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The 8 Hokages From Naruto Explained

"Naruto" is a show about a young ninja with something to prove, and many of his exploits are centered around his hometown of Konohagakure no Sato. The meaning of this name, and its English translation, is The Hidden Leaf Village. In the world of Naruto, the land in which the story takes place is home to five great shinobi countries. These countries are the main political and military powers, named for the dominant chakra type in that area: Earth, Fire, Lightning, Water, and Wind. Each country has its own Hidden Village led by a Kage (Shadow), where the ninja of that country are born and trained.

Konohagakure is the Hidden Village of the Land of Fire, making its Kage the Hokage, or Fire Shadow. The Hokage is generally considered to be the strongest current ninja in the village and is responsible for education and the allocation of missions. They also dictate foreign and domestic policy, strongly influencing the day-to-day lives of the village citizens. There have been eight Hokage in the village's history, and each has been a leading figure in the history of the continent and the story of "Naruto."

With a rich in-universe history that spans over 950 episodes, when you include "Boruto: Naruto Next Generations," we won't pretend "Naruto" isn't a long show. It's enough to make most people give up before they've even begun, but if you give the lore a chance, there's a high possibility that you'll get hooked. Let's get you started by brushing up on your Hokage history.

1. The First Hokage, Hashirama Senju

Before the Hidden Villages come into being, the world of "Naruto" is in the midst of its own Warring States Period, a time of clan warfare inspired by Japan's era of the same name. Two of the strongest warring clans in the Land of Fire are the Senju clan and the Uchiha clan, and their brutal and bloody clashes lead to the deaths of many children on the battlefield. Despite this, two young sons of the clans, Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha, manage to develop a bond that leads to a peace treaty in their adulthood.

This peace treaty spurs the creation of the first Hidden Village, Konohagakure, with the aim of ending the Warring States Period and protecting children from a life of battle. This is the first time opposing clans would come together to live in peace, and its founding inspires the other Great Shinobi Countries to set up their own Hidden Villages soon after. Although he intends Madara to become the First Hokage, the position actually goes to Hashirama after a democratic vote.

Hashirama is considered one of the strongest shinobi in history, and famous for his use of the unique Wood Release technique, with which he grows and manipulates wood and plants at will. Though dead long before Naruto's birth, Hashirama, along with the other Hokage, is resurrected multiple times throughout the series to play a part in current affairs. Hashirama's debut in the anime is also through resurrection during the Konoha Crush arc, starting in episode 69.

2. The Second Hokage, Tobirama Senju

Tobirama Senju is the brother of the First Hokage and chosen by Hashirama as his successor. This begins a tradition of Hokage choosing their own successors, despite the position initially being created through a democratic vote. Unlike his brother, Tobirama is calm, collected, and logical in character. He never trusts Madara the way his brother did.

However, he honors the promise he made to Hashirama to not mistreat the Uchiha, by creating the Konoha Military Police Force and putting the Uchiha in charge of it. Tobirama also creates other important and lasting institutions and traditions for the village, including the Academy, the Chunin Exams, and the Anbu Black Ops. The Hidden Villages of the other Great Shinobi Countries also adopt these institutions, which eventually leads to merging training exercises and exams between the different Academies.

One of Tobirama's most iconic skills is his mastery of Water Release, which allows him to produce large amounts of water even when there is no pre-existing water source. He can manipulate this water into various styles of weapons, including needles, dragons, walls, and tendrils. The Impure World Reincarnation technique used by Orochimaru during his attack on Konoha, and by Kabuto during the breakout of the Fourth Shinobi World War, is originally created by Tobirama himself. However, he realizes the danger of his creation and later makes it a forbidden technique (kinjutsu). The Japanese voice actor for Tobirama, Kenyuu Horiuchi, also voices Yahiko and Pain in "Naruto Shippuden."

3. The Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi

Moments before his death during the First Shinobi World War, Tobirama entrusts the title of Third Hokage to Hiruzen Sarutobi, his student. Hiruzen is considered a prodigy and genius even from childhood and is chosen to serve as Hokage at a young age. During his reign, he becomes a team leader to three young ninja: Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Orochimaru. These three later come to be known as the Densetsu no Sannin, or Three Legendary Ninja in English.

Hiruzen's clan name, Sarutobi, is spelled with the Chinese characters for "monkey" and "jump," which leads to Tobirama giving him the nickname Monkey. In keeping with this theme, Hiruzen's personal summon is Enma the Monkey King, who is inspired by the Monkey King from the Chinese folktale "Journey to the West." Hiruzen leads Konohagakure through both the Second and Third Shinobi World Wars, but his decision to sign a peace treaty and end the war causes some tension and ultimately results in him stepping down from his role as Hokage.

However, Hiruzen's successor, Minato Namikaze, dies when the Nine Tails attacks the village. As Minato never has the chance to name his own successor, Hiruzen comes out of retirement to lead as Hokage once more. His reign comes to an end when, during the Chunin Exams, the Third Hokage is killed by his former student, Orochimaru.

4. The Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze

Minato Namikaze is not the Third Hokage's first choice for the role of the Fourth Hokage. Hiruzen originally wants one of his own students to succeed him, but Jiraiya doesn't want the role and Orochimaru has already fallen into darkness. However, as a student of Jiraiya and renowned Third Shinobi World War veteran, Hiruzen eventually settles on Minato to succeed him.

Both inside and outside Konohagakure, Minato is often referred to as the "Yellow Flash" due to his unbeatable speed. Before becoming Hokage, Minato has his own team of students at the Academy: Kakashi Hatake, Obito Uchiha, and Rin Nohara. However, multiple tragedies befall the team during the Third Shinobi World War, which results in the deaths of both Obito and Rin.

