The Famous 47 Ronin of Ako

This historical event relates to the revenge killing by the samurai who were made ronin (samurai without a master) by the death of their lord by ordered seppuku. The story goes as follows.

In the spring of 1701, the Tokugawa shogunate was preparing for the reception of the Imperial messengers and lord Asano Takuni-no-kami Naganori of Ako castle in Harima province appointed as one of the reception comittee. During the procedures he was so harassed and humiliated by one Kira Kozuke-no-suke, the master of ceremonies in the Shogun's Edo castle, for some trifling error in procedure, that he lost his temper and slashed at Yoshinaka with his dagger, wounding him on the forehead.

For daring to draw a sword in the castle, he was ordered to commit suicide by seppuku, and his domains were confiscated. Upon learning of this terrible happening, Asano's samurai retainers swore revenge upon Kira.

A band of 47 retainers worked secretly for years to accomplish the vendetta, during which time one of their members died. However, his spirit was always counted as being among them during the revenge. Great difficulties had to be overcome as Kira had spies watching for moves by the ronin. Finally they set the night of the 14th day of the 12th month of 1702 to attack the mansion of Kira Kozuke-no-suke Yoshihisa "Yoshinaka" as he was to have a banquet that night and would be sure to be home. As the snowy evening became dark the comrades began to gather in disguise, one by one, and armed themselves.

The war drum of Oishi Yoshio sounded loud in the cold dark night to start the attack. Losing no time the ronin broke in the gate and rushed into the festive fighting vigorously against the Kira warriors and searching for Yoshinaka. But Yoshinaka could not be found! Had he escaped?

The ronin became desperate as time went by and dawn approached. Then there was a shout "Here! I found him!" It was Takebayashi Tadashichi who was known as an impulsive man who stabbed Yoshinake with his long blade spear in the charcoal storage shed where the cowardly Kira had hidden.

Hazama Jujiro jumped into the shed and instantly swung his katana on old Kira's neck.

All the ronin gathered around, and inspected the head, found the scar of the sword wound their master had inflicted. They cried with joy at the success of their revenge. With the head of Yoshinaka, the ronin marched in formation to the tomb of their ill-fated master, lord Asano, offering the head and praying that his soul may rest in peace at last.

After this they gave themselves up to the officers of justice. Their penalty was suicide by seppuku which was performed with great ceremony. Terasaka Kichiemon Nobuyuki, being only a foot-soldier, was not allowed to commit suicide. Not only was this an honor reserved for samurai, but for the government to acknowledge his participation continued loss of face. Terasaka lived on to be over eighty years of age, spending his life caring for the gravesites of his master and the ronin.

At the Sengaku-ji temple at Takanawa, two miles south of Shibuya park in Tokyo is the location of the tomb stones of the 47 ronin to which offering of burning incense by the people have never stopped for even one day for more than 260 years right up to this day.

Note - I just recently learned that Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshio, the chief of the famous 47 ronin of Ako wore a daisho pair of swords made by the later Norinaga of the Shikkake group. These talks by Mr. Kizu involve much more time and research than might be apparent from their brevity. He searches out what is written in a dozen source books about each school and group and then combines all the pertinent information in his talks. By this means his talks are much more inclusive than any single source. His extensive library of sword works includes most of the old original source books and many modern works that have been written by recent and present day researchers using scientific methods.

Willis M. Hawley
(Edited by Nathan Scott)

Kuniyoshi Woodblock Prints Featuring Six Of Asano's Retainers

Click on an image to enlarge.