Story of the 47 LOYAL SAMURAI〜Chushingura〜

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 Some 310 years back in (1701),it was a peaceful era called Genroku in Japanese history. In those times,the Tokugawa Shogunate,which had conquered the whole country throughout Japan by force of arms,was taking the reins of the government,led by the fifth Tokugawa Shogun,Tsunayoshi. The Tokugawas had assumed the helm of State,but every governor in Japanese history till that time never forgot respect for the Imperial Court.
 Every New Year,it was customary for the Tokugawas to send envoys to present to the Emperor a large sum of money and other gifts as a token of the New Year's greetings. In March,the Emperor in return dispatched his envoys to Edo (present-day Tokyo) to express his thanks to the Tokugawas.
 On such occasions,the Tokugawas customarily appointed some daimyo,or feudal lords,as entertainers to attend to the Imperial envoys during their stay in Edo. But,the daimyo,being originally bushi,or warriors,knew well how to fight,but were not versed in difficult manners and etiquette on how to welcome guests. therefore,an adviser for the daimyo was appointed at the same time.It was one of the customs established under the Tokugawa rule.

勅使・院使の答礼 〜 Salution of the Emperor's envoys
勅使・院使の答礼 〜 Salution of the Emperor's envoys.

 On the 14th year of Genroku (1701),the Court envoys from Kyoto arrived in Edo on the 11th of March.Asano-Takuminokami,who was the lord of Ako in the province of Harima (present-day Hyogo Prefecture),had been appointed as an Official Entertainer.Kira-Kozukenosuke the Grand Master of Ceremonies of the Shogun,had been appointed as an Adviser.
内匠頭切腹 〜 Asano-Takuminokami commit SEPPUKU (disembowelment).
内匠頭切腹 〜 Asano-Takuminokami commit SEPPUKU (disembowelment). 
 The ceremony proceeded smoothly and was about to end without any incidents.However,on the third day,the 14th of March,there was a quarrel between Official Entertainer Asano and Adviser Kira. Asano suddenly struck Kira with his sword.
 This happened on a very important day;the Shogun Tsunayoshi himself was to express his thanks to the Imperial envoys. The incident took place on the corridor (Matsu-no-Roka) leading to the Grand State Hall where he was to do so.
 The Shogun Tsunayoshi got very angry and forgot about the rule that stated,“when a quarrel breaks out in the Edo Castle,both parties involved shall be punished.” Asano,who had drawn his sword at Kira was ordered to commit seppuku (disembowelment) on that very day. On the other hand,Kira,who was slightly injured,not only went unpunished,but was sympathized with and warmly encouraged to be assiduous in his duties again when he got well.
 The reason for the quarrel is still unknown to this day.What could have been the reason? One theory is that the quarrel resulted from Kira's false guidance to Asano,which led Asano to make various mistakes. According to this theory,Kira treated Asano this way because Kira was greedy and was displeased with the insufficient amount of presents Asano had given him when he had asked him for his guidance.
 When Asano was ordered to commit seppuku,according to the rule of the time, his servants were to be evicted by the Tokugawas out of the castle in which they lived. On the 16th of April,Tokugawa's messengers headed towards Ako to confiscate the castle.
 Meanwhile,Oishi-Kuranosuke the chief councilor in charge of the castle,made up his mind to surrender the castle to Tokugawa peacefully and appeal to the Shogun that Asano's younger brother Daigaku be allowed to work for the Tokugawas for the revival of their lord's family status.
 Some of the servants preferred to fight against the Tokugawa messengers by shutting themselves up in the castle than to surrender.
内蔵助妻子別離〜 Oishi divorces his wife.
〜 Oishi divorces his wife.
She takes their children and goes back to her parents.
赤穂城中評定〜Oishi selects loyal samurai as his confederates and makes a deep pledge of revenge witk them.
〜 Oishi selects loyal samurai as his confederates
and makes a deep pledge of revenge witk them.
 Some of them were of the opinion that they should go to Edo and kill Kira to honor their Lord whose resentment towards Kira was so strong that he was willing to throw away his life,his castle,and his servants. It didn't matter what he did.
 And there were some who wanted no part in performing illegal activities and criticized shogun's judgement.
 Although it was a peaceful age,there is exited an idea among samurai or bushi that “if one's lord should be insulted,his servants must die for him in loyalty,” and also an attitude that “even in one's lord were not to behave like a lord himself,servants must act like servants even more so than a lord should act like a lord.” These were called bushido,or the samurai spirit.

