Saichi Sugimoto (杉元 佐一, Sugimoto Saichi), known as Sugimoto the Immortal (不死身 の 杉元, Fujimi no Sugimoto), is the protagonist of Golden Kamuy and a war veteran of the Russo-Japanese War. While panning for gold in Hokkaido, Sugimoto learns of the tale of mysterious Ainu gold and sets on an adventure to find it while accompanying a young Ainu huntress Asirpa.
Sugimoto is a muscular Japanese man with brown eyes and spiky brown hair which is usually covered by a military cap. His most prominent feature must be his facial scars: two of them are parallel and run vertically down his cheeks, while the third one strays horizontally like a tree branch. Sugimoto's whole body is also covered with deep scars and injuries that he received in battle. His countenance is typically serious and mature.
Year round, Sugimoto wears an olive-colored kimono with the sleeves tied up by a tasuki sash and the back hem tucked in shirihashori style over a mandarin collar shirt. He also wears military trousers and high boots that were part of his uniform during the Russo-Japanese War. However, the boots he is wearing were stripped from the officer he nearly beat to death. In colder weather, he also wears a dark blue trench coat and a foreign-made scarf that he bought in Otaru.
Following the events of the Abashiri Prison invasion, Sugimoto wore a metal plate that covered his head injury inflicted by Ogata. He would also wear a leg brace on his left leg after Nikaidou injured him in Abashiri; he stops wearing it after returning back to Hokkaido.
|Spoiler warning: Significant plot details about Golden Kamuy finale follow.|
|After the battle in Hakodate, Sugimoto has earned more scars. His iconic scar is now even bigger, with a new scarring on his right cheek running horizontally and branching upwards. His right ear is partially torn and missing some chunks. There are small bullet scars on the lower left part of his face, as well as a small horizontal scar on his left ear.|
|Significant plot details about Golden Kamuy finale end here.|
Sugimoto is a kind and valorous man. Despite seeming gruff on the outside he is a sympathetic person who cares a lot about his friends and loved ones. As his father would say, Sugimoto is someone who "always ends up stuck with the worst roles", meaning that he would put his life on the line to help others. His dedication to his first love Umeko and the promise he gave to his late best friend Toraji are the driving forces that lead him to search for the gold in the first place. Later, he would often selflessly endanger himself to protect Asirpa.
Even though he often gets into fights, Sugimoto forgives others quickly and will help even those who have wronged him before. After being shunned in his village, Sugimoto knows firsthand what it's like to be looked down upon. As such, he cuts short any attempts to humiliate another one by using unfair offensive terms.
Sugimoto's foremost trait is his survival instinct. His infallible determination allows him to survive no matter the odds. When his father was dying of tuberculosis, Sugimoto decided that he won't give in to the illness. It's likely that his will alone saved him from contacting the sickness.
|“||I'm not gonna lose. I'm going to live, damn it. Just try and kill me! I'm immortal!||”|
— Sugimoto refusing to give up
Sugimoto is a fierce fighter who is able to defeat those who intend to kill him in the quickest, most brutal way. Even prior joining the army he was known for how dangerous he was in a fight. During the war, Sugimoto witnessed many horrors which have traumatized him and still haunt him to this day. The death of his best friend Toraji, who died in his arms after saving him from a grenade blast, greatly depressed Sugimoto. After killing numerous Russian soldiers on the battlefield, Sugimoto believes that he destroyed his old innocent self and now has earned himself a place in Hell.. During his fight with Gansoku, even in his berserker state, Sugimoto admits to feeling useless for not protecting those he cares about.
Despite all that, Sugimoto is still often naïve and sometimes even childish. He joins Asirpa in her endeavors such as playing in a film about Ainu folk stories or entertaining the kids in the kotan. Sugimoto cares deeply about Asirpa and considers her his partner and friend. He wants to protect her and help her reach her goal.
At the same time, Sugimoto can be quite impulsive in his attempts to protect others: after Ogata shot him in the head, Sugimoto suffered brain damage that has resulted in him becoming more reckless and easily angered. If Sugimoto suffers too much abuse, he enters a berserker-like state when he no longer controls his actions. However, he can be brought back to his senses when his body undergoes a drastic change such as experiencing an instant drop in temperature.
- Combat: As a veteran soldier, Sugimoto is proficient in hand-to-hand combat (demonstrating a mastery of Judo in particular) and kendo as well as knowledgeable of military strategies and weaponry. During the Battle of 203 Hill, Sugimoto was extremely fierce; killing many Russians by charging into their trench despite being under fire and attacking with reckless abandon even after being shot in the neck. Whenever he's faced with several enemies, Sugimoto looks for the most efficient way of ending his opponent, often striking violently all whilst disregarding any wounds he may suffer at the same time.
