No this is not about the crappy Keanu Reeve film that’s coming out in like a few weeks. Now don’t get me wrong, the film could actually be great! But now I will narrate to you the real story of the 47 Ronin. So get your popcorn ready and keep reading.
“Ronin” is basically a Samurai bum. He is unemployed and doesn’t have a lord to serve. There are many conflicting narrations of the story but there is not doubt among historians that this tale of honour and revenge actually took place. Many in Japan the 47 as exemplars of the bushido code and here is how it goes.
Around 1701, two big shots in then Japanese politics Asano Naganori and lord Kamei were asked to throw a an awesome reception party for the envoys of the fat emperor sitting on his fat throne in Edo. You know how it goes, the party would have all manner of chicks, strips of cheese and lots and lots of Sake (rice wine). It was going to be a BLAST!
Now before the party could commence however, a cigar sucking Shogunate official named Kira Yoshinaka, with his combed hair and scumbag cane came around to teach the boys the proper etiquette of throwing a Japanese party to please the mighty shogun. Lets just say it didn’t go so well. Kira became quite upset at the two lords. They either didn’t give him enough presents or enough money, but either case, crap was gonna go down that night. Kira was a corrupt official and a complete douche towards Asano who was obviously offended. Tempers flared, fighting words were thrown, crap went down and before you know it, Asano smacked Kira hard and almost killed him with a katana until Kamei intervened. The bastard deserved it. But this is feudal Japan boys and girls. You don’t get away with smacking the Shogun’s pet.
Asano being all honourable and crap turned himself in and if you didn’t know, the punishment for smacking a Shogunate official was death. Poor Asano had to commit ritual suicide to keep his honour in front of douch-bag Kira and the dumb Shogun.
Upon Asano’s death, his lands were confiscated and his family name dishonoured. His retainers (Samurai’s and servicemen) were also forced to disband.
Asano had some 347 Samurai at his service and upon his death, they were now Ronin (leaderless). A lot of them went this way and that, not having the balls to avenge the unjust death of their master. But hell, there were these 47 who still remained loyal to Asano and swore an oath in blood to each other to avenge their fallen master (even though it was forbidden by the Shogun). Over the next two years, this badass-brotherhood of 47 ex-samurai would plot an attack on Kira’s castle and deliver him a nice and grizzly death (just as the bastard deserves).
Here is how they did it.
Oishi the leader of the 47 Ronin decided it was impossible to launch an attack on Kira. He was guarded far too well and the bastard was sly. He expected an attack from Asano’s Samurai.
Oishi wasn’t going to dance to Kira’s plans. So the 47 dispersed throughout Japan, becoming tradesmen and monks, never forgetting their purpose and united by a common goal.
Kira still feared a trap and set spies after Oishi. Oishi was too smart for Kira’s dumb crap. He frequented brothels, bars and got hysterically drunk. Every chance he got he acted like a complete idiot. Knowing the danger that Oishi’s life goal posed to his family Oishi divorced faithful wife of 20 years like a goddam boss and sent his children away with her,except his eldest who decided to stay by his father. Kira’s spies noticed this unexpected behaviour and what looked like the moral demise of Oishi. One account tells of how Oishi once collapsed on the street after getting very drunk and a man spit on him, telling him he dishonoured his title as a Samurai.
That’s all Kira wanted to know. It has already been a year and the dumb samurai of Asano didn’t have the balls to attack him. He was safe.
Or so he thought. .
Two years in, the 47 gathered once more and being informed of Kira’s ignorance, they decided that the time was ripe.
THEY WILL ATTACK.
So on January 30, 1703, the 47 Ronin marched towards Kira’s mansion in Edo to show him why you don’t ever mess with Samurai. How did they break in? You see, the 47 were able to successfully infiltrate the castle multiple times as tradesmen and monks. No one suspected a thing. One of the 47 went to so far as to marry the daughter of the builder of Kira’s mansion to learn it’s structure.
Oishi led one group and his son Ōishi Chikara led the other.
It was on.
Two of the 47 climbed into Kira’s mansion and tied up the body guards. Oishi and the rest warned all the civilians living in and around the castle that they stay in inside (they happily complied and didn’t lift a finger to defend Kira). Only Kira was going to get his ass kicked tonight!
And that is exactly what happened. Kira, frantic in fury sent waves after waves of his personal samurai to take down the 47. NO CHANCE.
He later ran from his bedroom and hit in some sorry hole where Oishi found him in a pitiful state. OIshi knelt before Kira and gave him his due respect. He told him that killing him was his sworn duty as a Samurai.
Then Oishi gave Kira the choice to die with honour, to commit ritual suicide with the same blade Asano had taken his own life some 2 years ago. Oishi even went as far as to say that he will personally be his kaishakunin.
But Kira was bitter to the bone. He just sat their scared and whimpering like a hurt dog. Oishi had places to go and people to meet. He couldn’t take any more of this man’s grovelling and did the deed.
Upon cutting off Kira’s head, the mission of the 47 was now complete. They would turn themselves in to the Shogun for what they did and they knew this meant death. Like complete badasses, the 47 strode out of Kira’s mansion with his head amidst cheer and frolic from the local population (who hated Kira). They took the head to Asano’s burial place and there, washed it and placed it on his grave.
The oath was kept and the duty fulfilled.
Despite protest from the local population of Edo, the Shogun sentenced the 47 Ronin to death. To appease the common folk however, he allowed the 47 to commit ritual suicide and thus die with honour instead of being executed like common criminals.
On Tuesday, March 20, 1703, the 47 Ronin took their lives.
Oishi’s son was among the 47 that day. He was 15 when he joined his fathers fight. He was 16 when he died.
The 47 where buried next to their master and thus our story ends, a tale of incredible fortitude, loyalty and duty. Perhaps it is strange to us why these Japanese acted like such idiots. Perhaps it was over the top what the 47 did, throw away their lives to avenge their Master’s. Perhaps it was terribly stupid.
But there is still merit in this story. How far are you willing to go for those you hold dear? The 47 went all the way. Badasses till the end.