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From the old delphi forum: The 47 Ronin

 
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nagaeyari
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Joined: 05 May 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:06 pm    Post subject: From the old delphi forum: The 47 Ronin Reply with quote
Forgive the crudeness of the following, I had to whip it up fast. It's really long, but here it is:
-------------------------------------------------

47 Ronin

General Discussion -> 47 ronin

Posted by yasudab on 7/14/2000 12:44 am
does anyone know where in tokyo the 47 ronin are buried? Is it in a temple?


Posted by F. W. Seal on 7/14/2000 2:15 am
The graves of the 47 Ronin may be found at the Sengaku Temple in Tokyo.

FWS


Posted by ULehmann on 7/14/2000 3:42 am
Well, the temple is the Sangaku ji in southern Tokyo. I visited this temple in the last year - it was famous! There are also a small exhibition about the Ronin there. You can see a lot of original weapons and clothes and a beautiful collection of wooden statues of all the man.
Take a look at the photo-section of:
www.tenshukaku.de

regards,
Ulf Lehmann


Posted by Amphipol on 7/14/2000 5:06 pm
Would you know where can I find the whole story about the 47 Ronin?


Posted by ULehmann on 7/15/2000 9:00 am
There is a book "Chuchingura", maybe translated to english?
Or a good homepage - the best resource for this story:
http://www.117.ne.jp/~akorosi/index.html

regards,
Ulf Lehmann


Posted by Amphipol on 7/15/2000 3:07 pm
Thanks so much for the url! Smile

Posted by kitsuno on 7/16/2000 3:38 am
There is also a movie of the same name (Chushingura) based on the 47 Ronin, its a pretty long one, in color, i made more than 10 years ago, but i have no recollection of when. i'm sure any good video store would have it. Last years NHK taiga drama was also based on the 47 ronin.

C. E. West


Posted by William Letham on 7/16/2000 8:00 am
There are piles of books on the 47 ronin in japanese. As for English there are two novels one called the 47 ronin story by John Allyn published by Tuttle Books and The Revenge of the 47 samurai by Erik Christian Haugard ( This one is for young adults ) pub. by Houghton Mifflin. Neither really tell the full story but they are a start. There have been some thirty movies and fifteen miniseries made of the story. The one last year called Genroku Ryoran was the fourth made by NHK alone. You might check amazon under the title Chushingura to find if any of these are subtitled in english.


Posted by Amphipol on 7/16/2000 12:19 pm
Thanks for the infos.
I know about the movie, but in greece where I live it's extremely difficult to find Japanese samurai movies, except the films of Kurosava.


Posted by Shegawake on 8/12/2000 8:08 pm
Konnichi wa,
Something very interesting is happing in Japan, about the 47 samurai.
Many people are now more and more finding that what the 47 samurai did was not as noble as it was in the past.
Many people and there were some tv programmes, that have discussed this subject, that what Asano did was wrong. That his actions was a selfish action, which cause the ruin of his clan. That as a samurai he had to show constraint and control of his emotion. Also his vassals, should have acted as true samurai and attacked Kira, right away. Even if the attack would have failed, they would have died a samurai's death. I had a discussion with some school friends in Japan last year and they are now saying that Kira was not the villain that history would like to make him out to be. That he may have insulted Asano, for his akwardness, but Asano should have known what his actions would have on his clan. That his vassals should have acted right away and closed the issue then and there. So as time goes by, todays hero may not be tomorrow. I think that it is the times and most importantly a change in the Japanese mind that is the cause of these discussions on this figure and other historical figures.
Abayo!


Posted by F. W. Seal on 8/12/2000 11:06 pm
I was a bit surprised by that myself. I came across quite a few condemnations by Edo Period samurai authors while preparing the '47 Ronin' description for the Samurai Archives. Interestingly, many of these were most critical of the Ronin for not simply killing themselves at Asano's grave following their successful attack on Kira's residence. By turning themselves in (men like Sato Naotaka argued) Oishi and the others appeared to be hoping for a reprieve. Actually killing Kira does not seem to be an issue - that they were (seemingly) hoping for leniancy, however, was regarded as presumptous and wrong-headed.


Posted by William Letham on 8/13/2000 9:25 am
There was a sort of revisionist version of the 47 ronin story that aired a few years ago. It starred none other than Beat Takeshi as a rather bumbling unassertive Oishi. The drama depicted the ronin as bloodthirtsy vengeful gangsters and Kiras men as almost helpless scared wimps. When one looks a the other dramas one might feel as if all of is a bit exaggerated, to good to be true. One has to wonder at the true history of this event.


Posted by Shegawake on 8/13/2000 9:50 am
Ohio,
I agree with you, history is written by men and often they will wright history as a story, more so in Japan.
That is why the question of the 47 samuari is being quistioned.
More people want to find the true facts behind the fiction.
They are no longer interested in the romantic story.
I think Oishi, was trying to kill Kira, in a way that would not cost him his life. That he acted by following the bushido code and he used this as a defence, which almost worked. But it appears that the Shogun, questioned his act. Why did he not act sooner?
Will we find out the true facts?
Abayo!


Posted by F. W. Seal on 8/13/2000 11:12 am
The 'accepted' reason for Oishi's delay in carrying out the Asano's vengance was that Kira expected some sort of vendetta, and increased his guard accordingly. Oishi therefore decided to wait until Kira was lulled into complacency.
To elaborate on my earlier point, I found Sato Naotoaka's words on the Ronin interesting (and perhaps most compelling) from a 'contemporary' standpoint...
"Kozukenosuke [Kira] was not their enemy. He would have been if he had hurt Takuminokami [Asano].
"Takuminokami struck at Kozukenosuke out of personal resentment and anger, thereby going against the Great Law. Because of this the shogun condemned him to death. How can anyone think of 'avenging' such a man? When we consider his feelings, of course, his resentment and anger may be entirely understandable, but if he wanted to harm Kozukenosuke, he should have done that after his assignment was over and choosing a more appropriate place. But he chose to violate the Great Law in the midst of the Great Imperial Rite of recieving the imperial messengers.
"Worse, the way Takuminokami struck at Kozukenosuke, it was such a hasty, immature, cowardly deed... With no courage or skill, Takuminokami is merely a fellow to be laughed at. It's quite fitting that he should have been condemned to death, and his castle and other properties confiscated.
"On his part, Kozukenosuke wouldn't draw his short sword but simply fell in consternation, his face pale, prompting samurai throughout the land to laugh at him. His reaction was worse then death, an utter disgrace. Why should the shogun have punished him? Evidently he wasn't an enemy worthy of vengance.
"Mometheless, those forty-six men, rather then sorrowing over the great crime of their master, decided to go against the shogunate's will... that too was a grat crime." he goes on to say that had Oishi and the others, after having made the killing, considered their crimes, and commited suicide at the Sengakuji, then, at least, they "would have deserved our pity".
Sato closes by commenting on how the common people ignored Asano's great crime when they discussed the events surrounding the '47 Ronin', and that Kira Kozukenosuke, who brought all of this on (including the misconception that the Ronin acted as loyal subjects), was the real villian.


Posted by Shegawake on 8/13/2000 2:20 pm
Konnichi wa,
My point is that Asano was the fool, because of his baka action, his family, his vassals and servents suffered.
Kira may been called a fool by some, but Kira was had a position of Koke and had many powerful friends in the shogunate.
He knew better then to take action, which would have cost him dearly.
Not only for himself, his vassals, servents, but most importantly to his family name and relatives! One must take shame, for the good of the clan! I think personaly he should have commited sappuku.
As for Oishi, even if Kira was aware that the vassals of Asano were to come after him, it was none the less, the right thing to do. There are two sayings in Japanese, Nobility of Failure and Victory Through Defeat. If Oishi had acted right away and even if he failed in killing Kira, his actions would have been seen as a sucess! His Nobility of Failure and his Victory Through Defeat. Then we today would not be having these discussions.
Your other point is also right, if after he killed Kira and then committed seppuku, again we would not have this discussion. This is were many historians today find that his actions were done in a way that had the best chance of saving his life, and he almost did!
Abayo!


Posted by R. Ogasawara on 8/13/2000 4:05 pm
Chiwa~*

Can I throw in my 2 cents? I totally agree that Lord Asano was a short-sighted fool that couldn't weigh the consequences before he acted. But I'm not certain if by waiting to avenge their lord's death, Oishi lowered his samurai name and honor.

I personally think that what Oishi Kuranosuke did was indeed, a true way of a clan councillor. As clan councillors, it was their duty to take charge and act on the behalf of their lord in this kind of situations. Just because the lord is gone and their clan is on the verge of abolishment, the main goal hasn't changed. As clan councillors, it is still (or at least should be, in my eyes) the continuation of their lord's name and their clan, their way of life. Isn't it only logical that he made every effort in trying to get the reinstatement of their clan even by risking his personal honor and family name for generations to come?

When this incident occured, it was no longer at the height of the feudal era when by avenging their lord's death right away meant that they had a chance to gain something for themselves in the ways of allies and territories (or even tenka). It happened in a different time, different circumstances, in the rule of the 5th Tokugawa Shogun. It was a feat in itself for Tozama daimyo to survive the Tokugawa era; many clans have been abolished simply because of a rumor or other trivial reasons. Their overall goals shifted from expansion of territories during the sengoku era to continuation of name and status during the Tokugawa era, things became very ritualized and ceremonial for the sake of going through the motions so as not to 'rock the boat' and bring undue attention to themselves (deru kugi wa utareru = nails that stick out will be pounded back in).

