Sugimoto Saichi (杉元佐一, Sugimoto Saichi) is the main protagonist of Golden Kamuy and a war veteran.
Sugimoto is a muscular Japanese man with spiky brown hair (avoided when he was in the army and had a standard buzz cut) and brown eyes with three scars on his face. Two of them are perpendicular and run all over his face, while the third one strays horizontally like a tree branch. His whole body is also covered with deep scars and great gains in battle. His countenance is serious and mature.
Year round, Sugimoto wears a kimono with the sleeves tied up by a tasuki and the back hem tucked in shirihashori style over a mandarin collar shirt. He also wears the military cap, trousers, and high boots that were part of his uniform during the Russo-Japanese War. In colder weather, he also wears a dark blue trench coat and a foreign made scarf.
Sugimoto is an incredibly kind but extremly ruthless and brutal man plagued by the war.
Sugimoto's foremost traits are his survival instinct and brutality. He never intends to die and is incredibly violent during a fight. When he has identified an enemy, he fights to kill and aims for the quickest, most brutal way to do so. Sugimoto has an infaillible determination to survive and will grab every chance to escape from danger, never despairing. The hunt for the gold has made him highly paranoid, and he always takes precautions that pay off when he is attacked.
However, Sugimoto is also a kind and valorous man. He wants to find the gold not for personal gain, but to pay for expensive eye treatment in America for his former love and best friend's widow, Umeko. Around children, Sugimoto is especially friendly and acts amiable toward everyone if he doesn't suspect foul play. Sugimoto doesn't hesitate to brave danger and often resists pain to fight.
Finally, Sugimoto hides many demons inside him. He has nightmares about the Russo-Japanese War and has low self-esteem, believing that his kills on the battlefield earned him a place in Hell. He feels guilty for not protecting his friend Toraji during the war. During his fight with Gansoku, Sugimoto, even in his berserker state, admits just how useless he is for not protecting those he cared about.
Sugimoto cares deeply about Asirpa and will get angry if something were to happen to her. Ever since having a part of his brain blown out by Ogata, Sugimoto will enter a berserker like state when pushed too far. However, he can be brought back to his senses when his body undergoes a drastic change; such as experiencing an instant change in temperature.
Background EditSaichi Sugimoto joined the 1st Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, where he was a member of the White Sash Brigade, that went on at least one night assault. He was one of the few survivors of the platoon and was resting at Port Arthur when Genjirou Tanigaki approached him. Sugimoto asked Tanigaki for some food, and noticed his Akita dialect, which tipped Tanigaki off to the whereabouts of Kenkichi Aoyama. Later, he along with his division, the 7th, the 9th, and the 11th division staged an assault on 203 Hill. During the battle, a Russian grenade was thrown at the Japanese force, but he was able to pick it up and throw it back to the other side where it exploded in a trench, killing several Russian soldiers. When Toraji died, Sugimoto carried his body to a sledge near Mukden in order for his wounds to be treated. However, when the 7th Division arrived with a couple of wounded soldiers that needed medical attention, Sugimoto took Toraji's body off of the sledge, telling them that they could use it and that Toraji had told him to "give priority to the ones that can be saved", covering his eyes and cradling his body.
Hunting starts Edit
At a river somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Hokkaido where Sugimoto is seen during peaceful times, prospecting for gold. Suddenly a middle-aged man drinking alcohol approaches him and asks him how his luck is. Sugimoto replies that he has had none and is frustated since he needs the money. The two then talk about Sugimoto’s time in the military and his reputation as “Sugimoto the Immortal”.
The old man then tells Sugimoto about the Ainu gold and how it came to be stolen by a certain man, which amounted to 20 kan (75 kg). That much money is easily worth 800,000 yen which would come to 8 million yen by modern value. The man hides the gold somewhere in Hokkaido but is then caught and sentenced to death in Abashiri Prison. As it would be difficult to get the gold outside to his friends, the man tattooed a coded location into several of the prisoners that had spent so much time suffering together. The prisoners were then transported to another location by several government soldiers, but they managed to kill them and ran away into the woods.
The drunken man then falls asleep claiming not to know what happened to the prisoners or the gold, or even where he heard it from. Sugimoto then begins to reminisce about his time with his best friend Toraji. Toraji is concerned about his wife Umeko and their child. He wants to help cure Umeko’s poor eyesight and asks Sugimoto to help. All of a sudden, Sugimoto sees that Toraji has become dismembered and wakes up from the nightmare only to see the drunken man pointing his gun at him.
The drunken man realizes that he has revealed something that he should not have said, and he and Sugimoto get into a fight. The drunken man then runs away and Sugimoto chases after him only to find him buried dead in snow. Sugimoto pulls his body out to find that his guts had been eaten by a brown bear along with a footprint nearby. As he examines the corpse, he finds that the drunken man is one of the prisoners from the story.
As Sugimoto begins to carry the body, he spots a baby bear in a tree followed by a roar from the mother bear. He tries to fight the bear but is quickly knocked down. Before the bear could do anything else, an arrow is shot at it, and Sugimoto turns to see that a young girl armed with a bow. The girl is able to kill the bear due to the poison infused in her arrows, but then they discover that it was not the mother bear who killed the man, but another brown bear. Sugimoto then tells the girl about the Ainu gold, and she believes him as her father is one of the Ainu that was killed in the story. Upon seeing the tattoo, the girl realizes that the man had no intention of sharing the gold, as the tattoo is wrapped around the bodies of the prisoners and it meant that they had to be killed and skinned to get the full map.
