Kanadehon Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers: A Model for Emulation)
Click on pictures for detailed information
Kira's wounds were superficial, the shogunate could not allow such a gross breach
of conduct to go unpunished, and he sentenced Asano to death, ordering him to
commit seppuku, a form of suicide reserved for the samurai class in which
the victim disembowels himself. After his death, Asano's lands were confiscated
and his household retainers became ronin, masterless samurai.
of these men, led by Oishi Kuranosuke, Asano's chief advisor, swore an oath to
revenge their master's needless death. After carefully preparing their actions,
they invaded the mansion of the man responsible for the death of their late master on a snowy night in January 30, 1703. After refusing the opportunity to
die by his own hand, Kira was killed with the same dagger Asano had used to
commit seppuku, and then beheaded. At dawn on the following morning the
vengeful samurai surrendered themselves to the priests of a Buddhist temple to
await their punishment.
The incident became known as the Ako vendetta, and captured the attention of all Japan. In fact the opinions divided. On one side there was the need to punish the actions of the forty-six samurai who had not only killed an important nobleman but had also broken the severe laws against collusion between samurai, a deed considered seditious in nature and severely punished by law. On the other side the motives of the forty-six conspirators draw the sympathy of many samurai, as they were based on loyalty to their former master and so considered worthy by the dominating warrior ethics.
lengthy debates, that included several consultations to independent scholars, the forty-six samurai were condemned to death by
seppuku, an honorable death, thus following their masterís fate. Their burial ground quickly become a popular
The vendetta served as the basis for what is without doubt the most famous and popular work of the traditional Japanese theater, Kanadehon Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers: A Model for Emulation), which was first performed in 1748. The play is also known as The 47 Ronin as during the plot a man joins the initial group of 46 samurai.
there was a ban on the depiction in art or the dramatization on stage of current
historical events using the actual names of the nobility involved, the
theatrical version of the Ako vendetta was set in the days of the
fourteenth-century shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1308- 1358), the founder of the
Ashikaga Shogunate, and the setting of the play was changed from Edo to Kamakura.
Similarly Asano became Enya, Kira became Moronao, and Oishi Kuranosuke became
is seldom performed in its entirely. Portions of Act I and II, along with the
whole eighth act, are often left out, or single acts are presented to showcase a
particular kabuki actor. Chushingura became an immensely popular subject
among the designers of ukiyo-e prints, with almost all leading artists
having designed series of prints which featured actors portrayed in Chushingura
roles or scenes from the play.