The story of the 47 Ronin – The value of Honor
Posted on March 22nd, 2013

from a well wisher

This is an inspiring true story set in 17th century Japan where the 47 Ronin died for their Honor. This story has many lessons:

1. I think the greatest is that we have to live for something worthwhile outside our self. I think of the billions of civil servants, workers, parents, who do their duties with no thought for themselves and are quite content with the little pay and the social security at the end of their career. To me they are all Samurai. The public officials and the politicians who are so corrupt in every country can learn a lesson from this story, on how to live and die with Honor.

2. To live with Honor is the true nature of our being unless it is corrupted by strong outside influences. I think all of you who write from their heart to Lanka Web for the Sinhela Buddhists, are also types of Samurai. With no thought of reward for themselves they are fighting the cheat, deceit and lies of the Tamil Diaspora, their agents against the Sinhela Buddhist nation and the supporters from the West whose only agenda is to gain back their ex-colonies, destroy Buddhism and install puppet Governments in all the poor developing countries. These connivers are not fit to even touch the dust of the foot prints of these Samurai who live and fight the good fight and die with Honor.

3. The Samurai code made them overcome the instincts for self protection and survival and expand their self from the small self towards the infinite Self which lives in all beings. We are all on this path from the small self towards the Omnicient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent being. Eventually the Sinhelas will win through because their fight is the good fight for justice, and the preservation of Buddhism. When I think of our Hasalaka Hero who sacrificed himself for his comrades to me he is a Samurai. 

For your interest I have given below the story below.

“The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most celebrated in the history of the Samurai. This was perhaps all the more so because it occurred at a time when the Samurai class was struggling to maintain a sense of itself – warriors with no war, a social class without a function.

The tale could be said to have begun with the teachings of Yamaga Soko (1622-1685), an influential theorist who wrote a number of important works on the warrior spirit and what it meant to be Samurai. His writings inspired a certain ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi Kuranosuke Yoshio, a Samurai and retainer of Asano Takumi no kami Naganori (1667-1701), who led a branch of the powerful Asano family.

It happened that Lord Asano was chosen by the shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, to be one of a number of daimyo tasked with entertaining envoys from the Imperial family. To assist him in this new duty, the Bakufu’s highest ranking master of protocol, Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka (1641-1702), was assigned to instruct him in matters of etiquette. Kira, it seems, was a somewhat difficult character and expected Asano to compensate him monetarily for the trouble, which Asano held was simply his duty. The two grew to dislike one another intensely, and Kira made every effort to embarrass his student. Finally, in April of 1702, the situation exploded within the shogun’s palace – Kira insulted Asano once again, prompting the latter to draw his sword and swing at him. Kira was only wounded in the attack and Asano was promptly placed under confinement.

Striking another man in anger was against the law – doing so within the shogun’s palace was unthinkable. Asano made little effort to defend himself during questioning except to say that he bore the shogun no ill will and only regretted that he had failed to kill Kira.

After the o-metsuke (inspector-generals) had completed their investigation of the matter, the shogunate passed down a sentence of death on Asano, ordering him to slit his belly at once. The shogun also decreed that his 50,000-koku fief at AkƒÆ’†’´ in Harima was to be confiscated and his brother Daigaku placed under house arrest.

When the news of the unfortunate event reached Asano’s castle, his retainers were thrown into an uproar and argued heatedly over what to do next. Some favored accepting their lot quietly and dispersing as ronin, while another group called for a defense of the castle and an actual battle with the government. ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi Kuranosuke, who urged the retainers to give up the castle peacefully and struggle to rehabilitate the Asano family while at the same time preparing to take revenge on Kira, sounded the view that prevailed.

Accordingly, a band of Asano retainers – now ronin – set out on a carefully planned road to revenge. Kira was no fool, and expecting some sort of attempt on his life by the Asano men increased his personal guard. ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi’s scheme was therefore to lull their quarry into complacency, biding their time while they waited for the right moment. To this end the ronin hid away a cache of weapons and armor before ostensibly dispersing, some taking up menial jobs while others, like ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi himself, let it seem that they had lost any concern for their futures. ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi left his wife and began frequenting all of Edo’s houses of ill repute, carousing with prostitutes and engaging in drunken brawls. On one occasion, a Samurai from Satsuma is supposed to have come across ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi drunk in the street and spat upon him, saying that he was no real Samurai.

