47 rōnin

The legend of the 47 ronin ( 四十七士Shi-Ju Shichi-shi ? , Yon-ju Nana-shi) , Incident Akō ( 赤穂浪士, Akō Rōshi ? ) , Accident Genroku Akō ( 元禄赤穂事件Genroku Akō jikeno ? ) Is a Japanese story , considered as national legend in that country, by several scholars. 1 This historical fact developed approximately between 1701 and 1703 and is the most famous legend of the samurai honor code : Bushidō .

It tells the story that a group of samurai (exactly 47) were forced to become rōnin ( 浪人? ) (Samurai without owner) according to the samurai’s honor code, 2 after their daimyō ( feudal lord ) was forced To commit seppuku (honor suicide ritual), for having assaulted a senior government official named Kira Kozukenosuke , in a seat of government . The rōnin devised a plan to avenge his daimyo , which consisted in murdering his mother and all his family. The 47 rōnin waited about a year and a half not to arouse suspicions among the justice of Japan. After the murder of Kira they surrendered to justice, and they were sentenced to commit seppuku . 3 This legendary story became very popular in Japanese culture because it shows the loyalty , sacrifice, perseverance and honor that good people must preserve in their daily lives. The popularity of the almost mythical story was heightened by the rapid modernization that occurred during the Meiji era in Japan, when many people in that country longed for a return to their cultural roots.

The story of the 47 rōnin

These stories are not fiction, nor is there any doubt that something really happened in Genroku . For many years, the version of the facts was narrated by Tales of Old Japan and considered authentic. The sequence of events and characters in this narrative were presented to a wide popular reading in the West .

Tales of Old Japan invited its readers to build their forty-seven rōnin story as historically accurate, and at the same time Tales of Old Japan throughout history has been considered a standard of work; Some of its precise details are now questioned. However, even with potential defects, the work of Tales of Old Japan remains the starting point for further study. 4

The history of the 47 rōnin is one of the most celebrated in samurai history. This was due mostly to what happened at a time when the samurai class struggled to have a sense in itself, for they were warriors without battles to fight, a social class without function. 5

Genesis of a tragedy

With the teachings of Yamaga Soko , an influential theorist who wrote a number of important works on the warrior spirit and what it meant for the samurai. His writings inspired a certain Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshio , a samurai and servant of Asano Takumi No Kami Naganori, who ruled a powerful branch of his family.

Matsu no Ōrōka, the Pine Runner, at Edo Castle , where Asano attacked Kira.

Sucedió que Asano fue escogido por el shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi para ser uno de los daimyō cuyo deber era el de entretener a los enviados de la Familia Imperial. Para ayudarlo en su nuevo deber, el maestro de protocolo de mayor rango en el bakufu, Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka, fue asignado a instruirle en asuntos de etiqueta. Kira, al parecer, era alguien difícil y esperaba que Asano le compensase con una gran suma de dinero por ayudarle con el “problema”, pero Asano consideraba su ayuda simplemente como su deber. Ambos se disgustaban mutuamente, y Kira intentaba por todo medio de humillar a su discípulo. Finalmente, la situación explotó en el palacio del shōgun; Kira insultó a Asano una vez más y éste, enfurecido, desenvainó su nihontō y la blandió contra él. Kira sólo resultó ligeramente herido y Asano fue prontamente puesto bajo arresto.6

Attacking another with fury was against the law ; Doing so in the shōgun palace was unthinkable. Asano made little effort to defend himself during the interrogation, except to say that he had no grudge against the shōgun and that he only regretted not having killed Kira. 7

After the o-metsuke completed their investigation into the matter, the shōgun issued a death sentence against Asano, ordering him to commit suicide . The shōgun decreed that his income of 50,000 koku where Ako in Harima should be confiscated and that his brother Daigaku should be placed under house arrest .

The revenge of the rōnin

Two of the forty-seven rōnin: Horibe Yahei and his adopted son, Horibe Yasubei.

When the news of the unfortunate event reached the castle of Asano, his servants were altered and heatedly argued about what they should do. They all gathered to discuss the revenge of their master’s murder for Kira, even though they knew they would be severely punished for it. In spite of this, the now rōnin made a secret oath to avenge the death of their master. Some proposed resign and become ronin , while others wanted to defend the castle and confront the government . Oishi Kuranosuke suggested leaving the castle in peace and fighting for the Asano family while at the same time preparing revenge against Kira, and this view prevailed.

A band of Asano’s servants, now rōnin , planned a careful plan for revenge. Kira, hoping for reprisals, increased her personal guard. Oishi’s plan was to wait for his prey to be trusted over time, while he waited for the right moment. To this end, the rōnin hid many weapons and armors in different and diverse places, taking smaller works; Others, like Oishi himself, tried to lose interest in their future. Referring to Fig.

