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Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place: An Analysis of the Controversies of the 47 Ronin The story of the 47 Ronin

has been one of the most fabled and romanticized stories of Bushido, where 46 ronin of the late Lord Asano Yoshinori, under Oishi Kuranosuke’s leadership, avenged their master by killing Lord Kira Yoshinaka. However, the situation was rather complicated for the samurai as well as the Tokugawa bakufu, because even though the samurai were paragons of bushido culture through their avenging their master as some might have said back in the day, they had still broken the law by plotting and murdering someone as the Tokugawa era was a time of relative peace for the samurai. From their action sprang numerous controversies dealing with honor, loyalty, and the bakufu’s decision to have them commit seppuku after attack on the House of Kira. This report will make a detailed analysis of the controversies. The controversies dealing with the 47 Ronin’s actions begin even before their decision to survive the death of their master, Lord Asano. Lord Asano was assigned by the bakufu to entertain envoys from the Imperial family. Lord Kira was suppose to be his mentor in this act since he was of more experience in these dealings, but for some reason or other decided on embarrassing and possibly misleading Asano by giving him bad instructions. Asano became angry at these affronts on his honor and after likely being insulted by Kira, attacked and injured him while they were in the shogun’s house. Not only was attacks out of anger against the law, but the attack on Kira was done while in the house of the shogun. This sort of act was unthinkable apparently and highly against the law, Lord Asano committed seppuku as commanded by the bakufu though it was also likely that he did this to spare himself from further embarrassment for not having succeeded in killing Kira. In regards to the controversy of Asano’s attack on Kira and his seppuku, there are several ways of judging Asano, Kira, and the bakufu. The first is that the conflict between Asano and Kira was not one sided and Asano was somewhat justified in guarding his honor by attacking Kira. Therefore the bakufu, who ordered Asano to commit seppuku, should have analyzed the situation further and have ordered Kira to commit seppuku as well. In addition, Asano was the head generation of his family’s bloodline, so perhaps he should have been left to live. One way of looking at Asano’s actions is that he acted too rashly, that he had not considered the consequences that would befall him, his family, and his followers. In addition, if he were to go through with an attack on Kira personally, he should have gone all the way and killed him. In either viewpoint, the bakufu and/or Asano, had they analyzed the situation and made a more logical judgment over the incident then the whole ordeal of Oishi and his compatriots plot to kill Kira could have been avoided. The larger controversy with the 47 Ronin was their holdings to the bushido code and the bakufu’s decision to have them commit seppuku. In traditional bushido fashion, when a samurai’s master has died, the samurai usually follow and commit seppuku or they avenge him by killing the one at fault for his death. However, the 47 Ronin had decided to stay alive, seemingly in disgrace and most of them lived in some semblance of madness. This was definitely outside what was accepted in bushido culture, there was even a samurai who came by Oishi when he was on the streets and spat on him for not acting like a samurai should have (though he subsequently committed seppuku as an apology when he learned of what the 47 ronin had done after they had killed Kira). The other road that they could

In this event. by having waited a year for the right moment to strike at Kira and his men.have taken would have been to immediately try to avenge their master after learning of his death. and success was not so much an important factor in their defense of their honor as well as Asano’s but that they show amazing valor and courage in their actions attacking Kira. as well as people who believed that the 47 Ronin should be put to death for having broken the law. and Oishi in particular. thus appeasing enough parties so that the bakufu’s position would not be compromised. there were also those after Kira’s killing that sympathetically supported the samurai for the extraordinary perseverance that they had shown and their followings of the bushido way. author of the Hagakure. The Asano family would then be obligated to support the ronin which would most likely have resulted in a civil war of sorts. the bakufu decided that it would be best if the 47 Ronin were allowed to commit seppuku. All in all. IT is true that Kira was rather old at the time. controversies regarding how the 47 Ronin had acted became to spring up. The reason for this being that if the two families were to clash in battle. that made the killing of Kira absolute. the bakufu elected that the 47 Ronin shall commit seppuku. there were certain moral standards that the ronin. on whether they should have them killed or not. the true origin of these controversies come from the bakufu’s . being remembered for dishonorable fallen samurai having forsaken bushido. in their minds. Kira had died of an illness?" The 47 ronin would have then lost their only chance of avenging their master and would forever have lived in disgrace. had the ronin been allowed to live and continue serving the Asano family. with their eventual killing of Kira. causing civil uprising. then those that were beholden to the bushido code would likely have been rather infuriated. thereby dying an honorable death. The 47 Ronin After weighing the decisions. to wait for Kira to lower his guard. However. nine months after Asano's death. their allies would likely aid them. On the other side of the spectrum. then Kira’s family would have been obligated to seek vengeance against the samurai. though this likely would have spelled failure for them since Kira had expected such an attack by them at that time and had increased his guards. Honestly the only way that they could have taken Kira’s life was probably through the way that Oishi had led them. The Tokugawa period was far too peaceful for samurai to carry out such actions anymore to be undeniably justified by bushido. And while the laws must be obeyed. and their honorable sepuku committed. In light of these options. the bakufu’s rule would have been compromised and they would have become weakened. However. This had raised some concerns with the bakufu on what they should have done with the 47 Ronin. but not one that should be associated with bushido per se. the 47 Ronin is a good revenge story. Therefore it would have been better for Oishi to have tried their luck at attacking Kira much sooner than to have waited for a lull in his defenses. In conclusion the controversies dealing with the 47 ronin originate from the contradictions in the laws laid out by the Tokugawa bakufu and the bushido code. Therefore. if the bakufu were to execute the 47 Ronin. so it seems that Oishi was very much concerned with the success of killing Kira. who asked the famous question: "What if. thus it would spiral out of control into a full blown civil war. the avenging of their master Asano. The reasons for the bakufu to not keep them alive is for the simple reason of self-preservation. According to Tsunetomo. It was Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Oishi was therefore not strictly following the way of the warrior but his own selfishness.

original decision to have Asano commit seppuku in such a manner and with such haste that the bakufu got itself into such an awkward situation with ordering the 47 Ronin’s deaths. .