Minato is married to Kushina, a ninja of the Uzumaki clan and jinchuriki of the Nine Tails. The two train together at the Academy and became a couple after Minato saves Kushina during a kidnapping incident. When Kushina became pregnant, many precautions are taken, as it is known that the seal keeping the Nine Tails within her will weaken during childbirth.

However, due to meddling from Obito Uchiha, the precautions fail and the Nine Tails is unleashed, killing many villagers during its rampage. Left with no other choice, both Minato and Kushina sacrifice their lives to seal the Nine Tails into their newborn son, Naruto. This event, and Minato's debut in the anime, can be seen in the very first scenes of the first episode of "Naruto."

5. The Fifth Hokage, Tsunade

As one of the Legendary Sannin and arguably the world's best medical ninja, Tsunade is an obvious choice to succeed her teacher, Hiruzen. However, after losing her younger brother and her first love earlier in life, Tsunade has become disillusioned and left Konohagakure. When her former teammate, Jiraiya, tracks her down and asks her to become the Fifth Hokage, she instantly refuses. Only after meeting Naruto — and seeing in him the same determination her younger brother and lover had for becoming Hokage — does she regain her faith and agree to take up the post.

Tsunade is related to both the Senju and the Uzumaki clans and is the granddaughter of the First Hokage, Hashirama Senju. Her name and her medical slug summons are inspired by the famous Japanese folktale, "The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya," as are the names of her teammates, Jiraiya and Orochimaru. As a child, Tsunade is doted on by her grandfather, the First Hokage, and shares with him his love for gambling. When Hashirama dies, Tsunade inherits his necklace, which she eventually loses to Naruto in a bet.

During her time in office, Konohagakure is attacked by Pain and almost entirely destroyed. Although many of the village's buildings are lost, most villagers are able to survive thanks to Tsunade's healing and protection abilities. However, Tsunade is greatly weakened during the battle and slips into a coma for multiple days, leading the village elders to plan for the possible necessity of naming a new Hokage.

6. The Sixth Hokage Candidate, Danzo Shimura

During the political instability following Pain's attack and Tsunade's medical condition, Danzo Shimura is named the Sixth Hokage Candidate. Long a powerful voice in the shadows, Danzo has used Root – his extreme Anbu faction – to spread his influence through morally questionable means. Many of his deeds, such as colluding with village enemies like Hanzo and Orochimaru, are little more than rumors and never officially confirmed or traced back to him.

Hiruzen, the Third Hokage, is known to have a strained relationship with Danzo, dating back to their time at the newly formed Academy. While Hiruzen sanctions the creation of Root and turns a blind eye to many of its questionable activities, Danzo returns the favor by trying to depose Hiruzen and even assassinate him.

Danzo's dealings with Orochimaru include some experimentation and alterations to Danzo's own body. His arm is replaced with the arm of a dead Uchiha, and infused with the DNA of Hashirama Senju, in an effort to increase his power. One of Danzo's most gruesome actions is to manipulate Itachi Uchiha into murdering the entirety of his own clan in order to allegedly protect the village and his younger brother, Sasuke. Danzo ultimately pays for this as, before he can be officially named Hokage, he's killed during a fight with Sasuke. After waking up from her coma, Tsunade resumes her duties and no Sixth Hokage is named at this time.

7. The Sixth Hokage, Kakashi Hatake

Over 250 episodes and an entire Fourth Shinobi World War later, Tsunade steps down as Hokage, and Kakashi Hatake succeeds her. While an undeniably talented ninja, Kakashi struggles with trust and teamwork issues in his early years due to the self-inflicted death of his father, a formerly celebrated ninja who is disgraced for abandoning an important mission. This difficult period is made worse still when Kakashi loses both of his teammates during the Third Shinobi World War. 

These events cause Kakashi to turn away from society and become an Anbu Special Ops agent, a group that requires its members to hide their identity, refrain from interacting with the rest of the village, and carry out unsavory missions such as assassination. However, many of Kakashi's former classmates worry about their friend and convince the Third Hokage to remove him from the Anbu and make him a teacher at the Academy instead. It's here that Kakashi became the leader of Team 7, consisting of Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke Uchiha, and Sakura Haruno. 

He is able to help Sasuke train in using his Sharingan, the Uchiha clan's hereditary ability, because Kakashi himself has a Sharingan hiding under his lopsided forehead protector, given to him as a child by his dying teammate, Obito Uchiha. Kakashi is one of the only characters in "Naruto" that has ranked within the top three of every character popularity poll, and the mystery of his mask has entertained audiences for many years.

8. The Seventh Hokage, Naruto Uzumaki

After the events of "Naruto Shippuden," Kakashi retires, and Naruto Uzumaki finally becomes the Seventh Hokage. At this point, Naruto and Hinata are already married and have two children named Himawari and Boruto. An OVA (Original Video Animation) was released in 2016 that shows the events of Naruto's inauguration, which he ultimately misses due to being knocked unconscious by his daughter.

Naruto spends the early years of his life shunned by the inhabitants of his hometown, and completely ignorant of his own identity as a Jinchuuriki or the son of a previous Hokage. Through many years of training and courageous exploits, Naruto is eventually able to prove himself and become a hero to his village, and later the entire world. These achievements allow him to realize his dream of becoming Hokage, a role we can see in action in "Boruto: Naruto Next Generations."

Naruto's name is themed around whirlpools. His last name, Uzumaki, has the direct meaning of "whirlpool" in Japanese. His first name is shared by a fishcake with a whirlpool pattern which is often used as a topping on ramen, and by a city in Japan that is famous for its large whirlpools. Naruto's favorite ramen shop, Ichiraku, is said to be inspired by a real ramen chain of the same name, which had branches close to where the manga author, Masashi Kishimoto, attended university.