However, Kira was well guarded, and his residence had been fortified, to avoid such an event. They saw that they would have to put him “out of his guard” before they could succeed. To quell the suspicions of Kira and other authorities, they dispersed and became traders and monks .

Ōishi himself took over the residence of Kyoto, and began to frequent brothels and taverns , as if nothing were further from his mind than revenge, even abandoned his wife , divorced her on the spot, and sent her away with His two youngest children. In the place of his wife, he bought a nice young concubine . In spite of this, Kira still feared a trap, and sent spies to observe the ex- servants of Asano.

One day, Ōishi came back drunk, so much so that he fell into the sleeping street, and all who passed by laughed at him. A man from Satsuma, passing that road, was enraged by this behavior by an ex-samurai both for his lack of courage to avenge his master, as well as his current behavior. Satsuma’s man insulted and abused him, and kicked him in the face (touching the face of a samurai was a great insult), and spat on him. Referring to Fig.

Kira’s spies reported that the Asano servants were all poorly made samurai, without the courage to avenge their master, and should be harmless; Kira came to the conclusion that he was safe from Asano’s servants and then he stopped being alert and relaxed his guards. 10

El resto de los fieles vasallos ahora reunidos en Edo, y, en su papel de trabajadores y comerciantes, consiguieron acceder a la casa de Kira, familiarizarse con el diseño de la casa, y el carácter de todos dentro. Uno de los vasallos de Asano (Kinemon Kanehide Okano) llegó a casarse con la hija del constructor de la casa, para obtener los planos. Todo esto se informó a Ōishi. Otros se reunieron en secreto, consiguieron armas y las transportaron a Edo.

The attack

Attack ronin to the mansion of Kira, entering by the main façade.

There is no need to say that Kira doubted his dangerous situation and in a year he lowered his guard. It was at this point that the rōnin attacked. Forty-seven of them gathered on the fourteenth day of the twelfth month of 1702 and after arming, began with their revenge that very night. Once in the mansion of Kira in Edo, they were divided in two groups, one attacked by vanguard and another by rear. 11 Many of Kira’s men were injured or killed since they were taken by surprise, but they opposed good resistance (one of the rōnin died here). Kira was found outside the house and presented to Oishi, who gave him the opportunity to commit seppuku . As he did not respond, Oishi decapitated him with the same dagger with which Asano committed seppuku . The head was wrapped, tied to a pike and taken to the Sengakuji Temple , where Asano was buried. After washing it in a nearby well and presenting it to the spirit of its master, they surrendered.

The sequels

700 soldiers went by them to Sengakuji; Mr. Sengoku treated them very well, fed them and gave them where to rest. Araki told Oishi a few days later: “People are in your favor, that’s why their sentence has been delayed. The shōgun is aware that they obeyed and that they had not behaved like common criminals, and there is even a kabuki of yours. They are already famous heroes. ” On February 4, 1703, after 47 days their sentence came: They were granted the great honor of dying for seppuku (ritual of suicide with honor) and not die as criminals. Oishi warned that they would do it by degrees and asked that his son Chisaka be the first. The 46 rōnin that died by seppuku are buried together in Sengakuji, Terasaka Kichiemon was pardoned and later buried next to Sanpei Kayano, who committed seppuku , since to want to participate in the revenge was not allowed by his family. At the entrance to the temple is a statue of Oishi and the 47 names of the warriors. 12

Kira’s murder put the government in a difficult situation. 13 After all, the survivors now awaiting their fate had lived under the standards of loyalty expected of a true samurai and the ideals promulgated by men like Yamaga Soko.

On their return to Sengaku-ji, the rōnin stopped in the street, as they were invited to a snack.

In addition, the decision to order Asano’s seppuku and confiscate his domains without taking action against Kira was not popular (at least one of the o-metsuke was dismissed for protesting the verdict). However, the bakufu decided that maintaining order was the most important thing, and so the rōnin were sentenced to commit seppuku , at the suggestion of the famous Confucian scholar Ogyu Sorai. The ronin were kept in groups of four different daimyo , but when they died, were buried together at the Sengakuji. It is said that the samurai of Satsuma who spat on Oishi came to the temple and also committed seppuku to amend his errors. 14

The revenge of the 47 rōnin continued to spread controversy during the Edo period. Some thought they waited too long for it, for Kira was at risk of dying (she was 60 years old) and her efforts would be futile; This was the vision of Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the author of the Hagakure. 2 The scholar confucionista Naotaka Sato criticized them for taking action, since the judgment of the shogun should assume the matter. He agreed with Yamamoto that they should commit seppuku in the Sengakuji once the revenge had been consummated, since as they did not, they opened a window to forgiveness and continue to live, somewhat dishonorable, with respect to their crimes . He also reserved his hardest words for Kira, whom he called a coward and whose rashness in the affair caused so many deaths.