 Oishi ironed out differences in opinions of the servants and finally made up his mind. First of all,he was going to appeal to Tokugawa that the younger brother of the late lord be allowed to become one of Tokugawa's servants again,even if it took a long time. Secondly,he was going to do whatever it took to avenge his lord.
 With these two resolves in mind,Oishi surrendered the castle to the Tokugawas and covertly assembled supporters of his plans.They all agreed to keep their scheme a secret.
 Oishi also moved to a town close to Kyoto and thoroughly observed the development of the situation.
吉良邸の偵察〜They scouted out kira's mansion.
〜 They scouted out kira's mansion.
 However,Kira ritired and the lord's brother was ordered by the Tokugawas to go to his relative's house in Hiroshima.This meant that the revival of the Asakos' status would not be allowed.
 Since all hope for their first goal was lost,the only thing left to do for them was to kill Kira.Oishi gathered his confederates living near Kyoto,had a meeting,and made a plan to kill Kira.
 On the 7th of October in 1702,Oishi and his confederates headed to Edo.
In Edo,they scouted out Kira's mansion,disguising themselves as merchants,doctors,and the like.But,they could not easily figure out whether their target,Kira,was in the mansion or not. Therefore,they could not fix a date to raid Kira's mansion.

 Fortunately,they happened to find out that a tea ceremony was to be held on the 14th of December at Kira's mansion.
 The snow had stopped falling by midnight when the loyal samurai- 47 of them - divided up into two bands.They finally raiding the manshion through both the front and rear gates.
 Kira's servants fought to protect him,but they were no match for the 47 loyal samurai.However,finding Kira's whereabouts was not easy. After searching in every nook and corner of the premises,they finally found Kira hiding in the storehouse and cut off his head at last.
 Then,they traveled southwards along the Sumida River from Kira's manshion,crossed the Eitai Bridge,and reached the Sengakuji Temple at Takanawa on foot through Tsukiji,Shinbashi,and Fudanotsuji. There,they offered Kira's head at their lord's tomb,reported their deed in tears,and said,“Out lord,please be appeased with this.”
 In the meantime,Oishi had sent off two delegates to turn themselves in to the mansion of Inspector General of the Tokugawa.
 Tsunayoshi,who had been very angry with Asano's behavior the previous year,was far from getting angry with the 47 samurai. Rather,he was heartily impressed by their deep loyalty,despite the fact that the samurai committed a group murder,which was prohibited by law.
義士引き揚げ 〜 47 samurai withdrow to the Sengakuji Temple.
義士引き揚げ 〜 47 samurai withdrow to the Sengakuji Temple.

 The 46 samurai were ordered by the government to be sent to different daimyo's houses:17 to Lord Hosokawa's,ten to Lord Matsudaira's,ten to Lord Mouri's,and nine to Lord Mizumo's. This was because the sentencing was anticipated to take a while.
 Tsunayoshi ordered his chief councilors and judges to discuss their sentence.There were two opinions among them:
 - The samurai should be exempted from punishment because they nobly fulfilled their duties to be loyal by following bushido,the way of warriors.
 - They should be punished according to the law,even though they are fine examples samurai.
 Eventually,the latter opinion settled everything.
 The public was disappointed with the decision.On the 16th year of Genroku(1703),the samurai all committed seppuku simultaneously at the houses of the four daimyo on the 4th of February.
義士切腹〜 Samurai commit SEPPUKU.
〜 Samurai commit SEPPUKU.
   The public mourned for the lives of the 47 samurai,who were likened to cherry-blossoms in full-bloom being scattered by breeze. The people respected and admired them as perfect models of samurai for their true spirit of loyalty.
 Before long,the loyal deed of the 47 samurai became a play.Many people went to see the performance.
 The Shogun in principal prohibited the dramatization of this incident using the real names of people involved.
勅書追賜〜 Imperial message.
〜 Imperial message.
 Forty-five years after the samurai committed seppuku,a drama title “Kanadehon - Chushingura”(Forty-Seven Exemplary Loyal Servants) was written.
The story was modeled after an incident in the Ashikaga era,using no real names of persons,and was quite different from the historical event.
 The story of the 47 loyal samurai still touches the heart of Japanese people through various medium,such as publications,movies,television shows,and plays. That is why many admirers and worshippers of the spirit of the loyal samurai visit their graves even to this day.








赤穂 くいどうらく