Shimizu Jirocho

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  • Born: 1820
  • Died: 1893/6/12
  • Japanese: 清水 次郎長 (Shimizu Jirôchô)

Shimizu Jirôchô was the innkeeper of a notable funayado (sailors' inn) at the port of Shimizu (today, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka City), near the castle-town of Sunpu.

The second son of Takagi Miuemon, a boat owner who worked along the Tomoe River, and originally known as Yamamoto Chôgorô, he took on the name Jirôchô after being adopted by his uncle, Yamamoto Jirôhachi.

During the turbulence of the Bakumatsu period, he was appointed to contribute to overseeing security in the port-town. At one time, he served as part of an escort guard for Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu and received a noshime garment from Yoshinobu as a show of gratitude.

In 1868, when sailors aboard the Tokugawa shogunate ship Kanrin Maru were killed by pro-Imperial forces while moored at Shimizu harbor (despite the ship having hoisted a white flag of surrender), Jirôchô is said to have taken great efforts to arrange for proper funerals for those men; noticing this, Yamaoka Tesshû took Jirôchô under his wing and became his teacher.

Jirôchô married three times. His third wife, Ochô, was the eldest daughter of a Nishio han retainer. She played a notable role in helping to run Jirôchô's inn, "Suehiro," which he opened in 1886.

In his late years, after the Meiji Restoration, Jirôchô played a role in a number of business enterprises. One involved the modernization of Shimizu port, through the construction of wharfs and numerous other port facilities allowing for the docking of the large modern steamships which came to use Shimizu in the Meiji period as one of the chief ports via which tea and certain other goods were exported from Japan. Some stone remains of the so-called "Jirôchô wharfs" can still be seen today nearby to the Suehiro inn. From 1874 to 1884, Jirôchô also contributed to a project clearing land near the foot of Mt. Fuji (in what is today Fuji City, Shizuoka pref.) and implementing the cultivation of tea, cedars, cypresses, and wheat. This area continues to be known as "Jirôchô-machi" (or Jirôchô Town) today. He also contributed to projects involving salt fields at Miho and oil deposits at Sagara.

Jirôchô also played a role in helping to establish the first English-language school in the region (perhaps the first in all of Japan), within the Meitokukan school established by former shogunal retainer Arai Kan at the nearby temple Jôjûin. One of the students of this school went on to find considerable personal success in Hawaii, and came to be known in Shimizu as "Hawaii-san."

He died at his inn, Suehiro, on 1893/6/12, at the age of 74. It's said that as many as 3,000 people joined the funerary parade to pay their respects. He was buried at the nearby temple Baiin-ji. Suehiro was reconstructed in 2001 using largely original Meiji era materials found on the site in 1999; it is today run as a small museum about Jirôchô and his contributions to the port.


  • Pamphlet, "Suehiro: Seamen's Inn at Jirocho's Port," available at Shimizu Port Seamen's Inn Museum Suehiro.