ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The 47 Ronin

Updated on May 20, 2012

Among flowers, the cherry blossom; among men, the Samurai. (Japanese Proverb)

The story of the 47 Ronin, considered the national legend of Japan, is a tale of Honor, Duty and Loyalty. They were given the death penalty for their deed and yet, what they did so enshrines the Japanese ideal of the noble Samurai’s devotion to his Lord that the 47 Ronin were enshrined at Sengaku-Ji Temple beside their master and their graves are visited by thousands of pilgrims who light incense to their memory.

This is a true story that began in 1701 at a time of relative peace in Japan. The details of the story are hazy. It has been told so many times in plays, songs and poetry it becomes difficult to work out the precise details. However, the basic facts can be verified. The temple shrine to the 47 Ronin in Tokyo contains the armor and weapons of the Ronin as well as letters and other documents relating to the incident. To understand what took place it is necessary to explain a little about the social structure in Japan at that time.

Minamoto no Yoritomo. The first Shogun.
Minamoto no Yoritomo. The first Shogun. | Source

Japan and the code of Bushido in the early 18th century

Socially and politically Japan was still in a feudal structure. The political and religious head of the country was the Emperor. Below him were the Daimyo (Lords) then came the Samurai, the professional warrior caste, and then peasants and artisans, below them were the traders and finally the Eta the untouchables who worked with animal slaughtering for food and the tanning of leather.

From 1192 until 1867 the Emperor was leader in name only. Political and military power was held by a series of dictators, mostly hereditary, called Shogun. The Shogun was a Daimyo like any other but he was the supreme commander of all other Daimyo. His word was law. Daimyo could also be, and frequently were, Samurai. As Samurai, all Daimyo and the Shogun were bound by the Samurai code of honor, Bushido.

Bushido, the way of the warrior, was a code similar to the European code of Chivalry. The seven virtues of Bushido are enumerated as: Rectitude, Benevolence, Courage, Respect, Honesty, Loyalty and Honor. It also included rules on personal grooming and cleanliness as well as compassion for those in a lower station. What was of utmost importance to the Samurai was dying an honorable death. When a Samurai was captured, defeated or disgraced, he was expected to commit ritual suicide. Known as Seppuku or Hara-kiri, it was the ritual disemboweling of oneself. Typically the Samurai would kneel, thrust his dagger into his left side then draw it across the abdomen. Women who performed Seppuku would first tie their knees together so they may have a “Decent” death without fear of exposing themselves.

Daimyo Asano Naganori

In April of 1971 The Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, was preparing for the annual visit of the Emperor’s emissaries. This was a very structured affair and protocol was to be strictly observed. Two Daimyo were assigned by the Shogun to arrange the reception. They were; Asano Naganori and Kamei Sama. They were to be instructed in the appropriate protocol by the Shogun’s chief advisor, Kira Yoshinaka.

Kira had been in the service of the Shogunnate for over forty years. Ha was used to receiving bribes and expensive gifts for his services. Both Asano and kamei felt this was a dishonorable practice and refused to be involved in this practice. As a result, Asano treated them both very rudely. Kamei’s retainers, in an effort to avoid the public embarrassment of their lord, presented Kira with the appropriate gifts. Thereafter he treated Kamei with respect but Asano was disrespected publicly. The last straw took place on April 21st In the palace of the Shogun. Kira so insulted Asano that Asano drew his dagger and struck Kira. The blow did not kill Kira but for drawing his weapon in the palace and attacking a government official, the sentence was death. The Shogun commanded that Asano commit Seppuku. Asano complied that same day. His body was cremated and the ashes interred at Sengaku Temple.

Samurai | Source

Oishi Kuranosuki and the Blood Oath

The law of the time dictated that if a Daimyo was dishonored his home and all property is confiscated and his Samurai retainers must disband. Thus becoming Ronin, or Master-less Samurai.

Asano’s principal retainer, Oishi Kuranosuki, upon hearing the news moved his Daimyo’s family away before surrendering the castle and lands to the government. Asano had 371 Samurai, all were disbanded to become Ronin. In peacetime Japan it was not easy for such men to find honorable employment. Of the Ronin, only 47 determined they would not let their master’s death go unavenged. Vendetta was forbidden by law and even though they knew the punishment would be severe, the Forty Seven Ronin swore a blood oath to avenge their master’s death.