Others did not share such visions. Asami Yasuda defended them and Chikamatsu wrote a favorable play that became a classic. In the end, the 47 rōnin became a legend; The Sengakuji is a very visited place and a place for modern admirers of what was one of the best examples of samurai loyalty that emerged in the Edo period.

The 47 rōnin at present

The tombstones today.

In Sengaku-ji are the tombs of the 46 rōnin condemned to seppuku and two more in memory of Terasaka Kichiemon and Kayano Sanpei . Kayano was keen to take part in the revenge but committed seppuku before the attack due to strong opposition from his family.

The revenge of the “Ako Gishi” has been depicted in several films, and is now commonly known as “Chu-shin-gura” (The History of the Loyal Samurai). This is a popular story, which still touches the heart of the Japanese after 300 years. The chivalry of faithful servants, and the subjects of “Gi” (justice) and “Chu” (loyalty) are still highly esteemed by the Japanese. fifteen

Today the tombs of Asano and the 47 rōnin can be visited at the Sengaku Temple in Tokyo , where the Japanese continue to venerate their memory, putting incense to them and celebrating a festival on the anniversary of their death. 16

Film adaptation

In 1941 the film premiered the forty-seven samurai or The Loyalists 47 Ronin, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, that recreates in historical movie format of adventures the history of the 47 ronin.

In 2013, the film was released to illustrate this Japanese story with the starring role of actor Keanu Reeves , who heads the cast in the role of Kai, a mestizo who joins Kuranosuke Oishi ( Hiroyuki Sanada ), leader of the 47 Ronin. Together they will try to take revenge on the traitor who killed his master and condemned them to exile. To restore honor to their homeland, warriors set out on a quest riddled with harsh tests capable of destroying anyone else. 17

In 2015, the film Last Knights , directed by Kazuaki Kiriya and written by Michael Konyves and Dove Sussman, was based on this story. The film follows Major Raiden ( Clive Owen ) and his men, who secretly plot a way to avenge the death of their Lord Bartok ( Morgan Freeman ), who was sentenced to death for treason to the crown after he fought the Humiliation of Minister Geza Mott.


  1. Back to top↑ Kanadehon, Chûshingura (2005). «Treasure of Loyal Retainers» . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  2. ↑ Jump to:a b Anonymous (2005). “Hagakure (cultured leaves) The Book of the Samurai ” . Virtual Libraries. Archived from the original on November 28, 2015 . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  3. Back to top↑ Allyn, John (1999). “The Forty-Seven Samurai .” Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  4. Back to top↑ Williams, Bryn (1997). «SEPPUKU (ritual Suicide by Desentrañamiento)» . Shotokai Karate Budo, Shotokai Encyclopedia of Karate-do and Japanese Martial Arts . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  5. Back to top↑ Nungaray, Weird (2007). “What is a samurai?” . The art of breaking . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  6. Back to top↑ «Kira Yoshinaka» . TheSamuraiArchives SamuraiWiki. 2005 . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  7. Back to top↑ Barros, Graciela (2005). “History of Ronin .” Arts and CraftsOnline.com. Archived from the original on November 28, 2015 . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  8. Back to top↑ Williams, Bryn (1997). Oishi Kuranosuke . Shotokai Karate Budo, Shotokai Encyclopedia of Karate-do and Japanese Martial Arts . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  9. Back to top↑ Various Collaborators (2005). “47 Ronin .” TheSamuraiArchives SamuraiWiki . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  10. Back to top^ Mizuno, Kenmotsu (2002). Samurai Archives . Hosokawa . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  11. Back to top↑ William Scott, Wilson (2000). The 47 Ronin . See Hagakure . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  12. Back to top↑ Barros, Graciela (2005). «(Chu) loyalty and Gi (Justice)» . Arts and CraftsOnline.com. Archived from the originalon November 28, 2015 . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  13. Back to top↑ Williams, Bryn (1997). «SEPPUKU (ritual Suicide by Desentrañamiento)» . Shotokai Karate Budo, Shotokai Encyclopedia of Karate-do and Japanese Martial Arts . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  14. Back to top↑ JKeats (2007). “The 47 Ronin .” Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  15. Back to top↑ Borges, Jorge Luis (2004). “Universal History of Infamy” . Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  16. Back to top↑ Borges, Jorge Luis (2004). “The man of Satsuma .” Consulted the 3 of February of 2008 .
  17. Back to top↑ Keanu Reeves in 47 Rōnin , .labutaca.net – 47 Rōnin to the cinema.