Useful Notes: Yagyu Jubei

Meet Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi (1607 – April 12, 1650). Quite possibly the most romanticized and speculated-about samurai in history.

Not much about his life is known as solid fact. Both Jubei's father and grandfather had been great masters of swordsmanship. His grandfather was the founder of the Yagyu Shinkage school, which still exists today, and famous tales tell of him defeating armed samurai while barehanded and nearly 70 years old. His father was the personal swordsmanship tutor to three shoguns and was once said to have singlehandedly cut down seven assassins who attempted to slay the shogun at a battle. Jubei inherited their skill. By the age of 9 he was already showing signs of being a prodigy and was occasionally filling in for his father in the role of teaching swordsmanship to the Tokugawa shoguns.

At that point, however, is the first of several record lapses on Jubei. The next time any information about him is recorded is when he is 24, at which point he is considered the greatest swordsman of the famous Yagyu clan, but is summarily dismissed from the court at Edo with no reason or explanation given. Indeed, it is argued about whether he was dismissed by the shogun, perhaps for being too gruff and honest for politics at court, or whether he decided himself to leave on a warrior's pilgrimage. There is also debate about if this was a cover story for Jubei so he could work as a spy on behalf of the Shogunate.

For the next twelve years there is not a single record on the doings of Jubei, not even in the Yagyu family's private records (which contain lengthy passages about other members, especially from that time period, but next to nothing on Jubei), and even the book on swordsmanship and philosophy Jubei wrote later only contains hints. However, after twelve years of banishment, he suddenly reappeared at a swordsmanship demonstration the shogun put on, performed impressively, and was immediately reinstated and given a government job. After that his life was fairly quiet and not very long: he took control of the family lands for several years while his father grew sick and then died, wrote his book of swordsmanship and philosophy, and then, at the age of 43, died under circumstances as mysterious as much of his life (depending on which story you listen to, he either died of a heart attack at home, due to an accident while hunting, or, more darkly, was assassinated by one of his brothers).

Generally considered one of the greatest swordsmen of all time despite living in an era of relative peace, a Warrior Poet, a protector of the weak and upholder of the samurai code, and consistently portrayed as such in the many, many movies (Sonny Chiba alone probably played him a dozen different times in various movies and TV series), manga, and other stories about him. These are often far from historical (often they are closer to what we would consider outright fantasy, frequently involving Jubei fighting demons and would be conquerors of Japan), and include many details with little or no basis in fact, including Jubei being depicted as a wandering ronin, a ninja (or at least incorporating ninja philosophy/skills), having an Eyepatch of Power (although portraits from his own time show him with two eyes, the eyepatch legend has become so intertwined with the legends about Jubei that it is the default look for him, complete with multiple explanations about how he lost the eye — the most popular being that his father accidentally struck him in the eye with a wooden sword when training a very young Jubei), just to start. One of the more interesting wrinkles is that his father is almost always an antagonist to him (Yagyu Munenori, Jubei's father, is probably the victim of Flanderization, since unlike his son he was a skilled politician as well as a swordsman, and this often means that depictions of him turn him into an Evil Chancellor, an Evil Counterpart to Jubei, or just a Jerkass villain).

Compare Miyamoto Musashi and Hattori Hanzō.


Anime and Manga
  • Although the main character of Ninja Scroll is named Kibigami Jubei, Word of God is that it is a very obvious tribute to Yagyu Jubei.
  • Jubei-chan: A young girl in the modern day becomes heir to the Yagyu clan and receives Jubei's Eyepatch of Power. The sequel, Revenge of the Siberian Yagyu, has Jubei's half-Russian daughter.
  • In Yaiba, not only we have Yagyuu Jubei being revived, but Kojiro Sasaki, another famous samurai, comes back to life. And the main character's martial arts teacher is none other than an aged Miyamoto Musashi. Go figure.
    • And revived as a Bad Ass Werewolf to boot!
  • The manga Samurai Legend incorporates many of the familiar Jubei myths in its portrayal of him. Here Jubei works as a ninja-like secret agent of the shogun, gains the Eyepatch of Power from a wound suffered as an adult, (and subsequently takes a level in badass), and is a skilled Warrior Poet who attempts, among other things, to develop techniques that would allow him to defeat skilled opponents but without those opponents being killed or seriously harmed. Although he is actually successful in this, it's also his undoing when he fights an enemy willing to die to insure taking Jubei down.
  • Kakei Juubei in Get Backers was named after him; he has been compared to a samurai, and Juubei seems to do his best to live up to this ideal. He is incredibly serious, old-fashioned and loyal, and will do anything for whomsoever he has sworn loyalty to. Possibly as a reference to the Eyepatch of Power, Juubei is blinded in his second fight with Kazuki, due to overusing his Dangerous Forbidden Technique.
  • Gender flipped in Gintama. Yagyu Kyuubei is supposed to be the Jubei of the anime.
  • Is the title character of The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls: Revenge of the Hori Clan (by the same author [and, later, artist] of Basilisk [a.k.a. The Kouga Ninja Scrolls]) where he is portrayed as a ninja, rather than a samurai).
  • A red-headed, Gender Flipped reincarnation of Jubei is a main character in Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls.
  • In Gate 7, a Gender Flipped reincarnation of Jubei works as right-hand woman for one of the villains.
  • In Amakusa 1637, Jubei is a Worthy Opponent to the main characters. Specially to Masaki, who has actually become Miyamoto Musashi due to Time Travel.

