The 47 Ronin: Part 1

The beginnings of a legend

By Sleiman Azizi    - 3 min read

It's hard to find a more honour-bound group than the Edo period samurai.

In 1701, Asano Naganori, a hereditary daimyo leader of Ako Domain in what is now Hyogo Prefecture, was required to set up a reception for envoys of the Emperor in Edo, the capital of Japan.

More than just saying welcome, hello and getting on with business, such receptions were intricate affairs of pomp and ceremony. Instructing newbies in the finer details of court etiquette and protocol was the job of Kira Yoshinaka, master of ceremonies for the Tokugawa government.

Now, the story goes that Asano and Kira did not get along very well. Asano, a rustic samurai loyal to the ideals of the warrior way, from a small fiefdom far from the modern world of Edo, apparently did not take too kindly to the necessity of offering gifts (some say bribes...) to a man dedicated to show and tell. Conversely, Kira thought it the height of ignorance and boorish manners to not be offered such gifts. Insults flew from the ceremonial master's mouth.

After putting up with this elitist snobbery for a while, Asano could no longer restrain himself. The country lord drew his blade and struck Kira. A minor wound at best but the deed was done. Drawing a blade inside the castle was absolutely forbidden. A graver error in protocol you could not find in Edo period Japan.

The result? Lord Asano was ordered to commit seppuku ritual suicide, have his fiefdom confiscated by the government and his family ruined.

What followed became, quite literally, the stuff of legends.

(continued in part 2)

Getting there

Take the Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Sengakuji Station. The temple is about a 1-minute walk from the A2 Exit. If you have a JR Rail Pass, you can walk about 15 minutes from either Shinagawa or Tamachi stations on the JR Yamanote Line.

Was this article helpful?

Suggest an edit

6
5
Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I drool over proper soba and sushi while Japanese aesthetics ticks all the right boxes for me.With over 100 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style, I also happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com

Join the discussion

Elena Lisina 3 months ago
I visited that place, too! It's famous story and legend in Japan.
Elena Lisina 3 months ago
I bet now it's hard to imagine such things, but they used to be usual!
Elizabeth Scally 4 months ago
Your story telling is gripping. Sengakuji Temple history comes alive.
Sleiman Azizi Author 4 months ago
Thanks. The real life tale just has so much going for it.