Forty-seven rōnin

Celebration Day – December 14th

The revenge of the forty-seven rōnin also known as the Akō incident or Akō vendetta, is an 18th-century historical event in Japan in which a band of rōnin (leaderless samurai) avenged the death of their master. The incident has since become legendary.

The story tells of a group of samurai who were left leaderless (becoming rōnin) after their daimyō (feudal lord) Asano Naganori was compelled to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka, whose title was Kōzuke no suke. After waiting and planning for a year, the rōnin avenged their master’s honor by killing Kira. In turn, they were themselves obliged to commit seppuku for committing the crime of murder. This true story was popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should preserve in their daily lives. The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era, in which Japan underwent rapid modernization, and the legend became entrenched within discourses of national heritage and identity.

To this day, the story continues to be popular in Japan, and each year on December 14, Sengakuji Temple, where Asano Naganori and the rōnin are buried, holds a festival commemorating the event. The tragedy of the Forty-seven Rōnin has been one of the most popular themes in Japanese art, and has lately even begun to make its way into Western art.

Immediately following the event, there were mixed feelings among the intelligentsia about whether such vengeance had been appropriate. Many agreed that, given their master’s last wishes, the rōnin had done the right thing, but were undecided about whether such a vengeful wish was proper. Over time, however, the story became a symbol of loyalty to one’s master and later, of loyalty to the emperor. Once this happened, the story flourished as a subject of drama, storytelling, and visual art

The samarai live by The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai

  • Rectitude or Justice
  • Courage
  • Benevolence or Mercy
  • Politeness
  • Honesty and Sincerity
  • Honor
  • Loyalty
  • Character and Self-Control

How many of these traits do you consider you live by? Maybe you also follow the Bushido code.

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