  • In the live action movie Shogun's Samurai, two brothers clash for the title of shogun after their father suddenly dies. The Yagyu clan backs the older but less liked brother Iemitsu because Yagyu Munenori, has a fatherly interest in him. Jubei is a key part in this, loyally fighting in both battles and committing assassinations for Iemitsu's cause. Until he learns that his father ordered the destruction of a ninja clan which Jubei had studied with and included many of his best friends in order to cover up the immoral schemes Munenori undertook in the conflict.

  • In the unhistorical historical novel Makai Tenshô and its many, many adaptions, (live action film on multiple times, several anime movies, even videogames), Jubei is all that stands in the way of evil wizards, evil chancellors, fallen messiahs, demons, and numerous undead legendary samurai from taking over Japan. In some version his dad becomes an enemy again by opting to be turned into one of those undead samurai.

Video Games
  • Neo Contra has Genbei "Jaguar" Yagyu as the rough Expy equivallent ( he is a "humanoid alien" in this game, turned out to be actually a human from another planet because of space colonization policies). Still obviously a reference to the original.
  • The Onimusha game series has a character named Jubei Yagyu in the second game. While this would actually be his grandfather by the era, this is Handwaved by saying that all leaders of the Yagyu clan receive the name Jubei. In a later game, his granddaughter also gets that title). In the fourth game Munenori is turned into a villain to play the Evil Counterpart role.
    • So if the Jubei in Onimusha 4 is the current Jubei, and her grandfather is the grandfather of the Jubei, is this a Gender Flip? Or is both she and her brother called Jubei?
      • Due to statements made in game and the analysis that she practices Seigo-ryu, an Iai style which was added to the Owari-Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, she is the cousin of the Yagyu Jubei Mitsuyoshi, the man whom this trope is about. The time Onimusha 4 is set in is 1597, our Jubei won't be born for another four or five years.
  • Samurai Shodown has had Yagyuu Jubei as one of the playable characters ever since the first game, as a middle-aged samurai who fight with his daisho. Here he's depicted as an agent of the Tokugawa regime who happens to be an associate of another historical Japanese figure, the ninja Hattori Hanzō. According to his bio, the person he respected the most is Yagyu Munenori, which means although he doesn't appear on screen, SNK certainly averts the usual treatment of Munenori as a bastard.
  • Appears as a playable character in the third scenario of Shining Force III, which doesn't take place in history or even on Earth.
  • Lookalikes Tachibana Jubei and his son Hyakubei from Tenchu 2 and Tenchu 4 respectively.
  • Double Dragon III features a ninja named Ranzou Yagyu, who is implied to be a descendant of him in the Japanese Famicom version.
  • The Orc Blademaster hero in War Craft III is a Samurai that uses ninja techniques, one of the proper names they can have is Jubei'thos.
  • While this may not be the same Jubei, in BlazBlue, there's a mega powerful cat swordsman who wields an eyepatch with the name Jubei. According to the past, he also went by the name Mitsuyoshi.
  • Muramasa The Demon Blade has a Yukinojyo Yagyu, third son of the Yagyu clan, who is among other things the current master of "Shinkage ninpo", head of the shogun's ninja clan (which Kisuke belongs to), betrothed to Momohime, and a bit of a dick. He has a more positive relationship with his father until Jinkuro possesses his body in Momohime's third ending.
  • Yagyu Munenori is set to appear in Samurai Warriors Chronicles 2nd. And happily averting his usual Historical Villain Upgrade treatment, Munenori is pretty much a laid back, but just and honorable sword-instructor for the Tokugawa side. In 4, he did, however, start out as an ally of Matsunaga Hisahide, the villain of Sengoku era, but by the end of it, sticks with Tokugawa.
  • In Final Fantasy XII you are able to find a ninja sword called the Yagyu Darkblade, which is not actually named for Jubei, but rather his grandfather Munetoshi. Yagyu Munetoshi is famous for his skill with a sword much like son as well as being the man who introduced Shinkage-ryū school of swordsmanship to the Tokugawa Clan.

Alternative Title(s):

Jubei Yagyu