Historical Biographies of the Loyal Retainers

Yoshitoshi's 'Historical Biographies of the Loyal Retainers' (2/1869)


Introduction

This page catalogs all prints in Yoshitoshi's series 'Seichû gishi meimei gaden (Historical Biographies of the Loyal Retainers)'.

The story of the forty-seven rônin is one of the best known stories in Japanese literature. The rônin were former samurai of the Lord Asano Naganori. In the year 1701, Asano had been charged with the reception ceremony for the Imperial envoy, an important event. He was a soldier, and the Shogun assigned Lord Kira Yoshihisa (who had better knowledge of the ceremonial requirements) to assist Asano. Kira was apparently corrupt, and expected a bribe for his services from Asano. When Asano did not produce the bribe, Kira abandoned him without assistance. Asano completed the ceremony for the Imperial envoy, although it was not entirely in order. He later confronted Kira and in anger drew his sword. He wounded but did not kill Kira. The offense of drawing the sword was punishable by death and Asano was forced to commit seppuku.

Forty-seven of Asano's samurai, led by Captain Oishi Kuranosuke, developed a plan to avenge their late master. They blended into society and domestic lives, giving no hint that they harboured a secret plan. Oishi played a convincing drunk, and was derided by many, including former colleagues. Several other co-conspirators were able to infiltrate Kira's household. On December 14, 1702, the faithful samurai attacked Kira's compound in Edo. They were able to defeat the defenders, and found Kira cowering in a woodshed. Kira refused seppaku, and was killed. Thereafter, the samurai Terasaka Kichiemon was dispatched to carry news of the successful attack. The remaining 46 rônin presented themselves to the Shogun. The rônin had defied a shogunate order prohibiting revenge, but had also exemplified the precepts of bushido. The Shogun allowed the rônin to commit seppaku, rather than having them executed. The 46 rônin committed suicide on February 4, 1703. Terasaka Kichiemon, the 47th rônin, returned the following day but was pardoned. He was the only member to survive and died at the ageof 78.

You may be interested to read the account in "Tales of Old Japan".

This story has spawed many accounts, or Chushingura, and many kabuki plays, the most popular being 'Kanadehon Chushingura.' Many ukiyo-e artists, including Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi, have created many works that deal with this popular subject.

In this chûban series, Seichû gishinden, Yoshitoshi depicts the 47 rônin along with biographical information.

Technical details

Previous cataloguings

Listed in Keyes' thesis:
	Roger. S. Keyes, "Courage and Silence: A Study of the Life and
		Color Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1839-1892",
		Cinncinnati, 1982
where it appears as series #255;
 

 

We use the Keyes numbers to order the prints below.


The Prints

To see a larger image of any print, please click on the thumbnail.


 
Thumbnail
Number
Date
Title
Description
#01
2/1869
Preface dated spring 1869  
#02
2/1869
Kira Kôzuke no Suke Kira Kozuke-no-suke, also known as Moronao, insulted Asano and forced him to draw his sword in the court.
#03
2/1869
Asano Takumi no Kami  
#04
2/1869
Yoshida Chûzaemon  
#05
2/1869
Oishi Chikara  
#06
2/1869
Chikamatsu Kanroku Chikamatsu Kanroku Yukishige's family were retainers of the Asano family for generations. His mother encouraged him to take part in the raid. Later that night, she killed herself.
#07
2/1869
Manase Kyûdayû  
#08
2/1869
Onodera Jûnai  
#09
2/1869
Hayami Tôzaemon  
#10
2/1869
Samba Saburobei Saburobei Mitsutada was a loyal samuari. He was a teacher of Heki-ryu, a form of archery. On the night of the raid he fought valently, killing three men.
#11
2/1869
Kanzaki Yogorô  
#12
2/1869
Sugaya Hannojô  
#13
2/1869
Hazama Shinroku Hazama Shinroku Mitsukaze went to Kanto with the other loyalists and lived in Kojimachi after his lord's death. He assisted in spying on Moronao's house and fought well on the night of the attack.
#14
2/1869
Manase Magokurô  
#15
2/1869
Muramatsu Kihei Muramatsu Kihei was a physician after Asano's death.. He was 60 years old at the time of the attack and displayed great valor.
#16
2/1869
Kimura Okaemon Kiura Okaemon Sadayuki was an expert horseman and swordsman in the service of Lord Asano.
#17
2/1869
Fuwa Kazuemon Fuwa Katzuemon Masatane was hot tempered, and an expert in suemonogiri swordsmanship. He was 35 years old at his death.
#18
2/1869
Otaka Gengo  
#19
2/1869
Muramatsu Sandayû  
#20
2/1869
Kurahashi Densuke Kurahashi Densuke Takeyuki was 24 years old on the night of the attack. He was very hot tempered and an expert in martial arts. He procured a map of the enemy's house and located the secret room where Kira hid.
#21
2/1869
Maebara Isuke  
#22
2/1869
Kaiga Yazaemon  
#23
2/1869
Sugino Juheiji  
#24
2/1869
Kayano Wasuke  
#25
2/1869
Onodera Kôemon  
#26
2/1869
Okuda Sadaemon  
#27
2/1869
Yazu Uemonshichi  
#28
2/1869
Terasaka Kichiemon Terasaka Kichiemon Nobuyuki was the only Ronin who did not commit seppuku because he was on an important errand. He was pardoned by the Shogun, Thereafter, and became a priest and took after the tombs of the other Ronin. He lived to be 80 years old.
#29
2/1869
Mitsumura Jirôemon Mitsumura Jiroemon Kanetsune was a chef, and performed the task with care and diligence. He won numerous awards for his culinary skill.
#30
2/1869
Yokogawa Kampei  
#31
2/1869
Okajima Yasoemon Okajima Yasoemon Tsunetatsu once overcame 5 bandits with his swordsmanship, and tied them to the trees.
#32
2/1869
Hazama Jûjirô Hazama Jujiro Motooki killed Kira with his spear. His wife killed herself at his tomb, leaving a note which read "You were a loyal servant to the lord and never wanted to serve another. Even if you lost your life, your name will live long as a great soldier."
#33
2/1869
Yata Gorôemon  
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#34
2/1869
Shiota Matanojô  
#35
2/1869
Nakamura Kansuke  
#36
2/1869
Yoshida Sawaemon  
#37
2/1869
Katsuta Shinzaemon  
#38
2/1869
Takebayashi Tadashichi  
#39
2/1869
Isogai Jûrôzaemon Isogai Jurozaemon Masahisa was an expert of Naginata, the long sword. After the death of his lord, he intended to kill himself but was informed of Oishi's plan of revenge. Masahisa was a gentle man, yet he fought valiently at the raid.
#40
2/1869
Tomimori Sukeemon  
#41
2/1869
Okuda Magodayû  
#42
2/1869
Oishi Sezaemon  
#43
2/1869
Okano Kinemon  
#44
2/1869
Horibe Yasubei  
#45
2/1869
Akagaki Genzô Akagaki Genzo Masakata was fond of drinking sake. In spite of his drinking he was always respectful to everyone. On the night of the raid he was 25 years old and fought with great enthusiasm.
#46
2/1869
Hazama Kihei  
#47
2/1869
Kataoka Gengoemon  
#48
2/1869
Horibe Yahei  
#49
2/1869
Hara Sôemon  
#50
2/1869
Oishi Kuranosuke  









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© Copyright 2009 by J. Noel Chiappa and Jason M. Levine