Before Sugimoto could do anything else, the girl suggests that they move on and prepare for the other brown bear to make its move.
(from chapter 70 onwards)
After the ordeal with the bears and the yakuza, Sugimoto smiles as Kiroranke proclaims that Asirpa's great-aunt would be happy to see her daughter's clothing again. When Dun gives Asirpa one of his bows and asks why they are taking Wakayama's tattoo, Sugimoto tells him that it is safer that he does not know the nature of the tattoo and that getting involved is a good way to get himself killed. Dun then takes out a book, which to Shiraishi's horror is made from a humans face, and explains its origin. He mentions that the thief who took the book had seen a skin with a very unusual tattoo. Outside the house, Sugimoto is looking back on all the tattoos that they have, and wonders if Tsurumi has already found more skins. He then decides to makes Yubari their next destination. (70)
Sugimoto's group drops by Huci's sister's kotan to stay the night and in preparation for dinner, he and Asirpa go out into the forest to harvest some plants. While they are grabbing some alpine leek, butterbur leaves and butterbur shoots, Asirpa tells him about the effects each plant has as well as how the Ainu people prepare for the summer and winter seasons. Upon returning to the kotan, they see Kiroranke and Shiraishi also coming back with some Masu salmon.
That night, they sit around a boiling pot of Icaniw ohaw and enjoy the meal together. After Asirpa falls asleep, Sugimoto asks if Kiroranke is concerned about his wife, to which he tells him that he believes she will be fine. Shiraishi wonders what the stuff on his face is, and Sugimoto says that it is medicine that Asirpa gave him to help his scars heal, but he does not mind if he has them. When Kiroranke says that Asirpa might like how his face looked before, Shiraishi questions if Sugimoto has "someone special" back home. Immediately, Umeko comes to his mind and he remains silent, which Shiraishi notes but Kiroranke tells him to lay off him. The next morning, the party says their farewell to Huci's sister and sets off for their next destination. (73)
The group manages to reach the town of Yubari, where Asirpa tries to sell the bear's gall bladder to a buyer. When the buyer tries to swindle her, Sugimoto and Kiroranke approach him menacingly and intimidate him. Shiraishi tries to keep things peaceful, but Sugimoto just keeps hitting him and continues to threaten the buyer. Afterwards, they head to a nearby river and have fun splashing around, and also capturing some lamprey to eat. When Asirpa catches a brook lamprey with her foot, Sugimoto attempts to catch one too, but instead grabs Shiraishi's toe, which causes him to fall over and have a lamprey attached to his head. With that, they huddle around a campfire and enjoy their meal of unaju made with lamprey.
Later on, Sugimoto is scouting around Yubari with Shiraishi when they spot Sergeant Tsukishima and decides to tail him to the Edogai store. Upon arriving, they see Tsukishima run out but decide to investigate the store. As Sugimoto looks around and warns Shiraishi to be careful, the latter approaches him saying that there might've been a trap and that they should chase after the soldier. The two of them look around town in order to find Tsukishima and upon seeing him rolling away in a mine cart, Sugimoto proclaims that they should find another cart to ride in.
Sugimoto and Shiraishi continue their pursuit of Tsukishima and Edogai, with the former shooting at them. The two carts ride into the Yubari mines as Sugimoto and Tsukishima trade gunfire. Eventually, Sugimoto's cart was able to catch up to the other cart and they attempt to board it but Tsukishima activates a switch which causes their cart to go down a separate track. However they are thrown from their cart when a nearby explosive detonates. They attempt to flee the mines but are caught in a windblast which causes another larger explosion. Sugimoto is able to retain his consciousness and tries to carry Shiraishi, who had fallen unconscious to safety. Despite Sugimoto's bravado, he is affected by the gas in the mines and he collapses to the ground.
He continues to make his way through the mine until he finds a boarded up exit and attempts to break it with his rifle. He was able to make a small opening and took Shiraishi's head to it so that he can receive some fresh air, saying that they'd be in trouble if he died. Just then, Ushiyama came barging in through the wall and carried the both of them outside. After drinking some fresh water, he asks Ushiyama why he is here. Ushiyama replies that he came to Yubari with another person who had gotten split up and that he was looking for him when he spotted Sugimoto and Shiraishi riding in a mine cart. The person in question approached them, saying that they have no choice but to bring them along. Upon seeing Ogata, Sugimoto expressed surprised that he is with Ushiyam now.
Ogata takes them back to the Edogai store where he revealed the bodies of the men who had been skinned to make fake tattoos, much to Sugimoto's shock. Ogata confirms that the taxidermist who had made them died and that Tsukishima may still be alive, which means that the fake skins might be in circulation now. They are then approached by Hijikata, carrying a cat and a tattooed skin saying that they must find a way to discern whether or not the skin is real.