Also, aside from his duty for the continuation of his lord's house, he was also responsible for the thousands of his subordinates and their family. In his time and age, was it realistic for a man who was responsible for the welfare of the clan to sentence many of his people to death (the men, the bread earners) simply because of his lord's short-sighted blunder? Not only that, but what would've happened to the Asano relative clans and their vassals? I think he gave the people a means to live on (ikiru michi) by waiting for as long as he did and letting the situation develop. Times change and people change too. I personally think that even if he was successful in his efforts to reinstate his lord's house, he would've still committed Junshi to restore his personal honor (kejime o tsukeru). But isn't that the true way of a clan councillor?
Posted by kitsuno on 8/14/2000 2:01 am
Beat Takeshi as Oishi!?! Kimura Takuya as Nobunaga!?! What's next - Matsumoto Hitoshi and Hama-chan (both of DOWNTOWN and Gotsuu ee kanji fame) as Shingen and Kenshin?? ..then again, that probably would be interesting....

CEWest


Posted by Shegawake on 8/14/2000 8:54 am
Ohio,
What I would like to see is Beat Takeshi as Shingen and Shimura Ken as Kenshin. There was talk about that happing several years ago and having both of them with two small armies fighting it out!
I still remember at that time when Shimura Ken was dressed up as a daimyo and he had some men dressed up as samurai, servants and musiciens. They they had a procession going through Toyko, from his tv studio to Takashi's studio, to offer a challenge. Just imagin, Tokyo and it is the 90's and here is a processing from the 16th century going through the city, it really was funny, seeing the peoples faces, the police was an other matter!
Abayo!


Posted by F. W. Seal on 8/14/2000 11:15 am
I would agree that Oishi's motivations were in keeping with his position and class. While his long preperations were dangerously close to underhandedness, they WERE wise. I do believe that certain elements of the story are sometimes overlooked - for example, there was little agreement among the Asano retainers on how to react to their lord's death, and Ono, the jodai garo (and one of their chief councillors himself), even fled with a tidy sum of the clan's money! In the end, 61 or so of the 300 Asano notable retainers went along with Oishi, and in the end only 47 would take part in the attack. Its telling that many of the Asano, then, were willing to accept their fate.
My own feelings are in accord with the samurai I cited earlier - that (as everyone seems to agree) Asano was a fool for drawing his sword in anger in the shogun's complex and thereby ruining his name and that of his clan (one wonders, as an aside, what effect - if any - this incident had on the greater Asano). I also feel that the many Edo Period authors (including even Yamamoto Tsunetomo) who attacked Oishi for not commiting suicide at Asano's grave following the assualt are correct. It seems incredible that Oishi and his band might have contemplated being forgiven - or at least spared - even after murdering an official and many of his men and creating such a disturbance in the realm. Also, I think that many other samurai resented Oishi - not unreasonably - for attempting to undermine the Great Law. He and the others were fully aware that popular sentiment was in their court - it would seem they hoped to use that to save their lives.
As an aside, Kira's own son was stripped of his lands in the wake of the attack, on the grounds that he had not fought to the death for his father. In fact, he had been seriously wounded of the attack and died four years later.


Posted by R. Ogasawara on 8/14/2000 12:56 pm
Howdy Smile

It is indeed incredible if he and his men did actually contemplate leniency or forgiveness for what they've done (no matter what the reasons leading up to it). I personally find it highly unlikely though. I mean, they were living in a time when if one did something wrong, all the family members and their relatives (and even kins by marriage) would also be held accountable. Knowing that, how could they expect forgiveness for themselves for drawing their swords against Kira and ultimately the Shogunate 'gohatto' = great laws? It's incomprehensible to me....but of course, that's just my opinion.

Also, by them waiting for the Shogunate to "sentence" them, it could also be taken as a silent rebellion towards the injustices (of the Shogunate gohatto) that they felt they've been subjected to. In another era, insulting a man was a legitimate grounds for a fight, and as vassals of the losing lord to have avenged his death would've been considered heroic out and out.

We have to also consider how 'connected' Kira was to the Tokugawa. His wife is from the Uesugi clan, and after her brother's death, they gave their son as heir of the Uesugi clan. Now the lord of Uesugi, his son married the eldest daughter of Tokugawa Mitsusada, the 2nd lord of Kishu. As you know, Tokugawa Mitsusada was the former shogun Iemitsu's 1st cousin. Kira, on the other hand, lost his other son who was to be heir of the Kira house, so he took one of his grandson from the Uesugi clan as his heir. This is the man who you spoke of earlier that also got punished. It may well have been the pressure of public consensus that lead to his clan's demise.
Edited 8/14/00 5:33:42 PM ET by IZUMONOOKUNI


Posted by Shegawake on 8/14/2000 2:59 pm
Koonichi wa,
There is another fact that we did not discuss is that at that time, the shogunate was slowly taking lands away from some of the smaller lords. Then giving these lands to the Tokugawa friends.
These were always tozama daimyos and at Asano's court case this was brought up.
(Please help me here my memory fails me, but Asano asked that one of the powerful tozama lords come and speak for his defence. To bring this fact to light, that the Tokugawa shogunate was not fair to the tozama lords. Does anyone remember who he asked for and why that requist was not granted)?
At this time Asano mentioned that already seven lords had lost their lands. All losed their lands in very strange ways, some were accused of mismanagement, some supposedly broke Tokugawan law, one that he had no son and the Tokugawa shogunate did not want him to adopte his brother, ect.
Was Asano set up to lose his lands?
Abayo! Edited 8/14/00 3:01:14 PM ET by AMAKO1


Posted by R. Ogasawara on 8/14/2000 5:50 pm
Howdy Amako-san Smile

I'm sorry I can't help with the specifics, but I think you brought up a great point about the Shogunate and the Tozama daimyo. As Forest has mentioned, Kira's adopted son was also punished. I forgot if Uesugi also got abolished after this incident...did they? I know they were also Tozama. I wouldn't doubt it that there was some sort of conspiracy by the Shogunate and the Fudai status to 'reclaim' their fiefs. From Iemitsu's era, the Shogunate finance became very pressed, necessitating the reminting of coins fairly frequently to off-set their overspending. They were also pressed for land to award for promotions to the Shogunate vassals. There were many reasons why and how the Shogunate would benefit from this incident.


Posted by F. W. Seal on 8/15/2000 12:33 am
Hi Rie,
Tsunanori, adopted into the Uesugi, was only made to retire that year, and beyond that there were no reprecussions in that quarter (to the best of my own knowledge).
I think you bring up an interesting point regarding the Bakufu's limited finances - and how, from time to time, the daimyo may have suffered as a result. This also calls into question the roles of shogun and daimyo, and the manner in which they coexisted.
One of the more compelling incidents, in my mind, is the sudden and complete fall of the Kato Tadahiro in 1632, which created such shockwaves that the shogun felt compelled to personally write explanations to the realm's greatest daimyo. Conclusions drawn from this affair - and the other notable examples of the era (Fukushima, Hori, ect...) - may be misleading as the Tokugawa shogunate was still more or less in its infancy. But it may present an entry point to an examination of how the feudal system in Japan adapted - or failed to adapt - to the Edo Period. Throughout the history of the samurai class, from the Heian Period until Sekigahara, land grants had always been the most tangible reward for services rendered. Even when these land grants could be somewhat nominal (as in the case of the shugo-daimyo), they were nonetheless a vital part of governance. How was this borne out in the Edo Period, a time of great stability, especially given that little had actually changed, regionally and institutionaly speaking, from the Momoyama Period? I'm meandering, I admit, but Kato's dismissal (as with that of the Harima Asano) did open up large tracts of land which could be doled out to other daimyo. Were wars of conquest therefore replaced with political minefields designed to provide more fortunate daimyo with the possibilty of further land grants?


Posted by R. Ogasawara on 8/15/2000 1:13 pm
Howdy Forest Smile

Several years ago, I saw a very interesting program (on NHK of course lol) that examined some of the problems facing the modern Japanese business people and how that could be traced back to the Tokugawa era for the most part. This program offered some great insights.

When Iemitsu was shogun, the Tokugawa shogunate was still very young, and although their power was formidable, it was by no means concrete. That the abolishment of one of the most powerful Tozama daimyo required a written explanation from the Shogun himself may attest to that. But this wasn't the first incident of the shogunate abolishing clans; in fact, both Ieyasu and Hidetada abolished over 100 clans while in rule (wonder if they were all Tozama?). The program suggested that with this constant threat of abolishment looming over their heads, both Fudai and Tozama daimyo alike fell into a system of highly ritualized code of conduct per se. To step out of line was to be noticed, and it was surely obvious to them that great misfortunes befell to those tozama daimyo who were noticed by the shogunate.

Out of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns, the 5th Tsunayoshi is by far the least popular, owing to the 'Shourui Awaremi no Rei' = prohibition of cruelty to animals. It is said that when a person swatted a mosquito the punishment was eviction from home, exile to a prison island for killing a bird. Dog kennels were located throughout the city of Edo to house thousands of stay dogs at the expense of the commoners. While the people starved and dropped like flies, these dogs ate twice a day and had higher status than that of man, having virtual free reign of the city of Edo. Can you imagine the cost involved in the housing and feeding of thousands and thousands of dogs per day?

By then the Oh'oku became a big money eater too, not to mention all the descendants of the Tokugawa. An example of this kind of expenditures is available from Yoshimune's rule; 10,000-ryo annually for the consort of the 6th Shogun, 8,000-ryo annually for the concubine and birthmother of the 7th Shogun, 1,000-ryo annually for his predecessor's other 2 concubines. He also gave 1,000-ryo to his own concubine and the mother of one of his sons and 200-ryo each to his other 2 concubines. He also had 3 sons, 2 of which were given their own mansions. Tsunayoshi also built many temples for his mother who was a devout Buddhist, nearly bankrupting the shogunate coffers.

On top of that, gift giving became an accepted tradition to promote themselves to the superiors or to simply show goodwill and the continuation thereof, all in the hopes of improving their chances of survival. Those that didn't fall into this custom was branded as being uneducated in etiquette and looked down upon as selfish, self-centered, disruptive, and without foresights. (Is it any wonder that the modern Japanese people are having trouble reconciling and adjusting to the 'international standard' which renders our centuries old tradition invalid.)

I'm sure there were other contributory reasons for their conspicuous practice of victimizing tozama daimyo to replenish their 'bank account', but this is all I can think of at the moment.

