Grave of Hattori Hanzō in Tokyo, Japan

Hattori Hanzō is a recurring historical figure in popular culture, often depicted as an accomplished ninja. From children’s cartoons to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (in which Sonny Chiba reprised his earlier role from the 1980 TV series Shadow Warriors, the name is universally recognized in Japan, regardless of the generation.

The name Hanzō echoes in Tokyo as the namesake of Hanzōmon, one of the gates of Edo Castle, on the site of which the Imperial Palace stands today. It also gave its name to one of the main lines of Tokyo Metro, which connects Tokyo Skytree, Nihonbashi, and Shibuya.

The real Hattori Hanzō lived near Edo Castle, holding authority as one of the loyal samurai under the Tokugawa shogunate. While it is debated whether he was a ninja himself, at least his father (also named Hanzō) was, and he did lead his own company of ninjas from the provinces of Iga and Kōka.

As a samurai, Hanzō is recorded as being a fierce spearman, brandishing an eight-foot-long lance in battle. This spear is now enshrined at Sainen-ji in Shinjuku City, a Buddhist temple founded by himself, though it is usually not on public display.

There is, however, a funerary pagoda standing on the edge of the cemetery, dated 1597. This is none other than the grave of Hattori Hanzō, the final resting place of the legendary ninja.

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