A remarkable and true tale of loyalty, vengeance, and ritual suicide. . . . In the spring of 1701, the regional lord Asano Naganori wounded his supervising official, Kira Yoshinaka, during an important ceremony in the ruling shogunate's Edo Castle and was at once condemned to death. Within two years, in the dead of winter, a band of forty-seven of Asano's retainers avenged him by breaking into Yoshinaka’s mansion and killing him. Subsequently, all the men were sentenced to death but allowed to perform it honorably by seppuku.
This incident—often called the Ako Incident—became a symbol of samurai honor andat once prompted stage dramatization in kabuki and puppet theater. It has since has been told and retold in short and long stories, movies, TV dramas. The story has also attracted the attention of foreign writers and translators. The most recent retelling was the 2013 Hollywood film 47 Ronin, with Keanu Reeves, though it was wildly and willfully distorted.
What did actually happen and how has this famous vendetta resonated through history? Hiroaki Sato's examination is a close, comprehensive look at the Ako Incident through the context of its times, portraits of the main protagonists, and its literary legacy in the haiku ofthe avengers. Also included is Sato's new translation of Akutagawa Ryunosuke's short story about leader Oishi Kuranosuke as he awaited sentencing.
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About the Author
Hiroaki Sato is a prolific, award-winning writer of books on Japanese history and literature, and a translator of classical and modern Japanese poetry into English. American poet Gary Snyder has called Sato "perhaps the finest translator of contemporary Japanese poetry into American English."
He is the author of the classic works Legends of the Samurai. and The Sword and the Mind
His reviews and articles have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times Book Review, AsiaWeek, Mainichi Daily News, St. Andrews Review, Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, The Journal of American and Canadian Studies, Comparative Literature Studies, The Japan Times, The Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, The Journal of Japanese Studies, Modern Haiku, Japan Focus, and others.
He recently received the 2017-2018 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Translation Prize for Silver Spoon (Stone Bridge Press).
Table of ContentsContents
Part I: Grudge and Vendetta (12,500 words)
- The Country Is “Full of Light”
- Shogun Tsunayoshi and Genroku Era
- “Pitying the Sentient” Edicts
- A Haiku Scholar’s Take
- Titles and Number of Participants
- Asano Attacks Kira
- Why Did Asano Want to Kill Kira?
- Neither a Daimyo Nor a Samurai
- Dramatic Elements
- The Treatment of Avengers
Part II: Leader Ōishi Kuranosuke and His Men (19,400 words)
- The First Ninja’s Report
- We Are All Hicks
- Another Ninja’s Report
- The Disagreements
- Onodera Jūnai’s Letters
- Failure to Commit Seppuku Mocked
- Restoring the Asano House
- The “Radicals”
- Kuranosuke Responds
- Kuranosuke’s Appearance
- Sword Fights and Killings
- Uncertain Samurai Life
- Kuranosuke Indulges in Gay Quarters
- A House of Sorrow
- Did Kuranosuke Really Drown in “Wine and Flesh”?
- The Way of the Samurai
- Kuranosuke’s Last Letters
Chapter III: Poetic Connections
- Gengo’s Travelogue: Going Down the Tōkaidō Road in a Daimyo Procession
- Gengo’s Haikai Teacher Sentoku’s Opinion: Was the Lord President of Akō Stingy?
- Gengo Pays Respects to Bashō’s Grave
- 1697: Another Ill Effect of “Pitying the Sentient”
- Gengo’s Haikai Anthology and Kayano Sanpei’s Suicide
- A Mysterious Tale about a Mysterious Birth
- How Ōtaka Shiyō Made Use of Haikai Man Teisa
- Gengo’s Encounter with Haikai Master Kikaku the Day before the Vendetta
- Kikaku’s Letter on the Night of the Raid
- A Real Kikaku Letter?
- The Great Fire, Asano Naganao, the Firefighters’ Uniform
- The Announcement, the Raid, and its Aftermath
- Extracts from the First Full Account of the Forty-Seven Samurai
- Ōtaka Gengo’s Farewell-to-the-World Verse
- Sentoku’s Other Students
- Another Story about Teisa and Akō Men
- A Spearman Had to Drop Out
IV: An Akutagawa Story