- "Immortality": The main reason Sugimoto can fight with such reckless abandon is due to his unnaturally high pain threshold. Even after being attacked by man-eating bears, fighting veteran soldiers, and getting caught in an explosion, Sugimoto is capable of getting right back up and walking away as if nothing happened; even if his entire body has been left completely mutilated from the ordeal. Another factor to Sugimoto's continued survival, besides his near superhuman tenacity, is thanks in part to his body's abnormal capacity for self-healing. Even some of his most grievous injuries (many of which have ripped out large chunks of his flesh) barely leave scars, as was the case when Lt. Tsurumi stabbed Sugimoto in the face with a wooden stick. These unique traits, coupled with his indomitable spirit and sheer willingness to throw himself into dangerous situations, is what earned Sugimoto the epithet of "The Immortal".
- Survival: Having spent much of his time in the wilderness of Hokkaido with Asirpa throughout the events of the series, Sugimoto has become quite adept at surviving in harsh environments.
- Arisaka Type 30 Rifle (holds five rounds)
- Type 30 Bayonet
- Type 30 Round (6.5x50mm semi-rimmed Arisaka round, stored in clips)
- Front ammunition pouch
- Rear pouch
- Oil can (oil used for rifle maintenance)
- Higonokami folding knife
- Type 26 Revolver (looted off Kanjirou Kasahara)
- "It's kill or be killed."
- "I'M SUGIMOTO THE IMMORTAL!""
- "Killing people sends you to hell? Then I guess they'll be rolling out the red carpet for me!"
- (To Asirpa) "I'm in it for the money. You're in it for revenge. Our destinations are different, but we are walking the same path. If we work together, we'll be unstoppable!"
- (To Asirpa)"During the war, I figured out the trick to staying alive. You don't let anybody kill you."
- (To Asirpa)"On the battlefield, you have to destroy your old self and rebuild yourself as a different person, or you won't be able to fight. If we hadn't managed to do that, we wouldn't survive."
- "I refuse to lay down and die! I'll survive, no matter what!"
- Sugimoto's name contains the kanji:
- (杉) Cedar
- (元) Source
- (佐) Support
- (一) First
- Sugimoto's given name Saichi is derived from his date of birth (March 1): the third (san) month and the first (ichi) day.
- Sugimoto likes dried persimmons and salted brains but dislikes ikanago no kugini and locust tsukudani.
- Sugimoto is based on two real-life figures:
- The first is a man also named Saichi Sugimoto, with a different kanji spelling (杉本佐一). The real life Sugimoto was in fact the great-grandfather of the series creator, Satoru Noda. He was a soldier of the 27th Regiment of the 7th Division and was celebrated as a war hero. The fictional Sugimoto has only borrowed the name of the real Sugimoto.
- The other was a soldier named Hiroshi Funasaka, who had received the title of "Immortal" after having survived many injuries including a shot to the neck and a hand grenade blast.
- Sugimoto doesn't like bugs.
- Sugimoto does like animals quite a bit, showing sympathy and reluctance to kill the horse that he used to escape the 7th division and being scared that Asirpa would kill the baby bear which he was hiding after its mother had died.
- It is still unknown when and how Sugimoto attained his iconic facial scar, but from what has been revealed of his past, Sugimoto got his scar sometime during the war.
- In 2018 Golden Kamuy All-Stars popularity poll Sugimoto ranked 1st, gaining 13,552 votes.
- When asked what occupation Golden Kamuy characters would have if they lived in the present time, Satoru Noda said Sugimoto would be an athlete representing Japan in a minor sport. 
- According to Golden Kamuy anime character reference sheet, Sugimoto's height is 175 cm (5'9).
- Sugimoto is older than Koito and Edogai, the same age as Tanigaki, Nikaidou and Ariko, and younger than Ogata.
- Sugimoto is shorter than Vasily, same height as Toni Anji and Wilk, and taller than Tsurumi and Koito.
- Sugimoto is lighter than Nihei, same weight as Vasily and Tsukishima, and heavier than Tsurumi.
- Sugimoto is a fan of Shoujo Sekai (少女世界, "Girls' World"), a magazine for girls and young women.
- Sugimoto is good at playing otedama, a traditional Japanese children's game.
- Sugimoto possesses abnormally high metabolism, which causes his injuries and burns to heal fast. This is also why he sweats easily and his skin is always damp.
- Sugimoto's family used to own a black cat. In Edo period in Japan, black cats were considered to be a good omen; it was believed that petting them could cure a person of tuberculosis or love woes.
- The repetitive nightmares, flashbacks to the war, feelings of guilt, and states of "freezing" that Sugimoto experiences could be explained by Sugimoto suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event.
|Main Group||Asirpa • Saichi Sugimoto • Yoshitake Shiraishi|
|Former Members||Cikapasi • Fusatarou Oosawa • Genjirou Tanigaki • Inkarmat • Kiroranke • Retar • Ryu • Vasily|
|Associates||Hajime Tsukishima • Hyakunosuke Ogata • Otonoshin Koito • Tatsuma Ushiyama|