By the way, as I recall, Kira was 3,000-koku and Asano was 50,000-koku.....if it wasn't for Kira's connections, this difference in status would've warrented Kira's immediate 'teuchi' by Asano for his insults. It's just too bad that he lost his temper in the castle....but it's also too bad that he was stopped. He'd already drawn his sword and there was no turning back, and I'm sure he himself knew that in the back of his head. At that instant, everything at stake was already thrown to the wind. How vexing it must've been for Asano, having ruined his clan and not succeeding in killing Kira either.
Edited 8/15/00 1:50:17 PM ET by IZUMONOOKUNI


Posted by Shegawake on 8/15/2000 9:43 pm
Konnba wa,
Please help me here as I still can't find my book, it my be back in Japan, so if you have names and other info to add please do so, anyway back to the court case.
As I recall and I think the title was The Asano Naganori's Trial and NHK made a tv programme on it.
In the book as I recall the judge and prosecutor was Lord Matsudaira.
He was also there to represent the Shogunate. There was a Kuge present, representing the Emperor and there was also Lord Asano of Hiroshima representing Lord Naganori and Lord Tamura.
The hearing was held at Lord Tamura's castle in Mutsu.
Only Lord Asano of Aki at the hearing was supporting Naganori, by asking the shogunate to pardon the clan, that only Naganori should be punished. All present wanted the whole clan to be punished and the lands to revert back to the shogun. As the americans would call it, a kangaroo court, the decision was already decided. This is where Naganori asked that and I wish I could remember his name, one of the powerful daimyos to come and speak on his behalf. Not to pardon him, but to punish him and let the clan keep their lands, that his crime, was his crime alone, that his family and vassals should not suffer. That the shogunate was not just, that it was taking lands from other lords with no just cause and his case was also not just.
One other point I would like to make is that Lord Asano of Hiroshima was related to the Tokugawas. A Asano Nagaakira married a daughter of Ieyasu, she was the widow of Gamo Hideyuki. After the marrage he was given the domain of Hiroshima in Aki. They were cousins of Lord Naganori, which is why I guess he was not afried to speak for his cousin.
Abayo!


Posted by F. W. Seal on 8/16/2000 12:46 am
Its also interesting, in regards to the trial, that a number of the investigators, notably Shoda Yasutoshi, were demoted following the verdict for expressing reservations about the Bakufu's decision. I am reasonably sure, of course, that Shoda, Okada Denpachiro or anyone else with reservations never questioned the notion of Asano commiting suicide. But, definatly, the shogun's decsion to confiscate Takuminokami's domain was clearly controversial, and does seem out of proportion to the crime. Of course, again, that this had occured where it did must have forced, in part, the Bakufu's decision - loss of composure was one thing... loss of composure in Edo Castle was another thing altogether... I believe that the fact that Asano flagrantly broke the law was clouded and in some cases ignored - even the man who held him down at the time, Kajikawa, was attacked by critics, prompting him to write a defense of his actions (Kajiwara-shi hikki).


Posted by Shegawake on 8/16/2000 9:24 am
Ohio,
I think my book was based on the writtings of Kajikawa.
It is very true that the men that stoped Asano were in the wrong.
As samurai they had to let Asano finish his actions. Once the sword was drawn, it was already too late. They had to walk away, that was the right thing to do, it was no longer their concern. Stoping Asano made matters worse and caused more greaf for everyone, or was it what the shogunate wanted?
I remember a discussion on NHK, about this. Supposed that Kira was killed, then Asano to save his clan committed seppuku, right away.
Then really the matter was closed, no other action was required by the shogunate.
It is something to think about.
Abayo!


Posted by William Letham on 8/16/2000 9:51 am
Why do you think this story is so popular in Japan? I have counted at least 30 movies, 15 tv dramas, and over 100 novels in this century alone. NHK has done the story 4 times, Tv Tokyo twice. Admitidly the story( as it is usually told) is quite dramatic, a handsome young lord versus a hideous old Kira, samurai vowing to death, a night raid in the snow. As I mentioned before one might have to question the historic validity of the 'story'. But the question I have is why is this story SO popular that it needs multiple renderings. I can't think of anything quite the same in the states. Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the OK corral comes to mind but I can only think a 5 or 6 movies based on that story. I have asked this question to my Japanese friends who usually can't answer. One person did say its interesting to see other actors playing the roles. But I still cant understand the sheer volume. Not only that most of them are pretty much the same. There was one that focused on the women (appropriately called Onna Chushingura), and there was the revisonist one with Beat Takeshi. All the others though don't add much to the story. I sometimes feal that Japanese Tv companies are unwilling or creatively unable to come up with something new.


Posted by R. Ogasawara on 8/16/2000 12:58 pm
Howdy William Smile

The story of Akou Roushi has been very popular throughout the history of Japan as the last great act of loyalty and braveness in the history of the Samurai. Although not looked upon kindly by the Shogunate back then, even scholars such as Muro Kyuusou praised them for their loyalty. Among the commoners who were heavily oppressed by the Shogunate gohatto, their act of total defiance to the great law was taken to be a brave, heroic act. Even before these countless movies and tv shows were made about them, their stories were kept alive by Kabuki. Kabuki writers wrote over 47 'perspectives' of the Akou Roushi, each episode starred by one of the 47-shi and some are off-shoot stories thereof.

I think Cathy mentioned this before, but as far as the movies and TV shows go, I don't think we can expect much from them in the ways that we wish we could. Their professional obligation lies not with the accurate depiction or indepth examination of events but with 'entertainment'. I personally think it's a waste for them to spend all that money and time that goes into making historical taiga dramas and tv movies but not go the extra step to ensure its accuracy and depth, their educational value. I mean, how much more could it cost get consultations from a historian for the show, ya know?


Last edited by nagaeyari on Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Posted by ronin_47 on 7/26/2005 11:13 pm


The 47 Ronin - Samurai of Japan
By David Weber

Every country has at least one story that strikes a deep chord within the heart and soul of a culture resonating through out the entire being of its society. It’s the kind of story every person knows about regardless of their educational background though they aren't always sure of the exact details. It’s a story which so well illustrates the basic elements of a society's ideology and fundamental characteristics that it's told over and over again passing from generation to generation.

In America, every school child knows about the heroic and tragic battle at the Alamo in Texas. It’s an event that has been permanently etched in America's cultural psyche with fact and fiction having been long since blurred that it’s difficult to entangle the actual truth.

Japan has many epic stories of love, tragedy, vengeance, etc..., in its long history but one story in particular stands out: the story of the 47 Ronin. It is a story that exemplifies the samurai spirit and the cult of filial love between a retainer and his master. In its essence the story captures the spirit of the Japanese.

The 47 Ronin were former samurai retainers who avenged their master's death by killing his enemy then stoically awaiting the sentence of death to be passed on them by the government.

Their act of defying the government's laws and following the Way of the Samurai to be faithful to their lord unto death, won the 47 Ronin everlasting fame and admiration of the Japanese people.

Every year on December 14th, people gather at their graves at Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo to commemorate the deeds of the 47 Ronin.

Their story began in 1701 at a time when Japan was isolated from the rest of the world by government edicts. Control of the country was in the hands of the Shogun who ruled in Edo, now called Tokyo. The Shogun of that time was known for his bizarre laws protecting dogs and other animals to the point of detriment to his own people.

It was also a time of lavish extravagance and decadent corruption. The samurai were losing their status and many began acting less and less like samurai by drinking, gambling, and attending Kabuki plays.

One country lord, Lord Asano of Ako, a man of simple but honest beliefs was called upon by the Shogun to come to Edo and meet with envoys from the Emperor. This would require him to learn the complex intricacies of Court Ceremony.

Lord Asano was assigned to the Master of Court Ceremonies, Kira Kozukenosuke, to be taught in the ways of Imperial Ceremony. Kira was like many court officials of the time accustom to receiving gifts of a monetary nature from his pupils. When Lord Asano failed to bribe Kira properly, Kira became enraged insulted him often. Finally, Lord Asano could take it no longer and in a fatal moment of indiscretion, unsheathed his sword and attacked Kira while they were in the Shogun's castle. This action earned Lord Asano a quick death by seppuku: ritual suicide.

Lord Asano's samurai retainers led by Oishi Kuranosuke found themselves ronin - masterless samurai - and the Asano lands confiscated. There were many who felt the judgment was too harsh as well as unfair particularly because Kira who many felt orchestrated the attack was left unpunished.

A core group of Lord Asano's retainers plotted vengeance against Kira. However, the spies of the Shogun and Kira himself were on the look-out and Kira was well-guarded against such reprisals. Oishi and the other plotters disguised their true intentions and pretended to become farmers, merchants, gamblers, and even drunkards.

Oishi who was watched the closest by the spies went so far as to lull his enemies into a state of false security that he left his wife, frequented brothels, and passed out drunk in the most unsamurai-like manner in the streets of Kyoto. His performance was so good that a passing samurai kicked and spat on him thinking Oishi a disgrace for sinking to such depths while not avenging his master.

The spies believed Oishi had truly become a harmless destitute creature and so Kira relaxed his guard. Oishi, however, secretly stole away to Edo and met with 46 other loyal companions to plot their assault on Kira's mansion.

On a snowy evening on December 14th, 1702, the 47 Ronin attacked Kira's home and took it completely by surprise. They found Kira cowering in a charcoal shed. Kira was offered the choice to commit seppuku but he refused so Oishi cut off his head with the same dagger that his lord used to kill himself. The
47 Ronin then walked to Lord Asano's grave in Sengakuji Temple and placed Kira's head upon it. After that, they turned themselves into the Shogun except for the youngest ronin whom Oishi sent back to Ako to tell of Kira's death.

The Shogun was beside himself on what to do with the 46 Ronin in his custody. To some degree he much admired them for being true to Way of the Samurai. Their actions set off a controversy of debate. Much of the general public wanted their release. Several lords pleaded for the men to be granted life and be allowed to serve them. On the other side, critics argued that the ronin had willfully disobeyed the Shogun's law and to pardon them would be to invite lawlessness and anarchy.

