“Among flowers, the cherry blossom (Sakura);
among men, the samurai”
Though based on an actual incident, many details have been lost to history, and, as a result, several version of the forty-seven ronin story have been told. But the fact remains that they were given the death penalty for their deed, which, at that time, so embodied the Japanese’s ideal of the noble samurai’s devotion to his lord that the forty-seven ronin were enshrined at Sengoku temple beside their beloved master. Thus came to a dramatic close the final chapter of what has been acclaimed the most famous vendetta in the annals of Japan
As I have said before, I read this book because Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada are going to play in a movie called 47 Ronin, however I should tell you that the movie is not based upon this novel because both book and movie are based on true event that took place in early 18th century.
The legend happened 300years ago, the details of the event were not clear but the remains of the legend were clear enough to be remembered from one generation to another generation. The legendary event had been turned into songs, poems and traditional theatrical performance called Kabuki. John Allyn tried to deliver his version of what had happened at that time.
Here is the legend:
In 1701, Asano Takumi no Kami Naganori, the Daimyo of Ako, along with other Daimyo were called by the reigning Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, to his castle. In the Shogun Castle, Lord Asano had injured by Kira Kōzuke no Suke Yoshihisa, the master of ceremony. The penalty for drawing katana (sword) in the castle was death. Because of his noble blood, he was allowed to die in the most honorable way which was to commit seppuku. But, Kira was not killed and that fact brought wrath inside the heart of the samurai who served under Lord Asano. The shogun confiscated Lord Asano’s castle in Ako and all the samurai in the castle became Ronin (masterless samurai).
Ōishi Kuranosuke Yoshitaka , the head of the retainer of Asano Castle, surrendered the castle peacefully. He was then seen as a coward for not avenging his master’s death. One of the famous codes of the samurai was that a samurai should never live under the same sky of his master’s killer, that’s why Ōishi was considered as a coward. He was also seen as a drunker.
However, 2 years after the death of Lord Asano (in January 30, 1703), 47 Ronin of Ako led by Ōishi came charging into Kira’s mansion. They beheaded Kira and took his head to their master’s grave. They surrendered themselves to the Shogun without any struggle because they had done their master’s revenge and claimed their honor as samurai.
Their way of avenging their master’s death had touched so many hearts, even the heart of the reigning Shogun. The Shogun gave them the most honorable punishment for samurai, despite the fact they were jut Ronin. They committed seppuku and were buried next to their master’s grave in Sengaku-ji Temple. There is a museum near the temple that keeps the relic of the armors and weapons used by the men of Ako.
When I finished reading the book,
I have a wish to see the temple and the grave of those great ronin.
After reading the summary of the legend I have shared above, you can easily guessed what the book is all about. The legend has spoiled the story whether you like it or not. You know it won’t end happily. But you should also know that when reading a story about a samurai, you are most likely to meet sad ending with seppuku involved. I once read another true story regarding Samurai and their loyalty to their master. Their master’s son was killed in the battle, the father felt so sad and said that a son should never died before his father, upon saying that, he committed seppuku to join his son. About a dozen samurai who worked for him saw what happened and out of loyalty followed their master by committing seppuku.
I know that some people might think that it was a stupid act to commit seppuku out of loyalty…but for me, the code of samurai is a beautiful thing, I admired their discipline and loyalty.
Now, let’s get back to the book I have just finished reading. John Allyn tried to relive the event by sharing what had happened to Ōishi. Why had Ōishi turned into a drunk and why did it take 2 years for them to avenge their master’s death. I will not share ‘the why’ as you have been spoiled by the legend…sharing ‘the why’ will totally ruin the books. Do read it yourself to know Allyn’s imagination of why Oishi did something like that.
I often have prejudiced over westerners who wrote about Japan because they often missed the codes which were honored by ancient Japan, but I quite like what Allyn had written. He could capture the way of the samurai in a good way. There were parts of the story that bored me and almost made me abandoned the book. Fortunately, he turned the situation back from boring to exciting before I total boredom took me over.
The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn is a decent book that can open the eyes of people who know nothing about samurai. It is a good read…but…I am curious to read about those 47 ronin with real facts and from Japanese people’s point of view.
In the cemetery he wiped the snow from the plaque before Lord Asano’s grave and once again raised his head to speak to his dead master
“We are ready, my Lord, to take revenge”
“Your loyal forces have gathered. Before the night is over some or all of us may have sacrificed our lives, but we count it as nothing because our cause is duty and our course is honorable”
I am so curious about the movie, the detail will not be the same as the book, it will be another version of 47 ronin. One thing that makes me so eager to see the movie (will probably be released in November 2011) is Hiroyuki Sanada as Ōishi. They couldn’t pick anyone better than him!! He has the right charisma and he can be considered as the modern day samurai, he is skilled in martial art.
Title: The 47 Ronin Story
Author: John Allyn
Pages: 240 pages
Publisher: Charles E Turtle Company
Challenge: New Author Challenge 2011, What’s In The Name Challenge (for Number).