Sugimoto says that he feels like he's seen Hijikata somewhere before and asks if they've met, to which Shiraishi vehemently denies and introduces the Shinsengumi Vice-Commander to everyone. He then asks Kiroranke if Hijikata is the man that came to his village, and he confirms it. Sugimoto asks Hijikata if Noppera-Bou trusted him and came to him with a plan to arm the Ainu people and start a war of independence before wondering if Noppera-Bou really is an Ainu. As Sugimoto continues questioning Hijikata, Asirpa is about to say something which causes Hijikata to threaten Sugimoto's group to join up or fight. Upon this, Sugimoto reaches for his sword but they are interrupted by Shinpachi Nagakura who implores them to sell the skins and lead quiet lives at home. Sugimoto thinks about Umeko and says that they needed to meet Noppera-Bou to confirm something.
The tense mood is broken by Asirpa's growling stomach and Ienaga comes in suggesting to eat. Later, the two groups sit at a table over some nanko nabe and Sugimoto remarks that it's amazing that a group of people like them were able to team up before making a jab at Ogata. Ienaga says that she might know someone who may be able to help them and speaks about a counterfeit artist named Chouan Kumagishi. Some time later, Sugimoto heads out with Asirpa and Ushiyama to find Tsukishima's body, but are unable to locate it.
They return to the store to find that it has been set on fire, and Ushiyama breaks the bars off the window, saving Ienaga in the process and alliowng Sugimoto to head inside and assist Ogata and Hijikata. Once Ogata had given them enough time, the three of them exits the store and agrees to split up into two groups and meet again at Kabato Prison in Tsukigata. When Hijikata says that Noppera-Bou might answer their questions since Asirpa is his daughter, Sugimoto that he does not care what other people does with the money so long as he gets his share and that he wishes to watch over Asirpa until she can find the truth about her father. Back in the town of Yubari, Sugimoto makes his preparations to head straight to Tsukigata along with Asirpa, Ushiyama, and Ogata.
They take an off route path into a forest to avoid being spotted by anyone who can alert the 7th Division to their position. Asirpa calls out to Sugimoto to spot some woodcocks and he asks if they taste good, to which she says their brains do. They set up some traps but the next day, they were only able to catch two which Sugimoto says that it might not be enough to feed everyone. When Ogata comes up and drops 3 birds that he had shot down, Sugimoto says he must've gotten worked up over Asirpa's word, but is instantly shut down when Asirpa says that he is jealous of Ogata's aim. They take out the brains and as Asirpa begs Ushiyama to eat them, Sugimoto just eats it without any hesitance but is surprised when Ogata declines it. Afterwards, they eat the ohaw and Sugimoto finds himself moved by an Ainu religious love poem that Asirpa tells them.
They spent at least one night sleeping in the forest. Sugimoto asks Asirpa if they've met Hijikata before but sees that she's fast asleep already. He is startled by some movements in the bush but sees that it was just Ogata. The next day, the group wakes up and continues on their journey, coming across an Ainu kotan. Sugimoto jokingly asks Asirpa if she has any relatives here but she says she has none and that it is her first time coming here. They are greeted by an Ainu man, whose Japanese Sugimoto notes as being good. The Ainu man tells them that he worked for some Japanese people, helping them pan for gold and unloading and carrying their cargo. Ushiyama then points out a cage behind them, and Sugimoto turns around to see that the bear is too big to fit in the cage.
Sugimoto asks the man about the bear cage, and he says the bear grew up too fast and that they will move it. He then introduces himself as Ekurok and says that his "father" Retanno Ekasi is the leader and that they should ask him for permission to stay. Upon arriving at Retanno Ekasi's house, Sugimoto tells Ushiyama and Ogata about several Ainu customs that they have to follow to show good manners. They are led inside by an Ainu man and are greeted by the elder who begins to gesture. However, they are interrupted by Asirpa which catches everyone by surprise.
Ekurok asks about her and Sugimoto says that she is their guide to visit and stay at Ainu villages. When Ekurok begins to introduce his family, they are once again interrupted by Asirpa who says she has to go to the bathroom. Sugimoto apologizes for her behavior and wonders what's gotten into her but Ekurok says he is not bothered by it and sends his brother to guide her. After Ekurok's Brother has left, Ogata asks them about what Asirpa says, but the two men just remained silent with a grim look on their faces.
When Ogata became suspicious about their hosts, Sugimoto argued with him, showing off Ekurok's large earlobes as evidence of him being Ainu. They are interrupted by an Ainu woman who yells something at them before being carried away. When Monoa repeats what the woman had said, and fed up with Ogata's skepticism, Sugimoto takes out a kisarri that he found and had both Ushiyama and Retanno Ekasi perform with it. Upon seeing Retanno Ekasi's demonstration, Ogata takes the kisarri and hits Retanno Ekasi's pinky toe, causing him to scream in Japanese. Despite this, Sugimoto still continues to defend them until Ekurok's Brother returned. When Sugimoto asked about Asirpa, he was able to see through his lies, and hit him with the kisarri and asked where he took her. Upon finally realizing the true nature of these men, Sugimoto lets out an angry roar.
Sugimoto asks where Ekurok's Brother took Asirpa but he threatens to have her killed if he does not drop his weapon. In response, Sugimoto shoves the kisarri into his mouth and twists it around, breaking his neck and killing him in the process. Ogata hands him his rifle and after loading it, Sugimoto heads out where he is confronted by two convicts. He easily dispatches the both of them and continues on his search for Asirpa. As he moves around the village, he comes into contact with several more convicts, but easily defeats them all. When he finally finds Asirpa, Kumagishi pokes his head out from a house which causes Sugimoto to aim his rifle at him. Before he could shoot, Asirpa reveals that the man is Kumagishi and he asks why he is here. Just then, an arrow flies past Sugimoto and hits Kumagishi who groans in pain.
