Whether you’ve seen the presently airing (at least presently airing upon the drafting of this article) version of Dororo, or the original version from 1969, then you know that Daigo Kagemitsu, the main villain, is a lord to Ishikawa, a section within the province of Kaga during the era of the Samurai. So, did this Kaga Province actually exist? If so, when? What was there? What is it known by modern day standards? Read our Anime Culture Monday to find out!
The Real Kaga Province
Prior to the Meiji Era during the late-19th Century, Japan was made up of different provinces, or domains, called “han,” and they were under the jurisdiction of a warlord, or Daimyo. Within these domains, were other districts, and as we shared before, Ishikawa was actually one of its districts. As a matter of fact, the real Kaga Province was one of the final provinces that were rounded during this period. While we can’t exactly pinpoint the year that Dororo takes place in, real Kaga Province was founded sometime around 823 AD, and was officially dissolved on July 25, 1869, meaning that the land under its system existed for over 1,000 years! That’s almost three times more than the present lifespan of the United States as it is!
As portrayed in the series, the villagers relied on prosperous harvests and due to Daigo’s drought in his land, he prays to demons to bless his land. As for a Hall of Hell, or Jigoku no Dou, unfortunately, we couldn’t find any evidence of its existence. So, who was its Daimyo? Throughout its lifespan, Kaga was under the control of the Maeda clan. The first ruler was Maeda Toshiie, a general who was close friends with Oda Nobunaga.
As for the series, based on what we could gather from extensive research (largely from Japanese sources), Dororo takes place somewhere in the mid-15th century, during a time when the power and influence of the samurai started to progress at a very fast and unpredictable rate. While modern pop culture around the world tends to glorify the samurai spirit thanks to Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, other present samurai related manga, and through Japanese MMA fighters, Dororo goes in the opposite direction and from the titular character’s point of view, the samurai was seen as the bad guys since they oppress and exploit regular citizens.
To a certain extent, lower ranked samurai, meaning those you could equate to lets say a private in today’s military, were rather poor and they did some pretty bad stuff as portrayed in this anime such as abuse regular civilians. As shown in the episode about the evil sword, they were also encouraged to behead their enemies as proof that they accomplished their mission. In the earlier part with Mio, some did in fact actually have sexual relations with minors.
As we shared earlier, the province was disestablished in 1871, a few years into the prime of the Meiji period. Upon being dissolved, certain sections became what is presently known as Fukui Prefecture, and there are other sections now known as Ishikawa Prefecture, the namesake of the same district where Dororo takes place in. And within Ishikawa Prefecture, the Ishikawa District actually continued to stay in existence until it merged with the town of Nonoichi on November 11, 2011. It neighbors Ishikawa Prefecture’s capital city of Kanazawa. As for Nonoichi, it is located along the Tedori River, which is a source of the community’s irrigation and its water is used for hydroelectric purposes. While we do see a river in the first episode of both versions to Dororo (and Hyakkimaru is put into a river after his birth), we can’t really confirm or deny it’s the same river. Presently, Nonoichi is still an agricultural centric city just like how the ancient version is portrayed in Dororo.
While you aren’t likely to face any demons in present day Nonoichi, it’s still nice to see not so much has changed in terms of economics. Farming seems to be very prosperous thanks to the Tedori River, and thankfully, not at the expense of some warlord sacrificing his child to demons. So for some of you Dororo fans reading, you can visit the setting in Ishikawa Prefecture, but we can’t guarantee if there are any specific landmarks other than probably a river that relates to the series (and probably a hot spring as well). We also would like to point out that modern day Ishikawa Prefecture does have its own unique dialect, but isn’t at all portrayed in the anime. However, for those of you that can read Japanese, you can learn through the prefecture’s famous cookie, Ishikawa Hougen Tou Chishiki. Probably due to how the dialect can even be foreign to non-natives of the prefecture, use of modern Japanese is applied in both versions to this anime.