The True Story of the 47 Ronin

external image chushingura_small.jpgLord Asano Takumi no kami Naganori was the leader of a branch of the powerful Asano family. Lord Asano was selected by Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi to entertain the envoys from the Imperial family. Kira Kozukenosuke, the highest ranking master of protocol, was in charge of teaching Lord Asano the proper etiquette. Kira believed that Lord Asano should pay him for his services, but Lord Asano thought differently causing the two to dislike one another. In April of 1702, Kira pushed Lord Asano too far, and Lord Asano drew his sword and struck Kira. Kira survived the attack, and Lord Asano's only regret was that he did not kill Kira.
Lord Asano did not attempt to defend himself, and the shogun sentenced Lord Asano to death. Asano was forced to slit his own stomach; the Shogun confiscated Lord Asano's 50,000-koku fief and placed Daigaku, Asano's brother, under house arrest.
Lord Asano's samurai soldiers, now ronin, were outraged when the news of their master's fate reached them. Oishi Kuranosuke, the retainer of the Asano clan, convinced the other samurai to give up the castle peacefully but prepare to take revenge on Kira. Kira suspected the samurai to come after him so he increased his personal guard. The ronin stored weapons and armor before they all disappeared. Some of the ronin took up menial jobs, but Oishi and some of the others appeared to have lost any concern for their futures. Oishi left his wife and caroused with prostitutes and drank frequently.
After one year, Kira fell for the ronin's acts and relaxed his guard. Forty-seven ronin gathered on December 14, 1702, to take their revenge on Kira. Splitting into two groups, the ronin attacked both the front and back gate of Kira's castle. Many of Kira's men were killed or wounded by the surprise attack, but only one ronin died during combat. Oishi found Kira in an outhouse and gave him the chance to commit suicide. When Kira did not respond, Oishi struck off his head with Lord Asano's dagger. The ronin carried Kira's head in a bucket to Sengaku-ji to offer the trophy to the spirit of Lord Asano.
The forty-six remaining ronin turned themselves in for the murder of Kira and his men. The fate of the forty-six was very difficult because the whole Asano ordeal was not popular. Many people felt that the Shogun sentenced Lord Asano unfairly, and the general public felt the the ronin had acted out of loyalty to their master. Even with the public views, the Shogun sentenced all forty-six of the ronin to death. Legend has it that Satsuma, a samurai who had told Oishi he was a disgrace to all samurai and spat on him, slit his own belly to make up for his insults. All forty-seven of the ronin bodies were buried at Sengaku-ji beside their master's grave.
The Revenge of the 47 Ronin was a very controversial in Japan. Some felt that the ronin were justified for their actions, but other felt that the ronin had no right to take revenge. Still, there are others who believe the ronin waited too long to act. Although there is all the controversy, the story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most celebrated in the history of the samurai.
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