As Kumagishi falls to his knees, Sugimoto shoots the convict that had shot Kumagishi, killing him. Sugimoto takes a look at his arrowhead and noticed that it has poison on it. Asirpa says that there is nothing they can do since the poison is now in Kumagishi's stomach. Kumagishi attempts to tell them clues on how to find evidences in counterfeit pieces with his dying breath as he passes away. Sugimoto and Asirpa steps outside and Sugimoto places his hand on Asirpa's shoulder, asking if she is not hurt and if they did anything horrible to her.
Sugimoto's Group and the Ainu women begins burying all the dead convicts and as they covered Kumagishi's body, Sugimoto exclaimed that he cannot believe that Kumagishi was pretending to be an Ainu and that Hijikata's Group must've realized that Kumagishi isn't in Kabato and that they would never dream they were burying him. Once they had finished burying the bodies, the Ainu women and children invites Sugimoto's Group to eat their harvest of turep and they help them prepare the food. Once the food is ready, Sugimoto's Group eats their reward and finds it to be delicious.
Once they had finished eating and enjoyed themselves, they surrounded Kiyohiro Suzukawa and deliberated on what they should do with him. Ogata thinks he'll just be a pain and wants to have him killed and skinned but Suzukawa pleads for his life saying that he has information on the other Abashiri convicts. When Ogata says that he might be lying, Sugimoto reassures that if he lies to them, he'll pull his tongue out. He then decides to take Suzukawa with them as they are in a hurry and will talk with Hijikata about what to do with him. He and Suzukawa carries Ushiyama away when he wants to stay in the kotan to help repopulate the village and the group says their farewells to the Ainu women.
When they finally reach Tsukigata, Ogata says that Suzukawa is a letdown and that he seems like too much of a small fry to be locked up in Abashiri. Suzukawa retorts that he is a con artist who uses his head over brute force to get what he wants but Sugimoto finds it hard to believe that he could fool anyone with his appearance. He is immediately shut down when Suzukawa says that he easily and completely fell for his Ainu village chief act. Upon meeting up with Nagakura, Sugimoto is startled by how much Nagakura and Suzukawa resemble each other. Nagakura tells them he has two pieces of bad news, that Kumagishi is dead and they are surprised that he already knew, and that Shiraishi has been captured by the 7th Division.
Once Hijikata and Kiroranke returned from their mission and informed the rest of them that they had failed to rescue Shiraishi, everyone thought about what to do before deciding to leave Shiraishi to his fate since they already had a copy of his tattoo. However, Sugimoto refuses and says that he wants to save Shiraishi and pulls over Suzukawa, saying that they could use his skills as a con artist.
In the middle of his rampage, Sugimoto hears a gunshot which was caused by Cikapasi and Enonoka rescuing the latter's dog. As the Ainu kids head back to regroup with the others, Sugimoto runs into them but Cikapasi notices something is wrong with him and tells Enonoka to keep going as Sugimoto begins to chase after them. A wolverine runs towards them and causes Cikapasi to fall off the skis, but Sugimoto manages to stop the wild animal and tries to fight with it. However, the wolverine is killed by Tanigaki and Cikapasi and Sugimoto then turns his sight towards Gansoku who approaches him saying that he has some unfinished business to settle with him.
As Sugimoto fights with Gansoku, Gansoku says that there is so much anger in his fists but it is not directed towards him and asks him just why he is angry. Sugimoto, thinking about Toraji, Umeko, and Asirpa, begins to cry and says just how useless he is. Just then, Tanigaki, Tsukishima, and Koito steps in to stop the fight, but the ice is unable to withstand their combined weight and breaks, plunging them all into the freezing water. The frigid temperature finally brings Sugimoto back to his senses as he climbs out and heads into the nearby banya to warm up his body.
In the banya, Koito asks him what his brilliant plan was but Sugimoto states that he cannot remember. He then turns towards Gansoku and says that he does not want to kill him but regardless someone will still be after him. Sugimoto suggests that they make a copy of his tattoo and once they find the gold, Gansoku's life will no longer be in danger. Gansoku admits to his idea and tells Sugimoto that he had heard Asirpa's name before since she was with Shiraishi, a man whom he recognized as another tattooed convict. Sugimoto begins to ask about Asirpa and if she said anything, and Gansoku stated that the young Ainu girl had spoken about him. Gansoku relayed that Asirpa believes that Sugimoto is still alive, which brought a smile to Sugimoto's face.
Gansoku decides to take Sugimoto and Tsukishima's advice to leave Karafuto and said his farewells to the soldiers as they watch him walk away. When Koito asks if it really is alright to let the tattooed convict go without consulting Tsurumi, Tsukishima says that Tsurumi has left all the decision making to him. He then turns to Sugimoto and says that that included what to do with him, and that if Sugimoto were to lose control again and go past the point of no return, he will kill him.