In the end they were allowed to commit honorable seppuku rather than be executed like common criminals. They were interned with their lord at Sengakuji Temple. The surviving ronin was pardoned by the Shogun and lived until he was 75 before being buried along side his comrades.

Countless plays, novels, and later movies and documentaries have been done on this story that so caught the people's attention. Even today, they are not forgotten and the 47 Ronin are still held in high esteem.

Their story strikes so close to the heart of Japanese thought and belief that some Japanese scholars have said: "...to know the story of the 47 Ronin is to know Japan."

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Posted by ronin_47 on 7/26/2005 11:23 pm
http://www.ronin-47.com/

Posted by ronin_47 on 7/26/2005 11:45 pm

http://www.ronin-47.com/files/R47_Desktop_1_-_1024.jpg

Posted by muramatsu on 7/27/2005 12:21 am
the 47 ronin will all ways be with me.
Edited 7/27/2005 12:27 am ET by muramatsu

Posted by ronin_47 on 7/27/2005 12:47 am

http://www.p0stwh0restores.com/uploads/yossa/seppuku_1024.jpg

seppuku


Posted by AkiOfTosa on 8/23/2005 9:32 am
I agree fully, and 47 Ronin was a great story. But why would viewing
Kabuki theatre not be consistent with the way of the Samurai? The samurai practiced No drama during the Sengoku period--in the higher echelons of samurai society--what would be different about Kabuki? Not saying you're wrong or anything, just curious why...


Posted by evalerio on 8/23/2005 2:59 pm

Early Kabuki were seen as shocking, and immoral with suggestive skits and dances. The actors which included women, mingled with the audience which included women too, were viewed as inappropriate behaviour.

Today's social elite would go to classical concerts and opera (Noh) and wouldn't be caught dead in a rap concert (kabuki).<G>

When women were banned from acting in kabuki, teenage boys took their place. This included teenage boys performing kabuki for 'private' costumers. This too was considered an offense to public morality and was also banned later.


Edited 8/23/2005 3:07 pm ET by evalerio
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
General Discussion -> Lord Asano's mental breakdown
Posted by Katana251 on 12/13/2005 6:22 pm
As tommorow is Uchiiri (Day Of The Raid )in Japan i found this in The Daily Yomiuri from 10/10/02 .Doctor Miyazawa Seiichi states the reason for Asano's attack on Kira was his short temper he states "I prefer the theory of Asano as a short tempered man we know that he was taking medication to control his temper so i believe it was one of his fits that did it "Miyazwa also states the two had a prior falling out over a salt market .Its also interesting that in some of the letters between Horibe Yasubei and Oishi that have surrived also make a few referances to Asano's short temper as being the cause the the pine corridor incident .


Posted by Nevermore..... on 12/14/2005 10:15 am

Interesting. In some of the filmed versions, there are scenes shown where the chief investigator surmises that Lord Asano had some sort of mental condition and that's what caused him to attack. In the film scenes, the investigator questions Lord Asano, implying that he could get off with minor or no punsishment if he admits to mental illness. But Lord Asano (in the films) doesn't wish to bring this aspect into it, so he denies the mental illness.

There is an eyewitness account (translated into English) in the book LEGENDS OF THE SAMURAI by Hiroaki Sato) by one of the investigators. I'll have to reread it to see whether the mental illness issue comes up in this account.

Are there any translated accounts of the letters between Horibe Yasubei and Oishi Kuranosuke?


Posted by Katana251 on 12/14/2005 5:59 pm
Here is a thing most modern historians seem to miss the Segakuji Temple burned to the ground in 1715 ,and almost all records of the Ako Vendetta were destroyed .The Abbot than reconstructed records from heresay and not altogether reliable source's for example there is no actual record of Oishi's drinking spree's even the records of the Tokugawa who did have a some what close eye on him make no mention of this .Yet it is every play,film.tv drama So we just do not know ,Id be curious as to where Miyazawa found Asano's medical records


Posted by Spankoka on 12/16/2005 8:07 am
Yeah...this is kind of sketchy. Suitable drugs would have been kind of thin on the ground in those days.


Posted by BethEtsu on 12/16/2005 9:38 pm

"for example there is no actual record of Oishi's drinking spree's even the records of the Tokugawa who did have a some what close eye on him make no mention of this"

Here is a web page that talks about it--I came across when I was working on something completely different, so I don't know if it is any good.
homepage1.nifty.com/longivy/note/li0023.htm

Posted by Katana251 on 12/17/2005 6:23 pm
Maybe they had something like valerian ?,But what i always found funny is there are two camps of fans the Asano was a victim and Asano bought it on himself faction .When these two get in a debate it gets heated to say the least .


Posted by Spankoka on 12/18/2005 1:37 am
Seems kind of tough to seperate fact from fiction at this point.


Posted by Nevermore..... on 12/19/2005 9:51 am

"But what i always found funny is there are two camps of fans the Asano was a victim and Asano bought it on himself faction .When these two get in a debate it gets heated to say the least ."

That's the truth. I've gotten involved in a whole lot of debates on this subject. And that's in English with English-speakers. I bet that the Japanese speakers get into huge, huge debates.

I'd like to offer something, because what the Ako ex-retainers did was rather unique. There were many, many clans that got abolished by the Shogunate, especially during the Tokuegawa period. These clan abolishings created numbers of ronin, many of them quite resentful at the bakufu and/or at whoever caused their clan to be abolished.

But the vast majority of these ronin didn't form plots to avenge their former lords. Most of them went off to do whatever it was that ronin do -- find another lord or find some sort of itinerate employment (whether legal or not). And I read that a few of them became merchants.

So what made the Ako retainers, at least a few of them, become so very determined to avenge the death of their lord? If Lord Asano Naganori had been a horrible daimyo, I doubt that his ex-retainers would have taken the time or the risks to bother avenging his death. I'm not saying he was perfect, he most obviously wasn't by a long shot. But he obviously generated a lot of affection and loyalty in some of his retainers -- including his chief councellor Oishi Kuranosuke -- who became quite determined to avenge him.

Then there is the rather unusual case of Fuwa Kazuemon (whom I've written about in the Samurai Fiction Contest in 2005). He was actually banished from the Ako clan by Lord Asano several years before the incident with Kira. If anything, you would think that he would harbor a huge resentment against Lord Asano; you would think that he might have considered joining in with the Kira faction; he was always probably able to use some extra money in his life as a ronin.

But this didn't happen. Instead, Fuwa Kazuemon remained loyal to Lord Asano even during the long years of his banishment. When Lord Asano was forced to commit seppuku and the clan abolished, Fuwa Kazuemon made it a point to join up with the ex-retainers, who had only recently become ronin. Records show that Fuwa Kazuemon's first attempts to join up with the Ako ronin were rebuffed by Oishi Kuranosuke. And yet he still persisted, and finally Oishi Kuranosuke invited him into the plot to attack Kira.

So either Fuwa Kazuemon was some sort of masochist who loved carrying an unrequited loyalty both to his former lord and hi sformer chief retainer. Or else there was something about Lord Asano that drew even this disgraced, exiled former member of the clan to join in on the revenge.

Just my 2 mon for now.

Posted by Katana251 on 12/22/2005 5:56 pm
But there is no actual historical record of Fuwa being bannished.There is a book in english and japanese written in the mid 19th century(and i cant remember the name ) that gives a biography of all 47 and does not mention any thing about that .Also had he been banished it would have been recorded both in clan records and the Tokugawa annuals (they had records of all transgresors )and he's not there not saying he was not banished just actual records do not support this .He was only 34 when he died and is remembered as a loyal vassel


Posted by Katana251 on 12/22/2005 5:59 pm
Also it was Asano's Edo councillors whose duty it was to take care of bribes .Kira was a Hatamoto income 4000 koku he lived off bribes .Anyway it may have been Asano's councillors fault for being cheap that started the whole trouble


Posted by Nevermore..... on 12/22/2005 6:06 pm

I don't know how accurate Kuniyoshi's prints were, the ones about the 47 Faithful Samurai. Some of these writings on the prints came straight from kabuki, but some of it was factual.

The print with Fuwa Kazuemon went into detail about his banishment and the reasons for it. I don't think that Kuniyoshi simply made it all up.

Nevermore....


Posted by Nevermore..... on 12/22/2005 6:10 pm

For that matter, is there a historical record that 47 ex-Ako retainers actually were the ones who killed Kira?

Many of the records were lost in a fire, as you stated. So therefore, we have to put the records back together again from other sources. Some of them, to be honest, were speculation. Did the clan records survive? Or were they reconstructed? If they were reconstructed after the 47 Ronin incident, then perhaps they left out the part about Fuwa Kazuemon being banished -- they didn't want to sully his name? I'm just curious because there are SO MANY accounts of Fuwa Kazuemon's banishment and return.


Posted by Katana251 on 12/24/2005 5:16 pm
Yes many records were lost in a fire but one very reliable account well two actually "Portraits of The 47 Ronin by Umesaburo Tanaka" has a biography of all 47 this was written in 1888 ,The most reliable account of the vendetta is "The Loyal Samurai Of Ako "by Aisburo Ayiyama with an introduction by Tominomori Chotaro a 6th generation descendant of Tominomori Sukemon .In the intro he lambasts Kuniyoshi and Chikamatsu for creating many fictions and myths about the vendetta .This is from a direct descendant .Anyway nothing in either of these tomes mention anything about Fuwa being banished .Im not trying to start some heated debate about this as we both like the same subject but why dont you list all your sources about Fuwa than maybe we can put heads together and find some clarity in this Story.


