Early morning of December 15th in 1702, 47 ex Ako Clan’s samurai marched from Ryogoku to their lord’s grave at Takanawa Sengakuji temple. I get back to taiking about one year ago, the expert of the usages or practices of the court, Lord Yoshihisa Kira (Kira Kodukenosuke) was attacked by Lord Naganori Asano (Asano Takuminokami) at the pine hall in Edo castle in 1701, it was called “Pine hall affair”. Luckily Kira was not suffered serious cut. It was not clear the reason why he did such a thing, but it was said that Kira instructed officials in the manner of hosting noble guests from Kyoto, and Kira annoyed young short-tempered Asano for his manner. It was strictly prohibited to draw a sword and to cause bloody affair in the Syogun castle that Asano had to kill himself by hara-kiri soon, moreover his family lost his possession and his follower samurai lost their master and positions.
Asano’s masterless samurai had a grudge against Kira and hoped revenge for him. The Asano’s minister, Kuranosuke Oishi lived in Kyoto to play in order to hide his ambition of retaliation. At first, there were many ex-Asano’s samurai tried to kill Kira, but many samurai made choice to forget about Asano and struggled to protect their family. At last, there were only 47 samurai who agreed with Kuranosuke and accompanied him.
Kira had originally lived Gofukubashi near the Edo castle, then Kira had been moved to Honjyo Matsuzakacyo (Now Ryogoku) by Syogunate order because the other lords complained there was the rumor of Ako’s samurai attaching Kira’s residence.
This residence was so large (East-West 134meters, North-South 63meters, 8,400m2 area, house was 1,280m2) but people in Edo talked it was easier for attacking than ex Kira’s mansion near Edo castle, maybe Tokugawa shogunate might be support for Ako Asano’s samurai. At night of 14th December in 1702, Oishi and other 46 samurai succeeded their great matter.
Now most of Kira’s residence changed many houses and parking bay. In 1934, some volunteers in Ryogoku bought the part of Kira’s residence and made contribution to Tokyo city. Now it becomes Hojyo matsuzaka park where they have only namako-wall, matsuzaka shrine, Kira’s statue and a well in 98m2. After visiting Ekoin temple, I walked to this small park (about a few minutes, it’s close). In the center there is the statue of Kira which was copied from Kira’s statue in Kira’s family temple Kazoji. (Kira orderd to make Kazoji’s statue when he was about 50-year-old in 1690.)
At his dominion Kira in Aichi prefecture, Kira is admired for his wise government still now. The legend of his constructing the long bank comes down now.
There is a well called “Mishirusi arai ido” in which Ako’s samurai washed Kira’s head. At the attack, Kira hid in the hut. Finally he was found and hauled in front of Oishi, and then he was killed. After that, Oishi and others were ordered to kill by themselves harakiri by the government.
This was so sensational event in Edo period that it soon became novels, Kabuki theater play, storytelling and wood-block prints. Even now they make some TV drama, movie and theater. It was said it was the most famous case involving the samurai code of honor, bushidō, and Japanese loves them very much.
“The fourty-seven Ronin” (Cyushingura) was the first samurai drama for me. When I was 5-year-old, watching TV drama “Cyushngura”, samurai was wearing white death cloth and waiting their turn for death. When he was called his name, he stood up and said to others “Pardon me for leaving before you, I will go.” (Osakini) and smiled. The others were nodding and smile. I was not able to understand why they were smiling before they had to commit suicide. My fater said that they were happy to die. I puzzled more and more. Now I can guess they felt accomplishment and unburden their hard target of revenge, and could escape from the anticipation of the society. They had to made a role to loyalists, I think. It became harder to live for survivors, gave up the revenge, who had to hide they had be samurai of Asano because people looked coldly on the betrayer and coward.
The man who met Catherine the Great, Short trip of Edo part 3
The story of cat and mouse, Short trip of Edo part 2
Great fire and Ekoin temple, The short trip of Edo part 1
Noktop big man, The town of Sumo wrestlers, Ryogoku