Sugimoto's group arrives in a Karafuto Ainu village located to the east of Toyohara and Odomari and Sugimoto says that they should stay in the village for the day despite Koito's complaints about continuing further to Toyohara to stay at a wonderful inn. They eventually reach Toyohara where Sugimoto's bag is taken by a young boy, so Sugimoto, Tsukishima, and Koito chases after the thief. Tsukishima asks Sugimoto if Gansoku's tattoo is in his bag to which he confirmed it before Tsukishima decides to split up so as to catch the thief between them. However, Sugimoto is unable to keep up as the boy scales to the roofs with the nimble Koito just behind him. Sugimoto regroups with Tsukishima when they hear a couple of gunfires shot by Koito who had found the thief.
The boy and his master bows to the soldiers in apology but Sugimoto says that it is alright and that they aren't going to make a big deal out of the incident. The master continues to apologize, saying that the boy would just cause more trouble before taking out his sword, which he cuts the boy with. In response, Sugimoto punches the master but they quickly find out that it was just fake blood as part of a magic trick. The master, introducing himself as Yamada and the boy as Choukichi, reveals that they are part of the Yamada Circus Troupe and are performers. This gives Sugimoto an idea to join their act so as to send the message to Asirpa that he is alive, by having the whole town of Toyohara talk about his show.
However, Yamada refuses Sugimoto's suggestion since it would mean revealing how their tricks are done to an outsider. In response Sugimoto says he will turn Choukichi over to the police but Yamada is unswayed by Sugimoto's threat. Sugimoto then swears that he has no intention of becoming a performer and to take his secret with him to the grave. Yamada finally relents after Choukichi's recommendation and Sugimoto's Group are taken into their tent to watch them perform some of their acts.
Sugimoto's Group are then given a chance to try out the performances themselves but other than Koito, all of them perform poorly at every tricks and Sugimoto is relegated to doing the harakiri show. When he sees Koito is getting all the praises, Sugimoto tells him to tone down his act since he needs to be the one to get his name out but Koito thinks he is just being jealous, causing him to get yelled at by Sugimoto.
Sugimoto and Cikapasi watches as Yamada shows them how the harakiri act is done and Sugimoto is given an opportunity to practice it but his exaggerating and bad acting causes Yamada to become concerned. He then notices that Koito has been doing well at his own act and Sugimoto argues with him but is shut down by Koito's words. Sugimoto turns back to Yamada and suggests a roller skating performance but is instantly declined due to sounding too silly. At Yamada's behest, Sugimoto continues to practice the harakiri act until the day of the troupe's showtime.
As the Karafuto show goes underway, Sugimoto expresses jealousy at Koito's success and popularity with the crowd. When Koito sees a photograph of Tsurumi and chases after it, thus interfering with the other ongoing acts before majestically catching it, Sugimoto is flabbergasted that the crowd is amused by the error. Later on, Sugimoto prepares to perform the harakiri act, unaware that Koito has switched the fake sword with a real one.
As Sugimoto prepares to cut himself, he constantly stalls until Enonoka tells him to hurry up. Upon cutting himself, he finds that the pain and blood is real and looking around, sees Koito and Tsukishima with the fake blade. He then realizes that the sword in his hand is real but decides to continue on with the performance for the sake of the show. Sugimoto prepares to slice his stomach but just then, a couple of Russian men comes onto the stage and points a gun at him. Sugimoto is quick to react and cuts down the Russian and throws the sword at the other man. The whole crowd is enthralled by this event, believing that it was all part of the show. Yamada then has the whole troupe head out for the final bow so that they can recover the bodies.
Sugimoto's Group interrogates a lone Russian man whom Tsukishima had knocked out and finds that they were hired by the Russian government and sent to kill Yamada. Yamada reveals that he used to be a spy for the Imperial Army and that he had been gathering intelligence about Russia since before the war began. Fumie comes in, insulting Yamada by calling him a third rate spy and assassinates the Russian, saying that they will bury the Russians beneath the tent and leave the next morning.
The next day, Tsukishima is able to obtain a newspaper piece about their performances and when Sugimoto sees a typo about him, he throws a tantrum over it. Tsukishima reveals their purpose to Yamada and upon hearing the word "partisan", tells them about a town up north which Alexandrovskaya Prison stood with members of a partisan group being held there. Sugimoto's Group believes that is where Kiroranke will eventually head to and Sugimoto also believes that Asirpa has already found out that he is still alive.
Sugimoto's group uses Enonoka's dogs sleds to travel north towards the national border but they are hit by a heavy snowstorm, limiting their view. When Ryu begins to move out of the line, Sugimoto yells at him to get back in formation. Tanigaki wonders if there is a reason why Ryu did that but Sugimoto says that he is just a hunting dog that isn't used to pulling sleds. They soon realize that they had been separated from the others when they hear a gunshot in the distance and Sugimoto asks where it came from, with Cikapasi pointing in the general direction. Tanigaki fires off a gunshot as well but Sugimoto says that they need to find shelter first so that they can get out of the wind. However, they quickly discern that they are in dire situation as Sugimoto says that they will die if they don't do something.
Sugimoto and Tanigaki attempts to dig a hole in the ground, but finds that it has been frozen solid. Tanigaki says that they will have to endure the blizzard with what they have and that they should break up the dog sled, which they used to make a small makeshift shelter as well as some wood for fire. Once Tanigaki was able to get one started, he immediately covers it up, much to Sugimoto's confusion. Tanigaki tells him that a buried fire can burn slowly, which can keep them warm for a long time. However, Tanigaki says that it won't be enough and gets the sled dogs to huddle around them.