Posted by Katana251 on 12/24/2005 5:44 pm
Another fiction that Ayiyama mentions is the secrecy of the vendetta .On November 5TH 1702 Oishi arrived in Edo and checked into an inn Hotel Oyamaya under the name Hakami Gorobei (Oishi was a direct descendant of the 10th century warrior Fujiwara Hikosato).The shogunate had the most spohisticated network of spys and informers and several of the Ako men like Yasubei were already well known there is no way this could have been carried out in secrecy rather the Shogunate let it happen why ????because Kira had fallen from Grace at the end of 1701 Tsunayoshi made him retire than in March 1702 he resigned as Lord of Kira in favour of his grandson .Tsunyoshi was very aware that public sympathy in Edo was with the Ako men .After Oishi arrives in Edo Kira trys to see both Yanigasawa Yoshiatsu and Tsunayoshi and both refuse to see him .He than visits his son the Daimyo of Useugi and doubles the guards on his mansion .Its obvious considering that Tsunayoshi also demoted the men who interrogated Asano that they wanted Kira out of the way but could not punish him themselves without admitting they were in the wrong so let the Ako men do it for them.


Posted by Nevermore..... on 12/24/2005 6:44 pm

"Portraits of The 47 Ronin by Umesaburo Tanaka" has a biography of all 47"

What does this source say about Fuwa Kazuemon? Other than that he was loyal. Any history or family background? Any account of his duties with the Asano clan and any account of his participation in the vendetta?

I realize that Chikamatsu put in a lot of fiction in his account. In the first place, he had to deal with bakufu censorship, so he had to change a few names, faces, and places. And put in a fiction that it had happened a few hundred years before it actually did. In many of the descriptions that Kuniyoshi wrote, he took even the Kabuki names from Chikamatsu.

But Fuwa Kazuemon wasn't mentioned at all in the Chikamatsu version. So what Kuniyoshi wrote about him came from some source other than Chikamatsu. And it was pretty detailed.

I'm away from home, visiting my mother and brother. I do have some other sources, including a rather long PDF document I got off of the internet. So when I get home, I'll list all the resources I have about Fuwa Kazuemon. And we can figure this out. Because so MANY of the popular sources (not Chikamatsu, however) say that he had been banished.


Posted by Katana251 on 12/27/2005 5:43 pm
I am not saying he was not banished its just a grey area .The most significant is the "Kansei Choshushofaku" is an Edo period record of all samurai(except those from Satsuma ) from the Daimyo down to the goshi with a list of their crimes no matter how big or small .Asano is in it as are the 46 (Kichiemon is not included as he was never charged) inc Fuwa but with Oichi and the other members ,The mystery is he is only listed in 1703 and Asano 1701 .If he was bannished before Asano's death why is his name absent ??And this is a very thourough record
Posted by Nevermore..... on 12/27/2005 9:44 pm

I don't think that what Fuwa Kazuemon did would be listed as a "crime" as such with the record that you cite. Because I think that this would be official crimes i.e. drawing your dagger in the Shogun's palace, commiting revenge without a permit, etc. I don't think that Fuwa Kazuemon commmited an official "crime", what he did was to displease his lord. This was basically an internal matter within the Asano clan.

A lord could banish any samurai for whatever reason he desired. So Lord Asano Naganori banished Fuwa Kazuemon. The reasons listed in most sources for this banishment involved his testing a sword on a human body in an unseemly way.


Posted by Nevermore..... on 12/28/2005 1:45 pm

Here is a document that lists some sources. The document is actually about fictional renditions of the ronin Terasaka, who is sometimes known as "the 47th Ronin." But there are some references to the life of Fuwa Kazuemon, with some footnotes and a bibliography that lists sources. I went to look at one of the sources, but it was in Japanese and I can't read Japanese. But the sources lists were:

Muro Kyuso AKO GIJINROKU

Tanaka Mitsuro FUWA KAZUEMON TO OKANO JIDAYU NO CHISHI, the site is listed as: http://homepage1.nifty.com/longivy/note/li0023.htm (which is all in Japanese)

Here is the link for the entire PDF file.

http://202.231.40.34/jpub/pdf/jr/IJ1601.pdf

Posted by BethEtsu on Jan-12 3:24 am

"the "Kansei Choshushofaku" is an Edo period record of all samurai(except those from Satsuma ) from the Daimyo down to the goshi with a list of their crimes no matter how big or small."

I would like to look at that. Do you have the kanji for it? Or at least a careful romanization that distinguishes between long and short vowels?

Posted by Katana251 on Jan-12 6:34 pm
No actually i was quoting from an article on it .Its kept in a Kyoto Mueseum .
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
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General Discussion -> ON THE MARGINS OF LEGEND


Posted by ronin_47 on 3/25/2005 2:39 am

On the margins of legend

By MASARU FUJIMOTO
Special to The Japan Times

Like many other legends, the tale of the 47 ronin has behind its bare historical facts several fascinating anecdotes. Here are some of the lesser-known aspects surrounding Japan's classic vendetta.

News photo
The entrance to Sengakuji Temple

What happened to the 47th ronin?

Terasaka Kichiemon was one of the 47 ronin who stormed the mansion of Lord Kira Yoshinaka. After they successfully slayed him, Terasaka disappeared from the ronin procession to Sengakuji Temple, where the other 46 ronin presented the head of Lord Kira to the grave of their master, Lord Asano Naganori.

Although some documents suggest that Terasaka, then 38 and a foot-soldier of low rank, may in fact have fled just before the raid, what is certain is that he lived to be 83 and spent his last years not far from Sengakuji, at Sokeiji Temple in the Azabu district -- where he rests in peace to this day.

When was the term Chushingura coined?

The story of the Ako ronin is now popularly known as "Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers)." The term was first used in the joruri puppet play titled "Kanadehon (A Copy Book of Kana) Chushingura," which was first presented in Osaka in 1748.

Following its instant success, the play was later made into kabuki and performed also in Edo. The story settings of the play were altered to the 14th century, and the names of the characters were changed, to circumvent censorship in the Edo Period, which banned dramatization of matters of contemporary political interest. The script was cowritten by Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shoraku and Namiki Senryu.

What happened to Kira's severed head?

After the severed head of Kira was offered to the grave of Lord Asano by the ronin, temple authorities returned it to the Kira family side. The head was then taken to shogunal surgeon Kurisaki Dou, who sewed it back onto the body. Kira was buried at Banshoin Kounji Temple in Kami-Takada (in present-day Tokyo's Nakano Ward).

Previously, Kurisaki had treated Kira after he was assaulted by Lord Asano in Edo Castle. Pn that occasion, Kira's wounds to his head and back were both severe, but thanks to Kurisaki's excellent treatment, he recovered within two weeks. However, Kira cloistered himself in his house for weeks longer, in order to increase public sympathy for himself.

Incidentally, Kira is described in Chushingura as a stereotypical villain, but in real life, he was well-respected by people in the town of Kira (present-day Aichi Prefecture) for being instrumental in the building of dikes and investing in the development of new farmland.

How did the four clans treat the ronin when they were ordered to hold them under arrest?

After leaving the Sengakuji Temple, the 46 ronin turned themselves in to the authorities under Ometsuke (Inspector General) Sengoku Hokinokami. They were then sent to the Edo mansions of the four daimyo later on Dec. 15, 1702, the same day they raided the Kira residence. Fearing that the Uesugi clan, Kira's relatives, might attack the former Ako retainers, the four daimyo houses dispatched a total of 1,400 men to guard the ronin. The ronin were kept at the daimyo mansions until the verdict was given.

While other daimyo treated the ronin as criminals, Hosokawa Tsunatoshi of the Kumamoto domain, whose Edo residence accommodated 17 ronin, treated them courteously. Hosokawa even petitioned the shogunate repeatedly to spare their lives.

What happened to Lord Asano's Edo mansion?

The mansion was located on the current site of St. Luke's College of Nursing in Tsukiji. After it was confiscated by the shogunate, the plot was divided into several smaller ones, on which mansions were built. One of these became the Edo mansion of the Nakatsu domain in Fukuoka. Yukichi Fukuzawa, also from the Nakatsu domain, founded Rangaku-juku (School of Dutch Learning), predecessor of Keio University, there in 1858.

What became of Kira's mansion?

After the raid, the Kira mansion in Honjo-Matsuzaka (near present-day JR Ryogoku Station) was also claimed by the shogunate. But since it was believed to be haunted, no one wished to live there. It was eventually torn down later in the Edo Period, and machiya houses were built for townspeople.

How is Sengakuji Temple connected with the clan of Lord Asano?

Tokugawa Ieyasu originally founded the temple in 1612 in honor of Imagawa Yoshimoto (1519-60), a warlord from today's Shizuoka Prefecture. After the Zen temple burned down in 1641, it was relocated from Soto-Sakurada, just outside Edo Castle, to its current site. Since Lord Asano's clan helped to rebuild the temple, it became its family temple.

Who was the fearful Shogun Tsunayoshi?

Born in 1646 as the fourth son of the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu, Tsunayoshi became lord of the Tatebayashi domain (in present-day Gunma Prefecture) and succeeded to the post of shogun after the death of his older brother Ietsuna, the fourth shogun, in 1681.

Tsunayoshi was largely inspired by Confucianism and tried to spread its teachings.

His "Shorui Awaremi no Rei (Laws for Mercy to Animals)" were based on the idea that a sovereign of virtue should be benevolent even to animals.

The laws, however, were twisted by his councilors, who strictly applied the principle to the extreme so that, for instance, a samurai who slew a dog with a sword was ordered to commit seppuku, and a shogunal page who swatted a mosquito that had landed on his cheek was exiled. The laws were abolished after Tsunayoshi's death in 1709.

How were the families of the ronin treated?

The families of the 46 ronin were subjected to punishment. Four boys were exiled to Izu Oshima, while the punishment for younger boys was left pending until they came of age at 15. After petitions by relatives of the ronin, and Yozen-in, widow of Asano, the four boys were acquitted on the condition that they became Budhhist monks. However, a pardon after the death of Shogun Ietsuna completely acquitted all family members of the ronin.

Were there any other similar attacks in Edo Castle?

