, the enforcement of the
sentence was delayed. Though it may have been that the prolonged and difficult
experience served the geisha Okinu’s previous self interest for Rikaku however,
above everything else, Okinu’s predicament proved difficult for him to bear. As soon
as possible a request was made to the leading authority for an extra day for prayers
to be said.

Around the same time Okinu gave birth was also the time she was to die. Still
weaning the baby, the permanent separation of the boy from his mother, and her
imminent death, did not at all affect the baby’s innocent sleeping cheeky face. Okinu
shuddered and moaned, choking with tears.

Yoarashi’s waking dream of arranging flowers

A violent north wind had been raging for 2 months when a cold day dawned. Okinu
was led out of Kodenma cho’s prison. Her hands were tied together with straw rope
and she was squeezed, prone, into a tiny bamboo cage which was tied to the back of
a horse to be taken to Kodukahara execution ground. En route via Saruwaka cho
they passed in front of the Moritaza (theatre). The compassionate government official
enquired ‘Is this where he appeared?’ ‘Yes’ was the response. Frequently fidgeting in
the bamboo cage she turned her face away shedding silent tears.

In ample time they reached the place of execution. It was enquired of her if ‘In one’s
final moments is there something, anything, that you would like to say to leave to
posterity?’ The government official listened to her reply, ‘Master just cause demands
repayment’. She was brought out of the cage and inspected. In the meantime, whilst
still in prison, Rikaku’s crime had been deemed insufficiently serious enough to
warrant capital punishment. For Okinu though the government’s official position was
publicly unyielding. She was told that ‘For having committed a capital crime a while
ago your sentence is still in effect and at this time you are expected to cross the
Sanzu River (the Buddhist equivalent of the River Styx; the river to be crossed on the
way to the afterlife)’ ‘Does this happen straight away?’ she said, ‘For what I caused in
this wretched matter my end is nigh’. Then suddenly, and without warning, stumbling,
the 28 year old bequeathed her death poem, ‘Yoarashi is awake and arranging
flowers without dreaming’ just before her brief life ended.

The story of the decapitation by Asaueimon

On the 20th day of the 2nd month of Meiji 5 (20 February 1872) Okinu was beheaded
by the 19 year old Yamada Asaemon VIII (probably about his ninth month working
with criminals convicted of a capital crime).

Yamada Asaemon VIII 8代 山田浅右衛門 (やまだ あさえもん)in 明治36年 Meiji

36 (1903) at the age of 50山田吉亮.png

Because of the exceedingly difficult suffering she had caused her decapitated head
was gibbeted She had been beheaded in the prone position and her head was
exposed to public scorn to show that her evil had come to an end. In Okinu’s
beheading the famous katana (Japanese long sword) used was Seki no Maguroku
Kanemoto (for details and pictures of the sword please see ).
Its length was two shaku three sun (nearly 67 cm) 5 parts and the width one sun
(3.03 cm) 3 parts, a thing of superb craftsmanship. Because of this the mood of the
general public present at the execution was respectful.

When Okinu left the jail it was to the reluctant farewells of the other women prisoners,
‘Okinu san, with great regret we ask you to accept your fate and go forward on your
journey into the next life, as we will also’. A rosary, made of 108 beads of rice and
string made from twisted paper, was given to her.

During the bound Okinu’s final moments a government official enquired of Rikaku, as
he heard his official sentence, ‘Rikaku san what’s to do?’ His survival had not been
as a result of skilful means, and even though harsh he was prepared. ‘You are he for
whom this lotus blossom has been decapitated. Don’t you agree that she was a
special part of your life?’ Moved to floods of tears he replied ‘I am sorry I caused this
wretched matter’. In practical terms Rikaku was released after 3 years eventually
becoming Ichikawa Gonjūrō who became very popular with the public. What’s more,
having been an artisan, Okinu’s case has remained famous.
Kodukahara field
The execution was carried out and the body was taken to a private place and from
there to a temple for a Buddhist memorial service

Kotsu Street is now accepted as the area where the once famous Kodukahara
execution ground (nicknamed Kotsu) was. Excavations revealed bone fragments. On
the 7th month of Meiji 14 (July 1881) death by decapitation was abolished for those
under 20 years old. According to the anatomy book published by Sugita Genpaku
(Note: He studied anatomy by undertaking dissections at Kodukahara)
…these remains were determined to have been divided (Note: this might mean by
either decapitation or by being subjected to a sword tester).
(Translated and adapted by Trevor Skingle)

After resuming his acting career on his release from prison Arashi Rikaku III became
a successful Kabuki actor and took the name of Ichikawa Gonjūrō II. He died of
pneumonia in Tōkyō in 1904

Ichikawa Gonjūrō

A note on the name Yoarashi Okinu

The kanji for yo 夜 (evening) could also be a pun, or sharé, using a contracted form
of 夜露死苦 – yoroshiku, please remember me
The kanji for Arashi in Yoarashi is the same as that of Arashi in the Kabuki actor’s
name Arashi Rikaku
This could then be read as ‘Please remember me Arashi’
Alternatively when taken separately the individual kanji give the following meaning

夜 – Yo evening
露 - Ro tears
死 – Shi death/die
苦 – Ku suffering/trial

Somewhat fanciful perhaps but when all is put together there could be a double pun
possibly meaning…‘As I suffer death and cry evening tears please remember me
Arashi’. Given that her last words were her death poem (jisei), ‘Yoarashi is awake
and arranging flowers without dreaming’, she could feasibly have been sending
Arashi Rikaku a message that she thought might not get to him otherwise

The story of Yoarashi Okinu

A more detailed, though fictitious, account based on these events was published
approximately 10 years later, between June – November 1878, written by Okamoto
Kisen (岡本起泉) “Night-storm Okinu: Flower-Frail Dreams of Revenge" (夜嵐 阿衣
花-廼-仇夢 - Yoarashi Okinu Hana-no-adayume) see…
The book was published again as a reprint, using the original pages, in 2006. Her
story was also the subject of four films:

Yoarashi Okinu – 1913, Mukojima Studio

Yoarashi Okinu – 1927, Kinema Studio, directed by Yamashita Hidekazu 山下秀一
and starring Matsue Tsuruko 松枝鶴子
Yoarashi Okinu – 1936, Kinema Studio, directed by Watanabe Shintarō 渡辺新太郎
and starring Suzuki Sumiko 鈴木澄子
Femme Fatale Yoarashi Okinu and Tenjin Otama – Dokufu Yoarashi Okinu to Tenjin
Otama 毒婦夜嵐お絹と天人お玉 – Shin Toho Studio, directed by Namiki Kyōtarō
並木鏡太郎 and starring Wakasugi Katsuko 若杉嘉津子

Related Interests