Tanigaki gives Sugimoto and Cikapasi some of his kane mochi, saying that whether you eat or not can make a huge difference in regulating body temperature during a snowstorm. Sugimoto notes that it tastes familiar, but Tanigaki laughs at him, saying that it is his own secret recipe which he adjusted. They hear a gunshot in the distance but Tanigaki explained that a raging blizzard can distort their sense of direction, so there is no guarantee of heading in the actual direction that the sound came from.
As they waited in the blizzard, Sugimoto begins to close his eyes but Tanigaki yells at him not to fall asleep as he will die. Sugimoto then has a flashback about Toraji and fighting against the Russians until a bright light shines upon him. He opened his eyes to see a light in the distance and wonders if it is the moon. But Tanigaki says that since they snuck into Abashiri exactly two months ago, it shouldn't be that large. They then notice the light flickering and realizes that it is not the moon but the light from a lighthouse.
With the light ftom the lighthouse, Sugimoto, Tanigaki, and Cikapasi makes their way to a home owned by an elderly Russian couple who allows them to use the space above the pechka to warm themselves up. Tsukishima tells them that they are lucky to be alive as the lighthouse had not been in use since the Russo-Japanese War and if the couple had not been there, they would have frozen to death.
Once they had recovered from the cold, Sugimoto and Tanigaki helps Enonoka's grandfather make another sled to replace the one they had used for firewood. Tanigaki notes Ryu's behavior during the snowstorm and Sugimoto pets Ryu, apologizing to the dog for doubting him. When Koito gets a hammer frozen to his hand, Tsukishima says that it is due to the cold temperature and calls for someone to urinate on the hammer so he can get it off, which Sugimoto volunteers to do so as he chases Koito outside.
Sometime later, Sugimoto's group enjoys a homemade meal by the Russian couple and when Tsukishima says that the couple are happy to have a lively table since it has been only the two of them, Sugimoto asks if they don't have any other family members and Koito points to a picture of a woman, asking if she is their daughter. The Russian couple tells them that their daughter had been taken by some Russian army deserters and that they had been waiting for her to return. Sugimoto says that the lighthouse had been here due to what happened to their daughter and that it ended up saving their lives and then asks if he could borrow a picture of their daughter.
When they had finished eating, Sugimoto's group prepares to leave and the Russian lady asks Sugimoto to find their daughter. Sugimoto tells Tsukishima that they will be asking around about the daughter at the places that they stop at and that he knows while their original goal is their top priority, he wishes to repay the Russian couple. He then turns back to the Russian lady and tells her that he put a photo of Asirpa in the frame and asks them to pass a message that she is alive to her if she ever stops by the lighthouse. As they finally depart the lighthouse, the Russian couple are confused to find an unusual photo of Sugimoto in the frame.
Sugimoto's group comes to a Karafuto Ainu village in the Niitoi region where Sugimoto asks some of the local children if they had seen Asirpa or the Russian couple's daughter, Svetlana. Later, as they were resting in a hut, Sugimoto hears Cikapasi and Enonoka talking about a meko oyasi which Tsukishima was able to figure out to be a lynx based off of Enonoka's description. Koito wonders if they are talking about Ogata and if they had caught up to Asirpa's group.
When Sugimoto wonders about the relationship between Ogata and the lynx, Tsukishima tells him that it is a slang term for "geisha" and that it is a pathetic joke passed around their division, to which Sugimoto agrees with. Koito tells Sugimoto about Ogata's personality and that he hates him, saying that a lynx can also refer to a fraud or deceiving people. Sugimoto listens solemnly as Koito says that if he sees a thieving cat, then he should shoot to kill it.
Sugimoto takes out the copy of Gansoku's tattoo and stares at it, thinking back to when he and Asirpa obtained their first tattooed skin and teaching her how to read the Japanese letters. Tsukishima asks him if he realized something and Koito says that Sugimoto wouldn't be able to solve the tattoo's code since he is an idiot, to which Sugimoto fires back saying that he did realize something but won't tell them what it is. They hear a loud commotion from outside and Sugimoto's Group checks to see an escaped killer has taken Enonoka captive.
Enraged, Sugimoto charges at the killer and attempts to counter the killer's attack but is struck in the neck by his knife. However, Cikapasi had put his makiri pouch on the knife, which had saved Sugimoto's throat from being slit as he grabbed the killer's head and kneed him in the face. He pulls Enonoka away, calling her "Asirpa" and takes out his own knife to execute the killer but is stopped by a couple of Ainu men.
The Ainu apologizes to Sugimoto's Group for the trouble, as they had accidentally let the killer flee from them and Sugimoto says that if they had not stopped him, he could've killed the killer since the Ainu does not have the death penalty. The Ainu reveals that they have their own ways of dealing with criminals, by stabbing needles into their eyes and burying them alive in a bottomless casket. As Koito and Tsukishima talks about the Ainu's view on murder, Sugimoto stares off into the distance.