Needless to say, Kira began to doubt that he was in any real danger, and within a year had relaxed his guard. It was at that point that the ronin struck. 47 of them gathered on 14 December 1702 and, after donning the armor and taking up the weapons from the cache, they set out on their revenge on that same snowy night. Once at Kira’s Edo mansion, they divided into two groups and attacked, with one group entering through the rear of the compound while the rest forced their way through the front, battering the gate down with a mallet. Kira’s men, many of whom were killed or wounded, were taken completely by surprise but did put up a spirited resistance (one of the ronin was killed in the attack), though ultimately to no avail: Kira was found in an outhouse and presented to ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi, who offered him the chance to commit suicide. When Kira made no reply, ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi struck off his head with the same dagger that Asano had used to kill himself with. Kira’s head was then put in a bucket and carried to the Sengakuji, where Asano was buried. After ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi and the others had given the bloody trophy to the spirit of Asano, they turned themselves in.

The assassination of Kira placed the government in a difficult situation. After all, the 46 survivors now awaiting their fate had lived up to the standards of loyalty expected of true Samurai and the ideals propounded by such men as Yamaga Soko. Additionally, the decision to order Asano to commit suicide and confiscate his domain while taking no action against Kira had not been popular (at least one of the inspectors at the time had been demoted for protesting the verdict). Nonetheless, the Bakufu decided that the maintenance of order would once again have to prevail, and so the ronin were ordered to commit suicide – a sentence suggested by the famous Confucian scholar OgyƒÆ’†’» Sorai (1666-1728). They were at this time divided up into four groups under guard by four different daimyo, yet once they had all died, their bodies were buried together at the Sengakuji.1 Legend has it that the Satsuma Samurai who had spit upon ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi in the street came to the temple and slit his own belly to atone for his insults.

The Revenge of the 47 Ronin continued to spark controversy throughout the Edo Period. One view had it that ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi and his men had in fact erred in waiting as long as they had, that in so doing they risked Kira dying (he was, after all, over 60) and their efforts coming to naught. This was, for example, the view of Yamamoto Tsunetomo (author of the famed Hagakure).2 The Confucian scholar Sato Naotaka (1650-1719) criticized the ronin for taking action at all, as the shogun’s decision to order Asano to commit suicide should have ended the matter there and then. He also shared Tsunetomo’s belief that the ronin ought to have commited suicide at the Sengakuji once their deed was done. In giving themselves up to be judged, they appeared to have hoped to receive a light sentence and therefore continue living -a shameful objective, given their crimes. At the same time, Naotaka reserved his harshest words for Kira, whom he called a coward and whose precipitation of the whole affair had led to so many deaths.

Other writers did not share those views. Men like Asami Yasuda (1652-1711) defended the actions of the ronin as being appropriate (if not actually challenging the Bakufu’s decisions) and Chikamatsu wrote a favorable play (Chushin-gura) that became an instant and timeless classic. In the end, the ƒÆ’†'”‚ishi Kuranosuke and his ronin became the stuff of legend, and continue to spawn books, movies, and television shows at a prodigious rate. The Sengakuji is still a popular spot in Tokyo and a place for modern admirers of what many feel were the finest examples of samurai loyalty to emerge from the Edo Period.
1. The daimyo who had guarded them were Hisamatsu (Matsudaira) Sadanao, Hosokawa Tsunatoshi, Mizuno Kenmotsu, and Mori Tsunemoto.
2. See Hagakure (transl. William Scott Wilson, Kodansha), pg. 27 “

3 Responses to “The story of the 47 Ronin – The value of Honor”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Fine article here.

    The people who lived with Honor are those we remember in our Hearts forever.

  2. Naram Says:

    May I respectfully remind the great leesons, the great nation of Japan learnt in the aftermath of the 2nd world war, ie to refute the beguiling notions of fascism, but respect the humanity, soverignity of other nations, other peoples. It is not appropriate for meto delve too much into the scars still left in the memoriesof millions, burning feelings of anger after Japan’s incursions to Korea, Malaya, Manchuria etc.

  3. samurai Says:

    The mistake Japan made was she wanted give leadership to Asians and yet simultaneously desired to become member of the European ‘club’ engaged in exploiting and colonizing Asia. The Japanese assumed it was the only way to survive global Western hegemony. Japan was the first Asian country to defeat a European power – Russia. Those days Japan was an inspiration to Asian nations struggling to gain independence from European colonialism. But Tokyo’s rulers became too ambitious and chose the wrong path. Evidently the Japanese assumed that this was the best way of self-preservation and boosting her status in a Western-dominated world. The Meiji reformists copied European institutions and international practices to protect Japan from the fate of China which the white Imperialists had carved up. However if Japan did not make the blunder of attacking Pearl Harbour she would not have had to face the destruction (including the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) she experienced in World War II

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