Hotta Masanobu

Hotta Masanobu
Hotta Masanobu

Hotta Masanobu

Hotta Masanobu (堀田 正信) was a hatamoto1 of Shimōsa Province.2 Within the province he ruled over the village of Kozu and heavily taxed all the residents of the Province for their rice causing almost all to be on the brink of poverty.

People begged him to stop, which he did not. In fact, there were some who bribed the lord hoping this would help but Masanobu took the money but did not change his ways.

Eventually he was embarrased as one of his subjects went over his head taking a petition straight to the shogun (Tokugawa Ietsuna) to ask for help in the overtaxation.

This was done by Sakura Sōgorō and soon after Masanobu had the man and his family rounded up. Though he agreed to do what the petition asked, he still needed Sōgorō to pay for his actions. He had him crucified alongside his wife, and also had Sōgorō’s 4 children beheaded, leaving Sōgorō and his wife hanging for 3 days before finishing them off.

Sōgorō is said to have cursed Masanobu as he died and soon after apparitions of him and his wife then began haunting Masanobu and his family. Masanobu’s wife died, and the spirits made him so crazed Hotta killed a maidservant thinking it a phantom. Then he saw Sōgorō in the shoguns castle in Edo and attaked it. Unfortunately it was actually another nobleman, so Masanobu lost his titles and holdings.

There are many versions of how the tale ends with one saying Masanobu realised how evil he was. If Sōgorō would stop his terror he would venerate him in a shrine. The hauntings wanes, and so Masanobu built a shrine using a vast sum of money leading to Sōgorō becoming a patron saint of the peasantry.

The shogun feeling sorry for Masanobu restored his holdings.1

Other Depictions

Sôgorô by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: The Story of Sakura Sôgo (Sakura Sôgo no hanashi).
Sôgorô presenting his petition.Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The Spirit of Sakura Sogoro Haunting Hotta Kozuke.
Sôgorô and Hotta Masanobu.


1. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2012) “Yurei Attack: The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide” Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.
2. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.

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