Eight other similar incidents were recorded throughout the Edo Period, including the fatal stabbing in 1684 of Supreme Councilor Hotta Masatoshi, who helped Tsunayoshi to become shogun, and of Junior Councilor Tanuma Okitomo, son of Senior Councilor Tanuma Okitsugu, in 1784.

The Japan Times: Dec. 15, 2002


Posted by ronin_47 on 3/25/2005 2:51 am

General Discussion -> ON THE MARGINS OF LEGEND
Posted by ronin_47 on 3/25/2005 2:39 am

On the margins of legend

By MASARU FUJIMOTO
Special to The Japan Times

Like many other legends, the tale of the 47 ronin has behind its bare historical facts several fascinating anecdotes. Here are some of the lesser-known aspects surrounding Japan's classic vendetta.

News photo
The entrance to Sengakuji Temple

What happened to the 47th ronin?

Terasaka Kichiemon was one of the 47 ronin who stormed the mansion of Lord Kira Yoshinaka. After they successfully slayed him, Terasaka disappeared from the ronin procession to Sengakuji Temple, where the other 46 ronin presented the head of Lord Kira to the grave of their master, Lord Asano Naganori.

Although some documents suggest that Terasaka, then 38 and a foot-soldier of low rank, may in fact have fled just before the raid, what is certain is that he lived to be 83 and spent his last years not far from Sengakuji, at Sokeiji Temple in the Azabu district -- where he rests in peace to this day.

When was the term Chushingura coined?

The story of the Ako ronin is now popularly known as "Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers)." The term was first used in the joruri puppet play titled "Kanadehon (A Copy Book of Kana) Chushingura," which was first presented in Osaka in 1748.

Following its instant success, the play was later made into kabuki and performed also in Edo. The story settings of the play were altered to the 14th century, and the names of the characters were changed, to circumvent censorship in the Edo Period, which banned dramatization of matters of contemporary political interest. The script was cowritten by Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shoraku and Namiki Senryu.

What happened to Kira's severed head?

After the severed head of Kira was offered to the grave of Lord Asano by the ronin, temple authorities returned it to the Kira family side. The head was then taken to shogunal surgeon Kurisaki Dou, who sewed it back onto the body. Kira was buried at Banshoin Kounji Temple in Kami-Takada (in present-day Tokyo's Nakano Ward).

Previously, Kurisaki had treated Kira after he was assaulted by Lord Asano in Edo Castle. Pn that occasion, Kira's wounds to his head and back were both severe, but thanks to Kurisaki's excellent treatment, he recovered within two weeks. However, Kira cloistered himself in his house for weeks longer, in order to increase public sympathy for himself.

Incidentally, Kira is described in Chushingura as a stereotypical villain, but in real life, he was well-respected by people in the town of Kira (present-day Aichi Prefecture) for being instrumental in the building of dikes and investing in the development of new farmland.

How did the four clans treat the ronin when they were ordered to hold them under arrest?

After leaving the Sengakuji Temple, the 46 ronin turned themselves in to the authorities under Ometsuke (Inspector General) Sengoku Hokinokami. They were then sent to the Edo mansions of the four daimyo later on Dec. 15, 1702, the same day they raided the Kira residence. Fearing that the Uesugi clan, Kira's relatives, might attack the former Ako retainers, the four daimyo houses dispatched a total of 1,400 men to guard the ronin. The ronin were kept at the daimyo mansions until the verdict was given.

While other daimyo treated the ronin as criminals, Hosokawa Tsunatoshi of the Kumamoto domain, whose Edo residence accommodated 17 ronin, treated them courteously. Hosokawa even petitioned the shogunate repeatedly to spare their lives.

What happened to Lord Asano's Edo mansion?

The mansion was located on the current site of St. Luke's College of Nursing in Tsukiji. After it was confiscated by the shogunate, the plot was divided into several smaller ones, on which mansions were built. One of these became the Edo mansion of the Nakatsu domain in Fukuoka. Yukichi Fukuzawa, also from the Nakatsu domain, founded Rangaku-juku (School of Dutch Learning), predecessor of Keio University, there in 1858.

What became of Kira's mansion?

After the raid, the Kira mansion in Honjo-Matsuzaka (near present-day JR Ryogoku Station) was also claimed by the shogunate. But since it was believed to be haunted, no one wished to live there. It was eventually torn down later in the Edo Period, and machiya houses were built for townspeople.

How is Sengakuji Temple connected with the clan of Lord Asano?

Tokugawa Ieyasu originally founded the temple in 1612 in honor of Imagawa Yoshimoto (1519-60), a warlord from today's Shizuoka Prefecture. After the Zen temple burned down in 1641, it was relocated from Soto-Sakurada, just outside Edo Castle, to its current site. Since Lord Asano's clan helped to rebuild the temple, it became its family temple.

Who was the fearful Shogun Tsunayoshi?

Born in 1646 as the fourth son of the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu, Tsunayoshi became lord of the Tatebayashi domain (in present-day Gunma Prefecture) and succeeded to the post of shogun after the death of his older brother Ietsuna, the fourth shogun, in 1681.

Tsunayoshi was largely inspired by Confucianism and tried to spread its teachings.

His "Shorui Awaremi no Rei (Laws for Mercy to Animals)" were based on the idea that a sovereign of virtue should be benevolent even to animals.

The laws, however, were twisted by his councilors, who strictly applied the principle to the extreme so that, for instance, a samurai who slew a dog with a sword was ordered to commit seppuku, and a shogunal page who swatted a mosquito that had landed on his cheek was exiled. The laws were abolished after Tsunayoshi's death in 1709.

How were the families of the ronin treated?

The families of the 46 ronin were subjected to punishment. Four boys were exiled to Izu Oshima, while the punishment for younger boys was left pending until they came of age at 15. After petitions by relatives of the ronin, and Yozen-in, widow of Asano, the four boys were acquitted on the condition that they became Budhhist monks. However, a pardon after the death of Shogun Ietsuna completely acquitted all family members of the ronin.

Were there any other similar attacks in Edo Castle?

Eight other similar incidents were recorded throughout the Edo Period, including the fatal stabbing in 1684 of Supreme Councilor Hotta Masatoshi, who helped Tsunayoshi to become shogun, and of Junior Councilor Tanuma Okitomo, son of Senior Councilor Tanuma Okitsugu, in 1784.

The Japan Times: Dec. 15, 2002
Posted by ronin_47 on 3/25/2005 2:51 am

Death before dishonor

By MASARU FUJIMOTO
Special to The Japan Times

Snow has been the backdrop to some of Tokyo's most colorful and epoch-making events.

News photo
A scene in TV Tokyo's 10-hour drama "Chushingura: Time for Decision," to be screened Jan. 2.

When pro-emperor, anti-foreigner activists assassinated the shogun's chief councilor, Ii Naosuke, outside the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle (today's Imperial Palace) on March 3, 1860, the blood that stained that day's unseasonably heavy snow signaled the death knell of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

When some 1,500 young Imperial Japanese Army officers seeking a true Imperial restoration seized the nation's capital in an attempted coup d'etat on Feb. 26, 1936, Tokyo was again blanketed with snow. The coup collapsed three days later, but the incident became a major turning point that eventually spurred the rise of fascism in Japan.

Three hundred years ago -- on Dec. 14, 1702 -- the capital was also white with snow. That night, a killing occurred that has been emblematic of "the essence of the samurai" ever since. To this day, it is #### deep in the Japanese psyche.

The event has become Japan's most famous vendetta. Known as Chushingura (literally, The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), after a kabuki play on which it is based, it is the story of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) who beheaded a high-ranking shogunate official they held responsible for the death of their lord two years earlier. As punishment, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered the ronin to commit ritual seppuku, making it the most sensational incident in the Genroku Era (1688-1704), one of the most peaceful times in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Though the story has been depicted in joruri (ballad dramas with shamisen accompaniment), kabuki and movies, and told in countless books, the allure of the values it embodies has never faded.

The Chushingura chain of events began March 14, 1701, when Asano Naganori, the young daimyo of the Ako domain in Harima (present-day western Hyogo Prefecture), drew his sword and attacked court chamberlain Kira Yoshinaka inside Edo Castle. They had been preparing for the ceremonies to receive an Imperial mission from Kyoto later that day. Although Kira suffered serious head and back injuries, he survived the attack.

Infuriated, the Fifth Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi ordered Asano to disembowel himself immediately, as such assaults were strictly banned inside the castle. Lord Asano was taken into custody at the residence of his fellow Lord Tamura Ukyodayu in Shinbashi, where he dutifully committed seppuku later that day.

News photo
Tombstones of the ronin at Sengakuji Temple

With its lord's death, the Ako clan was cast to the winds, leaving all of its several hundred vassals without a livelihood. In accordance with its rules, the shogunate also took control of Ako Castle and the clan's Edo residence (on the current site of St. Luke's College of Nursing in Tsukiji).

To this day, however, it remains unclear what caused Lord Asano to act so violently, though one theory has it that the brash, 34-year-old daimyo from the country was unfamiliar with Edo protocol and was repeatedly humiliated by Kira, a refined, 60-year-old noble.

Whatever the cause, the result split the Ako clan's former vassals into two factions. While one group wanted to petition the shogunate and install Lord Asano's younger brother as head of the domain, the other comprised radicals eager to take revenge on Kira. In the eyes of both the masterless vassals and the public, however, the shogunate's decision to order only Lord Asano to commit suicide was arbitrary and partial, since the established practice was to punish both parties in a quarrel. It is said that the decision was largely influenced by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, a close aide of the shogun who had a firm grip on power behind the scenes. Yanagisawa had cozy ties with Kira, the shogunate's most experienced officer in charge of Imperial relations. As a result, most believed, virtually no action was taken against Kira.

In fact, the courtier's only "punishment" was his own voluntary retirement. He relocated his residence near Edo Castle to a new one he had built on an 8,500-sq.-meter lot in Honjo-Matsuzaka near Ryogoku. It is said his move came after pressure from his neighbors in the daimyo mansion district outside the castle, as they feared Ako ronin might raid his residence and they could become involved in trouble.

