Translation Works
To Japanese
The 1st Selected Works
The 47 Ronins
(Ako roshi)
FRENCH / Jacques Lalloz published
RUSSIAN / Alexander Dolin published
Originally Published by:
Kaizosha (1928)
  • A bestseller written with a unique twist on the Chushingura tales of vengeance, well known to all Japanese
What is the bushido samurai ethic? - A tale of revenge taken by samurai during Japan's Genroku era
In 1701, the lord of the Ako Domain, Asano Takumi no Kami, injures Kira Kozukenosuke with his dagger in the Pine Corridor of the Edo Castle. Takuminokami is required to commit seppuku ritual suicide the next day, after which the Asano family is officially disgraced, and its domain is confiscated. Kira is not censured, despite the samurai law that both parties are to blame in a quarrel, and the one-sided punishment ordered by the shogun's bakufu government causes Ako's principal counselor, Oishi Kuranosuke, and other Ako retainers to become ronin, or unemployed samurai. These ronin plot for revenge, and they temporarily maintain a low profile by becoming tradesmen and physicians. Patiently awaiting the right time, they finally attack Kira's residence in December of the second year after the initial incident. They find Kira hiding in a charcoal storage shed and realize their vengeance by beheading him. After this the ronin carried Kira's head to their lord's grave in Sengaku-ji temple and report their deed in front of the gravestone. People are generally impressed by the feat of the Ako ronin, but the Shogun orders that the 46 ronin must all commit seppuku.
Basing his work on this actual story of vengeance, Jiro Osaragi adopts his own original perspective on the events. Instead of telling a simple story of loyal retainers obtaining vengeance for their late lord, he adds the element of dramatic resistance to the bureaucratic mores of the bakufu government. The contemporary Genroku era was a time of stability that did not offer samurai opportunities to fight, and the associated trends of societal evolution were causing the bushido warrior ethic to be replaced by the bureaucratic government systems of the Edo castle. The current work describes the struggle between Oishi Kuranosuke and his fellow ronin who are willing to sacrifice themselves on behalf of the "old" bushido ethic on the one hand, and those who want to use bushido in politics on the other. It is a sorrowful tale of some of the last glimmers of glory mustered by proponents of what was at that time an increasingly obsolescent tradition.
GENRE: Historical fiction