The story of the forty-seven rōnin is one of the best known stories in Japanese literature. The rōnin 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 rōnin presented themselves to the Shogun. The rōnin had defied a shogunate order prohibiting revenge, but had also exemplified the precepts of bushido. The Shogun allowed the rōnin to commit seppaku, rather than having them executed. The 46 rōnin committed suicide on February 4, 1703. Terasaka Kichiemon, the 47th rōnin, returned the following day but was pardoned. He was the only member to survive and died at the age of 78.
You may be interested to read the account in "Tales of Old Japan"; although note that the historical reality is somewhat different from Redesdale's version (which includes many incidents added to the story over the years in its dramatization).
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 chūban series, Seichū gishinden, Yoshitoshi depicts the 47 rōnin along with biographical information.
Roger. S. Keyes, "Courage and Silence: A Study of the Life and Color Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1839-1892", Cinncinnati, 1982where it appears as series #255.
We use the Keyes numbers to order the prints below.
To see a larger image of any print, please click on the thumbnail.
|#01||2/1869||Preface dated spring 1869|
|#02||2/1869||Kira Kazusanosuke Minamoto no Yoshihide
(Kira Kōzuke 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 Minamoto no Naganori|
|#04||2/1869||Yoshida Chūzaemon Fujiwara no Kanesuke|
|#05||2/1869||Ōishi Chikara Fujiwara no Yoshikane|
|#06||2/1869||Chikamatsu Kanroku Minamoto no Yukishige||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||Mase Kyūdayū Ki no Masaakira
|#08||2/1869||Onodera Jūnai Fujiwara no Hidekazu|
|#09||2/1869||Hayamizu Tōzaemon Fujiwara no Mitsutaka|
|#10||2/1869||Chiba Saburōbyōe Taira no Mitsutada
|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 Yogorō Minamoto no Noriyasu|
|#12||2/1869||Kan'ya Hannojō Sugawara no Masatoshi
|#13||2/1869||Hazama Shinroku Fujiwara no Mitsukaze||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||Mase Magokurō Minamoto no Masatoki
|#15||2/1869||Muramatsu Kihei Hidenao Nyūdō Ryūen||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 Minamoto no Sadayuki||Kimura Okaemon Sadayuki was an expert horseman and swordsman in the service of Lord Asano.|
|#17||2/1869||Fuwa Kazuemon Taira no Shigetane||Fuwa Katzuemon Masatane was hot tempered, and an expert in suemonogiri swordsmanship. He was 35 years old at his death.|
|#18||2/1869||Ōtaka Gengo Minamoto no Tadao|
|#19||2/1869||Muramatsu Sandayū Fujiwara no Takanao|
|#20||2/1869||Kurahashi Densuke Kiyowara Takeyuki||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 Urabe no Munefusa|
|#22||2/1869||Kaiga Yazaemon Fujiwara no Tomonobu|
|#23||2/1869||Sugino Juheiji Fujiwara no Harufusa|
|#24||2/1869||Kayano Wasuke Fujiwara no Tsunenari|
|#25||2/1869||Onodera Kōemon Hidetome|
|#26||2/1869||Okada Sadaemon Fujiwara no Yukitaka
|#27||2/1869||Yatō Emoshichi Taira no Norikane
|#28||2/1869||Terasaka Kiemon Fujiwara no Nobuyuki
|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||Mimura Jirōemon Fujiwara no Kanetsune
|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||Yokokawa Kanpei Fujiwara no Munenori
|#31||2/1869||Okajima Yasoemon Fujiwara no Tsuneki||Okajima Yasoemon Tsunetatsu once overcame 5 bandits with his swordsmanship, and tied them to the trees.|
|#32||2/1869||Hazama Jūjirō Fujiwara no Mitsuoki||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 Gorōemon Fujiwara no Suketake|
|d||#34||2/1869||Seta Matanojō Minamoto no Takanori
|#35||2/1869||Nakamura Kansuke Fujiwara no Masatoki|
|#36||2/1869||Yoshida Sawaemon Fujiwara no Kanesada|
|#37||2/1869||Katsuta Shin'emon Minamoto no Taketaka
|#38||2/1869||Takebayashi Sadashichi Mō no Takashige
|#39||2/1869||Isogai Jurōemon Fujiwara no Masahisa
|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 Taira no Masayori|
|#41||2/1869||Okada Magodayū Fujiwara no Shigemori
|#42||2/1869||Ōishi Sezaemon Fujiwara no Nobukiyo|
|#43||2/1869||Okano Kin'emon Fujiwara no Kanehide
|#44||2/1869||Horibe Yasubei Taketsune|
|#45||2/1869||Akagaki Genzō Fujiwara no Masakata||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 Fujiwara no Mitsunobu|
|#47||2/1869||Kataoka Gengoemon Minamoto no Takafusa|
|#48||2/1869||Horibe Yahei Minamoto no Kanemaru|
|#49||2/1869||Hara Sōemon Taira no Mototoki|
|#50||2/1869||Ōishi Kuranosuke Fujiwara no Yoshio|