When the shogunate denied the Ako clan the right to rebuild, public sentiment in Edo swung even more toward the ronin -- although no one publicly supported them for fear of the authorities and their spies. In fact, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the shogun at the time, is viewed as the most fearful of all the Edo Period's 15 rulers for the severity of the laws he introduced.

Nonetheless, the Genroku Era was a time when popular culture bloomed. It saw haiku poet Matsuo Basho spreading his art of words; joruri and kabuki scriptwriter Chikamatsu Monzaemon becoming Japan's answer to Shakespeare; Hishikawa Moronobu creating the style of ukiyo-e; and multitalented Ogata Korin introducing original forms of art in painting, pottery and textile dyeing.

It was also a time of prosperity. Commoners enjoyed life on tatami mats and people started taking three meals a day, sometimes even eating out at outdoor stalls selling soba and snacks. Life was even better for wealthy merchants such as Kinokuniya Bunzaemon and Naraya Monaemon, who both made their fortunes in the logging business and spent their money very publicly.

For the nonproductive class of samurai, there was little to do at this time. The shogunate system was firmly in command, and there had been no major upheaval in the political capital for decades to give them a raison d'etre -- until Lord Asano's 47 former vassals exacted their revenge in 1702.

In their willingness to die for their master, the ronin exhibited the true spirit of samurai, living in accordance with the Bushido. Developed during the Edo Period as a code of ethics unique to the samurai class, the Bushido required a samurai to live with decorum and without taint, and to cultivate his fortitude and manliness. Above all, a samurai was loyal and obedient to his master.

Though most samurai, even vassals of the shogunate itself, were far from well paid, commoners accorded them high status. Wealthy merchants would even offer their daughters' hands in marriage to those living true to the spirit of Bushido. Indeed, honorable poverty was regarded as a noble state. The contemporary saying "bushi wa kuwanedo takayoji" illustrates this: A bushi should pretend he has just finished a meal by having a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, rather than have others think he is hungry.

The 47 ronin exemplified this spirit. Led by former chief retainer Oishi Kuranosuke, they spent many months singlemindedly gathering information on Kira, especially his new mansion, which had been converted into a mazelike fort. Disguised as doctors, merchants and other professionals, they repeatedly met in Kyoto, Edo and other locations to exchange tips.

Finally, on the night of Dec. 14 (on the lunar calendar then in us...[Message truncated]

Death before dishonor

By MASARU FUJIMOTO
Special to The Japan Times

Snow has been the backdrop to some of Tokyo's most colorful and epoch-making events.

News photo
A scene in TV Tokyo's 10-hour drama "Chushingura: Time for Decision," to be screened Jan. 2.

When pro-emperor, anti-foreigner activists assassinated the shogun's chief councilor, Ii Naosuke, outside the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle (today's Imperial Palace) on March 3, 1860, the blood that stained that day's unseasonably heavy snow signaled the death knell of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

When some 1,500 young Imperial Japanese Army officers seeking a true Imperial restoration seized the nation's capital in an attempted coup d'etat on Feb. 26, 1936, Tokyo was again blanketed with snow. The coup collapsed three days later, but the incident became a major turning point that eventually spurred the rise of fascism in Japan.

Three hundred years ago -- on Dec. 14, 1702 -- the capital was also white with snow. That night, a killing occurred that has been emblematic of "the essence of the samurai" ever since. To this day, it is #### deep in the Japanese psyche.

The event has become Japan's most famous vendetta. Known as Chushingura (literally, The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), after a kabuki play on which it is based, it is the story of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) who beheaded a high-ranking shogunate official they held responsible for the death of their lord two years earlier. As punishment, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered the ronin to commit ritual seppuku, making it the most sensational incident in the Genroku Era (1688-1704), one of the most peaceful times in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Though the story has been depicted in joruri (ballad dramas with shamisen accompaniment), kabuki and movies, and told in countless books, the allure of the values it embodies has never faded.

The Chushingura chain of events began March 14, 1701, when Asano Naganori, the young daimyo of the Ako domain in Harima (present-day western Hyogo Prefecture), drew his sword and attacked court chamberlain Kira Yoshinaka inside Edo Castle. They had been preparing for the ceremonies to receive an Imperial mission from Kyoto later that day. Although Kira suffered serious head and back injuries, he survived the attack.

Infuriated, the Fifth Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi ordered Asano to disembowel himself immediately, as such assaults were strictly banned inside the castle. Lord Asano was taken into custody at the residence of his fellow Lord Tamura Ukyodayu in Shinbashi, where he dutifully committed seppuku later that day.

News photo
Tombstones of the ronin at Sengakuji Temple

With its lord's death, the Ako clan was cast to the winds, leaving all of its several hundred vassals without a livelihood. In accordance with its rules, the shogunate also took control of Ako Castle and the clan's Edo residence (on the current site of St. Luke's College of Nursing in Tsukiji).

To this day, however, it remains unclear what caused Lord Asano to act so violently, though one theory has it that the brash, 34-year-old daimyo from the country was unfamiliar with Edo protocol and was repeatedly humiliated by Kira, a refined, 60-year-old noble.

Whatever the cause, the result split the Ako clan's former vassals into two factions. While one group wanted to petition the shogunate and install Lord Asano's younger brother as head of the domain, the other comprised radicals eager to take revenge on Kira. In the eyes of both the masterless vassals and the public, however, the shogunate's decision to order only Lord Asano to commit suicide was arbitrary and partial, since the established practice was to punish both parties in a quarrel. It is said that the decision was largely influenced by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, a close aide of the shogun who had a firm grip on power behind the scenes. Yanagisawa had cozy ties with Kira, the shogunate's most experienced officer in charge of Imperial relations. As a result, most believed, virtually no action was taken against Kira.

In fact, the courtier's only "punishment" was his own voluntary retirement. He relocated his residence near Edo Castle to a new one he had built on an 8,500-sq.-meter lot in Honjo-Matsuzaka near Ryogoku. It is said his move came after pressure from his neighbors in the daimyo mansion district outside the castle, as they feared Ako ronin might raid his residence and they could become involved in trouble.

When the shogunate denied the Ako clan the right to rebuild, public sentiment in Edo swung even more toward the ronin -- although no one publicly supported them for fear of the authorities and their spies. In fact, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the shogun at the time, is viewed as the most fearful of all the Edo Period's 15 rulers for the severity of the laws he introduced.

Nonetheless, the Genroku Era was a time when popular culture bloomed. It saw haiku poet Matsuo Basho spreading his art of words; joruri and kabuki scriptwriter Chikamatsu Monzaemon becoming Japan's answer to Shakespeare; Hishikawa Moronobu creating the style of ukiyo-e; and multitalented Ogata Korin introducing original forms of art in painting, pottery and textile dyeing.

It was also a time of prosperity. Commoners enjoyed life on tatami mats and people started taking three meals a day, sometimes even eating out at outdoor stalls selling soba and snacks. Life was even better for wealthy merchants such as Kinokuniya Bunzaemon and Naraya Monaemon, who both made their fortunes in the logging business and spent their money very publicly.

For the nonproductive class of samurai, there was little to do at this time. The shogunate system was firmly in command, and there had been no major upheaval in the political capital for decades to give them a raison d'etre -- until Lord Asano's 47 former vassals exacted their revenge in 1702.

In their willingness to die for their master, the ronin exhibited the true spirit of samurai, living in accordance with the Bushido. Developed during the Edo Period as a code of ethics unique to the samurai class, the Bushido required a samurai to live with decorum and without taint, and to cultivate his fortitude and manliness. Above all, a samurai was loyal and obedient to his master.

Though most samurai, even vassals of the shogunate itself, were far from well paid, commoners accorded them high status. Wealthy merchants would even offer their daughters' hands in marriage to those living true to the spirit of Bushido. Indeed, honorable poverty was regarded as a noble state. The contemporary saying "bushi wa kuwanedo takayoji" illustrates this: A bushi should pretend he has just finished a meal by having a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, rather than have others think he is hungry.

The 47 ronin exemplified this spirit. Led by former chief retainer Oishi Kuranosuke, they spent many months singlemindedly gathering information on Kira, especially his new mansion, which had been converted into a mazelike fort. Disguised as doctors, merchants and other professionals, they repeatedly met in Kyoto, Edo and other locations to exchange tips.

Finally, on the night of Dec. 14 (on the lunar calendar then in us...[Message truncated]
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Posted by ronin_47 on 4/3/2005 5:47 pm

In his book, Tales of Old Japan, The British Ambassador to Japan, Lord Redesdale (Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford) took a tour of Sengaku-ji. He lived within view of the famous temple and was so taken by the story of the 47 Ronin, that he translated their personal notes and letters.

http://www.blackmask.com/thatway/books162c/taja.htm

1. Is the receipt provided by the Abbott of Sengaku-ji to the relatives of Kira when they picked up his severed head.

2. Is the note each man carried on his body in case he was captured or killed

3. is the the statement issued by the group of 47 men, written by Chief retainer Oishi, prior to their surrender for court martial.

(excerpt from the book)
A silver key once admitted me to a private inspection of the relics. We were ushered, my friend and myself, into a back apartment of the spacious temple, overlooking one of those marvellous miniature gardens, cunningly adorned with rockeries and dwarf trees, in which the Japanese delight. One by one, carefully labelled and indexed boxes containing the precious articles were brought out and opened by the chief priest. Such a curious medley of old rags and scraps of metal and wood! Home-made chain armour, composed of wads of leather secured together by pieces of iron, bear witness to the secrecy with which the Ronins made ready for the fight. To have bought armour would have attracted attention, so they made it with their own hands. Old moth-eaten surcoats, bits of helmets, three flutes, a writing-box that must have been any age at the time of the tragedy, and is now tumbling to pieces; tattered trousers of what once was rich silk brocade, now all unravelled and befringed; scraps of leather, part of an old gauntlet, crests and badges, bits of sword handles, spear-heads and dirks, the latter all red with rust, but with certain patches more deeply stained as if the fatal clots of blood were never to be blotted out: all these were reverently shown to us. Among the confusion and litter were a number of documents, Yellow with age and much worn at the folds. One was a plan of Kotsuke no Suke's house, which one of the Ronins obtained by marrying the daughter of the builder who designed it. Three of the manuscripts appeared to me so curious that I obtained leave to have copies taken of them.