Sugimoto's Group makes their way to an Orok settlement where they receive some clues about Asirpa, causing Sugimoto to be relieved. When Koito runs off to chase a little reindeer, Sugimoto suggests that they should put a reindeer collar on him, much to Koito's displeasure and Tsukishima's curiosity. Inside the tent, Sugimoto says that Akou Prison isn't far now and that Asirpa must be close so they should hurry. Cikapasi and Enonoka notices some carved statues in the tent and Sugimoto's Group wonders what kind of animal it is, with Sugimoto thinking it is a dog. Afterwards, Sugimoto's Group sets out for Akou Prison. As they got closer to the prison, they hear a loud explosion and sees smoke flowing in the distance. Using his binoculars, Tsukishima tells everyone that the smoke is coming from Akou Prison.
Upon arriving at Akou Prison, they find that they are too late as Asirpa's Group has already left, however Tsukishima says that they must be close. Sugimoto then has Ryu sniff out Asirpa's scent from her makiri knife and tells Koito, who is skeptical about Asirpa's Group's escape route, that he believes in the dog now. Suddenly, Cikapasi and Enonoka screams and the adults turns around to see an Amur tiger emerging from the hole in the prison's wall. Tanigaki and Tsukishima both shoots at the tiger, being able to scare it away.
Sugimoto's Group attempts to look for Asirpa's Group but their sleds are unable to maneuver across the drift ice as it has become too rough and uneven and Tanigaki warns that the weather might get worse, saying that it would be too dangerous to go after Asirpa's Group. However, Sugimoto is adamant that Asirpa is close and cuts Ryu's leash to go look for her. Sometime later, Sugimoto finds Shiraishi about to fall into the freezing water when his ice platform collapses and manages to save him, grabbing his hand as he greets Shiraishi. Shiraishi jumps onto Sugimoto with tears and snot coming out from his face as he exclaims Sugimoto really is immortal.
Sugimoto shakes Shiraishi, asking where Asirpa is and Shiraishi reassures him that Asirpa is with him and that she is just up ahead. Sugimoto smiles, in relief to hear that Asirpa is nearby but immediately sours up when he hears that Kiroranke and Ogata are also on the drift ice. Shiraishi tells him that it was Ogata who told him and Asirpa that Sugimoto had died but Sugimoto reveals that it was Ogata who had shot both him and Asirpa's father and that he and Kiroranke were accomplices. Sugimoto declares that they will get Asirpa back as he, Shiraishi, and Ryu looks for her. They hear a loud explosion off in the distance and Sugimoto wonders what the sound was but Shiraishi ignores it, saying that he has to pee.
As they run around the drift ice, Sugimoto says that they should hurry since the heavy snow and wind would be able to give them a cover to get closer to Asirpa's Group. Suddenly, the ice below him begins to break, and Shiraishi jumps into Sugimoto, warning him about the drift ice movement. They then find that the ice platform that they are on is drifting away and Sugimoto tells Shiraishi to strip and jump into the water to push the ice, but Shiraishi refuses, telling Sugimoto to do it himself. Sugimoto decides to uses the hoparata technique that he learned from Asirpa, which causes them to move backwards back onto the mainland, as Sugimoto exclaims that Asirpa's teachings had saved them. Some time later, Sugimoto manages to find Ogata pointing his rifle at Asirpa, and gets visibly furious.
Sugimoto roars at Ogata but his scream startles Asirpa who had her bow pointed at Ogata and releases the bowstring holding the poisoned arrow in its notch. The arrow hits Ogata in his right eye and as he falls to the ground, Sugimoto runs towards him, grabbing his head and taking out a pocket knife with which he uses to carve out Ogata's eye. Sugimoto then sucks the poison out from Ogata's eyesocket, telling him that he will not die like this and that Asirpa won't become a killer. As he wraps Ogata's head with a piece of cloth, he tells Ogata that his death will have nothing to do with the young Ainu girl.
Sugimoto notices the ice below them breaking and he calls out to Asirpa, snapping her from the shock of having severely wounded Ogata, telling her to take his hand as he reaches out to her. Asirpa jumps towards Sugimoto, saying his name and the two of them embraces each other as Asirpa states that she knew he was alive all along and Sugimoto reminds her of his title. Sugimoto says that she seems to be doing well and wonders if she got a little heavier before asking if she can stand since they need to get moving. Asirpa says that she cannot move away and Sugimoto thinks she is still being emotional, reminding her that they have to go after Kiroranke.
Asirpa reveals that her eyelid is frozen to his jacket's metal button and Sugimoto tells Asirpa not to move or else she might rip her eyelid off. He then calls out to Shiraishi to come and urinate on the both of them, shocking Asirpa. Sugimoto asks if he can do it and Shiraishi reveals that his bladder is full and begins to urinate on them, managing to free Asirpa from Sugimoto's button. Asirpa tells Shiraishi that it is enough with a disgusted look on her face and Shiraishi turns to Sugimoto, asking if he is crying but Sugimoto denies it, saying that the fluid on his face is just his urine. Sugimoto carries an unconscious Ogata on his back as he, Asirpa, and Shiraishi manages to find Kiroranke who had been defeated by Koito, Tanigaki, and Tsukishima. He remains silent as Asirpa spends some final time with Kiroranke, thanking him for getting her memories to return before Kiroranke passes away from his wounds.
