The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the defining tales of Japanese history, combining as it does so many seemingly quintessential Japanese traits and behavior patterns: suicide, loyalty (bushido), honor, patience, deception and vengeance among them.
The villain of the piece is undoubtedly Kira Yoshinaka (1641-1703), a corrupt official in the service of the shogun who insults Asano Naganori, the feudal lord of the Ako domain (in present-day Hyogo Prefecture). The enraged Asano draws his short sword on Kira within the grounds of Edo Castle and for this breach of the strict samurai code is sentenced to commit seppuku or ritual suicide.
As further punishment, Asano's domain is confiscated by the Tokugawa regime and thus his followers become masterless samurai or ronin. 47 of Asano's men, led by Oishi Kuranosuke, plot their revenge and after two years of planning and deception they storm the large mansion of Kira Yoshinaka on the winter's evening of December 15, 1702, killing him and placing his severed head on the grave of their master in Sengakuji Temple.
A small fraction of Kira Yoshinaka's once huge mansion is still preserved in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo with a small shrine dedicated to his spirit. There is also a small well in the grounds, a reminder of the original well, where the 47 Ronin washed Kira's head before taking it away.
Ruins of Kira Yoshinaka's House
3-13-9 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku
The former house of Kira Yoshinaka is a short walk from Ryogoku Station on the JR Sobu Line.
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