Preparing for vengeance

Kira lived in Edo, as Tokyo was known at that time. He suspected that the Samurai would try and seek vengeance so his home and personal security were fortified. Oishi realized that to succeed they must convince Kira that he was in no danger. The Forty Seven Ronin split up and disguised themselves as monks, and even traders. They met secretly, nothing else mattered only revenge. Oishi divorced his wife and sent her and his two youngest children away so they would not be implicated. His oldest son, Chikara, was given the choice to leave or stay and fight. He chose to stay, he was 16 years old.

Kira knew Oishi was in Edo so he sent spies to watch him and any other Ronin that he was aware of. To hide their intent, they went to Kyoto and began frequenting the taverns and brothels. Oishi gained a name for himself as a drunken gambler. For over a year and a half they kept up this pretence. Then, when Kira received news that the Ronin had forsaken the warrior way and given themselves to vice, he believed that he was safe. He relaxed his guard and the time was ready for the Forty Seven Ronin to strike.

The attack on the Mansion of Kira
The attack on the Mansion of Kira | Source

The Ronin attack

December 14th 1702. It was snowing in Edo. The Ronin put on their armor and weapons, on top of these they wore the red uniform of the Fire Brigade so they could move freely through the city. When they came to Kira’s house they split into two groups. Oishi led the attack on the front of the house, some say it was Oishi’s son, Chikara, who led the attack on the rear. Others say it was Oishi’s lieutenant, Hara. Oishi sounded the war drum, the signal to attack. More than 120 retainers and visitors were in the house and though they defended themselves fiercely the Forty Seven Ronin defeated them. None of the Ronin was killed though some were wounded.

They searched the house and the grounds looking for Kira, finally discovering him hiding in a woodshed. Though some accounts have Kira fighting bravely to the end, the most popular account is the honorable behavior of Oishi.

It is said that he knelt before Kira and addressed him respectfully. He offered Kira the knife that Asano had used in his Seppuku and gave Kira the chance to die a Samurai death. Kira begged and pleaded for his life so Oishi decapitated him with Asano’s dagger.

Kira’s head was wrapped in a white cloth and all Forty Seven marched to the Sengaku-Ji Temple. There they washed the head of Kira in a well and placed it on Asano’s tomb. After prayers Oishi called the Abbot of the Temple and presented him with all the money left to the Ronin from their pensions. He asked that the Abbot prepare a place for their bodies. They then sent word to the Shogun, informing him of their deed and that they would wait at the Temple, obedient to his orders.

The 47 Ronin

The Fate of the 47 Ronin

The Ronin were held prisoner but the Shogun was in a dilemma. He was impressed, as was all of Japan, by the faithfulness they had shown to the Bushido code, but at the same time they had broken the law against vendetta. On February 14th 1703 the Ronin were divided into four groups. They were placed under the protection of the Daimyo where they were staying and were treated with every courtesy. After much deliberation the Shogun could not delay the inevitable. All forty Seven Ronin were ordered to commit Seppuku. This they did without complaint and so passed from life into legend.

Those who visit Tokyo are encouraged to visit Sengaku-Ji Temple. There can be found the armor and weapons that were used. Pay homage at the Kubi-Arai The head washing well, where the head of Kira was washed. There beside the Tomb of Asano, lie buried the remains of the Forty Seven Ronin. The spirit of the Samurai.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Jim C 

      6 years ago

      I have recently seen, " Ako Roshi ". It makes me look with increased respect towards some great Judoka, I have heard of , but not met......Oishi Sensei of New York, and Kevin Asano an american competitor......maybe from California......a deep bow to their ancestry!

    • iantoPF profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Freeman 

      6 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Hello Christopher.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting. This is a story of a heroic society, something we have sadly lost.

      Best Wishes.......ianto

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      6 years ago from Vermont, USA

      A wonderful tale well told.

      When honor and integrity seems in such short supply the story of 47 Ronin needs telling.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)