The first is the receipt given by the retainers of Kotsuke no Suke's son in return for the head of their lord's father, which the priests restored to the family, and runs as follows:—

“MEMORANDUM:—
ITEM. ONE HEAD.
ITEM. ONE PAPER PARCEL.
The above articles are acknowledged to have been received.
& bsp; Signed, { SAYADA MAGOBELI. (Loc. sigill.)
& bsp; bsp; { SAITO KUNAI. (Loc. sigill.)

“To the priests deputed from the Temple Sengakuji,
His Reverence SEKISHI,
His Reverence ICHIDON.”

Posted by ronin_47 on 4/3/2005 5:50 pm

The second paper is a document explanatory of their conduct, a copy of which was found on the person of each of the forty-seven men:—

“Last year, in the third month, Asano Takumi no Kami, upon the occasion of the entertainment of the Imperial ambassador, was driven, by the force of circumstances, to attack and wound my Lord Kotsuke no Suke in the castle, in order to avenge an insult offered to him. Having done this without considering the dignity of the place, and having thus disregarded all rules of propriety, he was condemned to hara-kiri, and his property and castle of Ako were forfeited to the State, and were delivered up by his retainers to the officers deputed by the Shogun to receive them. After this his followers were all dispersed. At the time of the quarrel the high officials present prevented Asano Takumi no Kami from carrying out his intention of killing his enemy, my Lord Kotsuke no Suke. So Asano Takumi no Kami died without having avenged himself, and this was more than his retainers could endure. It is impossible to remain under the same heaven with the enemy of lord or father; for this reason we have dared to declare enmity against a personage of so exalted rank. This day we shall attack Kira Kotsuke no Suke, in order to finish the deed of vengeance which was begun by our dead lord. If any honourable person should find our bodies after death, he is respectfully requested to open and read this document.

-15th year of Genroku. 12th month.

Signed, OISHI KURANOSUKE, Retainer of Asano Takumi no Kami, and forty-six others.”[6]

[Footnote 6: It is usual for a Japanese, when bent upon some deed of violence, the end of which, in his belief, justifies the means, to carry about with him a document, such as that translated above, in which he sets forth his motives, that his character may be cleared after death.]


Edited 4/3/2005 5:53 pm ET by ronin_47


Posted by ronin_47 on 4/3/2005 5:53 pm

The third manuscript is a paper which the Forty-seven Ronins laid upon the tomb of their master, together with the head of Kira Kotsuke no Suke:—

“The 15th year of Genroku, the 12th month, and 15th day. We have come this day to do homage here, forty-seven men in all, from Oishi Kuranosuke down to the foot-soldier, Terasaka Kichiyemon, all cheerfully about to lay down our lives on your behalf. We reverently announce this to the honoured spirit of our dead master.

On the 14th day of the third month of last year our honoured master was pleased to attack Kira Kotsuke no Suke, for what reason we know not. Our honoured master put an end to his own life, but Kira Kotsuke no Suke lived. Although we fear that after the decree issued by the Government this plot of ours will be displeasing to our honoured master, still we, who have eaten of your food, could not without blushing repeat the verse, 'Thou shalt not live under the same heaven nor tread the same earth with the enemy of thy father or lord,' nor could we have dared to leave hell and present ourselves before you in paradise, unless we had carried out the vengeance which you began.

Every day that we waited seemed as three autumns to us. Verily, we have trodden the snow for one day, nay, for two days, and have tasted food but once. The old and decrepit, the sick and ailing, have come forth gladly to lay down their lives. Men might laugh at us, as at grasshoppers trusting in the strength of their arms, and thus shame our honoured lord; but we could not halt in our deed of vengeance.

Having taken counsel together last night, we have escorted my Lord Kotsuke no Suke hither to your tomb. This dirk,[7] by which our honoured lord set great store last year, and entrusted to our care, we now bring back. If your noble spirit be now present before this tomb, we pray you, as a sign, to take the dirk, and, striking the head of your enemy with it a second time, to dispel your hatred for ever. This is the respectful statement of forty-seven men.”

Posted by ronin_47 on 4/3/2005 5:54 pm

I am also including the final words of Chikara Oishi, age 16, before committing seppuku:

“I humbly thank your lordship for what you have been pleased to say. My father warned me from the first that our crime was so great that, even were we to be pardoned by a gracious judgment upon one count, I must not forget that there would be a hundred million counts against us for which we must commit suicide: and that if I disregarded his words his hatred would pursue me after death. My father impressed this upon me at the temple called Sengakuji, and again when I was separated from him to be taken to the palace of Prince Sengoku. Now my father and myself have been condemned to perform hara-kiri, according to the wish of our hearts. Still I cannot forget to think of my mother. When we parted at Kiyoto, she told me that our separation would be for long, and she bade me not to play the coward when I thought of her. As I took a long leave of her then, I have no message to send to her now.”

(Oishi Chikara's final statement before committing seppuku at the residence of Matsudaira Oki no Kami. Lord Matsudaira had offered to deliver a message to Chikara's mother, but he politely declined. Oishi Chikara was 16 years old. It is said that that Lord Matsudaira and his men wept after hearing his final words.)


Posted by ronin_47 on 4/3/2005 6:13 pm

Lord Redesdale describes a samurai kill himself before the graves:

I will add one anecdote to show the sanctity which is attached to the graves of the Forty-seven. In the month of September 1868, a certain man came to pray before the grave of Oishi Chikara. Having finished his prayers, he deliberately performed hara-kiri,[8] and, the belly wound not being mortal, dispatched himself by cutting his throat. Upon his person were found papers setting forth that, being a Ronin and without means of earning a living, he had petitioned to be allowed to enter the clan of the Prince of Choshiu, which he looked upon as the noblest clan in the realm; his petition having been refused, nothing remained for him but to die, for to be a Ronin was hateful to him, and he would serve no other master than the Prince of Choshiu: what more fitting place could he find in which to put an end to his life than the graveyard of these Braves? This happened at about two hundred yards' distance from my house, and when I saw the spot an hour or two later, the ground was all bespattered with blood, and disturbed by the death-struggles of the man.

[Footnote 8: A purist in Japanese matters may object to the use of the words hara-kiri instead of the more elegant expression Seppuku. I retain the more vulgar form as being better known, and therefore more convenient.]

(excerpt)

There are many stories on record of extraordinary heroism being displayed in the hara-kiri. The case of a young fellow, only twenty years old, of the Choshiu clan, which was told me the other day by an eye-witness, deserves mention as a marvellous instance of determination. Not content with giving himself the one necessary cut, he slashed himself thrice horizontally and twice vertically. Then he stabbed himself in the throat until the dirk protruded on the other side, with its sharp edge to the front; setting his teeth in one supreme effort, he drove the knife forward with both hands through his throat, and fell dead.


Posted by ronin_47 on 4/3/2005 6:18 pm

Documents from Ako high school website (the school was built on the site of Ako castle)

"The day has come. I think the revenge will be complete within 3 days from today. For the last 2 years, we did our best and now we face the act of vengeance. I think our wish is fulfilled and all who will participate are excited. Kira is prepared for our attack, so whether we win or lose will depend on luck.
"As I said before I won't think it unpleasant or reproachful whatever punishment is given to us by Kogi. Even if my dead body is shown, I think my duty will be fulfilled because my dead body will demonstrate Samurai loyalty to the entire country and it will strengthen their resolve."
-Onodera Junai's final letter to his wife in Kyoto.


Posted by ronin_47 on 4/3/2005 6:19 pm

"Some people live all their lives without knowing which path is right. They're buffeted by this wind or that and never really know where they're going. That's largely the fate of the commoners--those who have no choice over their destiny. For those of us born as samurai, life is something else. We know the path of duty and we follow it without question."

-Oishi Kuranosuke

"What is the most beautiful thing on earth?" said Osiris to Horus. The reply was, "To avenge a parent's wrongs," -- to which a Japanese would have added, "and a master's."

-From Bushido: The Soul of Japan (Nitobe, 1899, p. 126)

"No man may live under the same sky nor tread the same earth as the enemy of thy lord, father or master."

-From The Analects of Confucious (Confucious, ca 500 B.C.)
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:01 pm    Post subject: Re: From the old delphi forum: The 47 Ronin Reply with quote
Wow, this is great. This is as good as the stuff you and Kitsuno put together for the Kofun topic. Thanks for taking the time to get it up here.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
This is a great collection of information. I'm sure it took a lot of work. Thanks for posting it Nagaeyari. Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've been reading through it--some really good stuff, I agree. A lot of these guys are Japanese, IIRC.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
Posted by William Letham on 8/13/2000 9:25 am
There was a sort of revisionist version of the 47 ronin story that aired a few years ago. It starred none other than Beat Takeshi as a rather bumbling unassertive Oishi. The drama depicted the ronin as bloodthirtsy vengeful gangsters and Kiras men as almost helpless scared wimps. When one looks a the other dramas one might feel as if all of is a bit exaggerated, to good to be true. One has to wonder at the true history of this event.


Oh man-I HAVE to find this. I absolutely HAVE to! A version of the Ronin story I can bring myself to watch in one sitting!

What ever happened to Shigewake? He sounds like someone I would have liked.

Why are they speaking of the Asano being Tozama lords in these discussions? The Asano were allies of the Tokugawa during the Sekigahara and Osaka campaigns, and were granted fudai status (according to Papinot, the Japanese mook 300 Notable Warrior Families Of Japan, Rekishi Gunzou, etc). I’ve never heard of tozama/fudai status being changed.
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