Forty-seven Ronin Remembrance Day in Japan Date in the current year: December 14, 2024

Forty-seven Ronin Remembrance Day in Japan On December 14, the Japanese honor the memory of the forty-seven ronin (a group of leaderless samurai who avenged the death of their master). This remembrance day has no official status, but it is commemorated with a festival held at Sengaku-ji temple in Tokyo, where the forty-seven ronin are buried next to their master.

The master of the forty-seven ronin was Asano Naganori, the daimyo (feudal lord) of the Ako Domain. He had a very strained relationship with Kira Yoshinaka, the master of ceremonies at the shogun’s court. When Kira publicly insulted Asano, the latter drew his sword and attempted to kill the offender. For this, Asano was immediately arrested and sentenced to commit seppuku (a ritual suicide).

Asano’s assets were confiscated, and his retainers became ronin – samurai without a master. Since Kira wasn’t punished for insulting Asano, the ronin swore to avenge their master by killing Kira, even though they knew they would face a severe punishment.

It took the ronin two years to carry out their plan. They became merchants, workmen and monks in order to lull Kira’s suspicions, as well as to gain access to his house under a guise. Their leader Oishi divorced his wife, moved to Kyoto and began to drink heavily, frequent geisha houses and act obscenely in public to convince everyone he’d moved on from his master’s death.

After two years, Oishi was convinced that Kira had dropped his guard and everything was ready for their act of vengeance. He fled Kyoto and met up with the other ronin in Edo. Early in the morning on December 14, 1702, armed with swords and bows, they attacked Kira’s house. Killing 16 people and injuring 22, including Kira’s grandson, they found the owner on the house in a closet.

Oishi respectfully addressed Kira and told him that they had come to avenge their master. He invited Kira to commit seppuku to die as a true samurai, but Kira was so frightened that he couldn’t even answer. So the ronin pinned him down, and Oishi cut Kira’s head off with his dagger. The ronin carried Kira’s head though the city and laid it on their master’s tomb in Sengaku-ji temple.

The shogun sentenced the ronin to death for committing murder. However, they were allowed to die an honorable death by committing seppuku. Forty-six ronin killed themselves on February 4, 1703. The forty-seventh ronin wasn’t with them because he had been sent as a messenger to Ako right after the murder. Upon his return, he was pardoned by shogun and lived a long life. The forty-seventh ronin died at age 87 and was buried alongside his comrades and their master.

The memory of the forty-seven ronin is honored every year on December 14. Sengaku-ji temple in Tokyo, where their graves are located, holds a festival commemorating them.

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