Sugimoto and the others stays quiet as Shiraishi buries Kiroranke and when Asirpa says that she wanted to hear directly from Kiroranke's mouth why her father had to die, Tanigaki tells her what Inkarmat had said, that Kiroranke told her that Wilk had changed and betrayed his comrades. However, Sugimoto says that right before Wilk was shot and killed, he confessed that he was not the one who killed the Ainu. As Asirpa wonders where Sofia is, Sugimoto takes his binoculars out and sees Svetlana, identifying her as the daughter of the lighthouse couple. Asirpa sees another person in the distance and both she and Sugimoto ignores Koito's demands, running off to find the person.
Upon getting closer, they hear some violent sounds and Sugimoto thinks it is a fight. They peer around the block of ice and sees Gansoku fending off a couple of Akou prisoners, upon which they immediately turned around, pretending to not see anything. However, Gansoku follows them back and helps carry Tsukishima, who is suffering from a neck injury. When Asirpa continues to look around for Sofia, Sugimoto asks if they should come back and look for her after dropping the injured off at Akou. However, Asirpa says that she knows that they will meet Sofia again. Sugimoto then returns her makiri knife to her and they prepare to go back to Hokkaido.
Sugimoto's Group stops by a Nivkh settlement near Akou so that they can rest from their battle against Kiroranke. In a to ryv, a Nivkh winter home, the soldiers discusses Ogata's motives in working together with Kiroranke. Tanigaki says that he cannot imagine that Ogata was sympathetic to the cause of independence for ethnic minority and Koito suggests that he was simply doing it to get his hands on the Ainu gold. Sugimoto says that he hopes that that is the case so that he can kill Ogata without hesitation.
Some time later, Gansoku and Svetlana says their farewells to Sugimoto's Group as they cross over the continent and Sugimoto tells Asirpa that she should let Huci know that she is doing well. However, Asirpa says that Tsurumi might not let her return to the kotan and Sugimoto thinks so as well, but since all Tsurumi needs is the key to the tattoo code, that would make him a better choice than Hijikata. Asirpa is confused by his statement and asks him if her father had told him anything else. Sugimoto thinks about Wilk's purpose for Asirpa and lies to her, saying that he did not.
Asirpa says that if she finds the gold, she may be able to find out why her father died and asks Sugimoto if he will continue to cooperate with Tsurumi. Sugimoto begrudgingly says that he will since Tsurumi has taken all of their tattooed skins and that he is the closest one to finding the gold, which is still his main goal. Asirpa notes that this means they are walking the same path again and the two of them renew their partnership contract as Sugimoto swears to free Asirpa from the fight over the gold.
As a former soldier, Sugimoto is proficient in hand-to-hand combat, demonstrating a mastery of Judo in particular, knowledgeable of military strategies and weaponry. During the battle of 203 hill, Sugimoto was extremely fierce, killing many Russians by charging into their trench while under fire and attacking with reckless abandon after being shot in the neck. Whenever he fights several enemies, Sugimoto looks for the most efficient way of ending his opponent, often very violently while disregarding the wounds he suffers at the same time. He has an incredible tolerance of pain that is almost impossible for a human being, surviving ferocious fights with bears, soldiers and explosions, among others, usually ending with further mutilation of his body. However, his survival in the series is directly linked to Sugimoto's quick recovery from many injuries that would be lethal to most people, demonstrating his body's abnormally high capacity for self-healing. This high healing factor is also shown by Sugimoto only attaining new scars after grievous injuries which remove flesh, with there being no visible scar on his face after removing the wooden sticks that Lt. Tsurimi stabbed through Sugimoto's cheeks. This trait that so far seems to be unique to Sugimoto, coupled with Sugimoto's indomitable spirit and refusal to die while actively throwing himself into incredibly dangerous situations has earned him the epithet 'Immortal'.
Also after spending much time in the wilderness with Asirpa throughout the events of the series, Sugimoto has become quite adept at surviving in the wild.
Sugimoto's name contains the words:
- (杉) Cedar
- (元) Source
- (佐) Support
- (一) First
- Sugimoto likes dried persimmons and salted brains but dislikes Ikanago no kugini.
- 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 had 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 after leaving his home, during the war. It is already present during the battle of 203 hill but not present while speaking to Toraji in his hometown.
- Sugimoto's family died from an outbreak of smallpox before the war with the Russians, making him the last surviving member of his family
- It seems that Sugimoto's only reason for initially searching for and wanting a share of the gold for himself is to take his childhood lover and Toraji's widow, Umeko, to the United States of America so that she can have surgery to fix her diminishing eye sight.
- Fixing Umeko's eyesight was Toraji's last wish before dying and Sugimoto has now taken it upon himself to fulfill that wish
- Sugimoto last spoke to Umeko just before leaving his village to quarantine himself and to prevent spreading smallpox to Umeko or anyone else. He last saw her briefly a year or two later upon returning to his village, but chose not to speak to her as she had seemed to move on and was about to marry Toraji.
- Umeko's status is unknown. Toraji was telling Sugimoto of her worsening eyesight during the battle of 203 hill and though there is no indication that she has died, Sugimoto has not checked on her status after the war and during the events of the series so far.
"During the war, I figured the trick to staying alive. You don't let anybody kill you."
"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'M IMMORTAL SUGIMOTO!"