Genroku Ako Incident (元禄赤穂事件)
Genroku Ako Incident is a modern expression for "revenge for their lord," describing an incident which occurred in mid Edo period. It used to be known as Ako Roshi's (lordless samurai of Ako Domain's) Revenge and a Raid upon the Kira-tei Residence, and is considered one of the 'Three Biggest Acts of Revenge in Japan' along with Revenge of the Soga Brothers and Igagoe Revenge.
On April, 21, 1701, although the lord of Ako Domain in Harima Province, Naganori ASANO, made an attempt to kill Yoshihisa KIRA, a member of the Koke-Hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu, who were in a privileged family under Tokugawa Shogunate), inside of the palace as an act of vengeance, he failed and was ordered to commit seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide). After that, 47 Ako Roshi (lordless samurai of Ako Domain), including Asano's surviving retainer Yoshio OISHI, made a raid upon Kira's residence to successfully kill Kira Kozuke no Suke as revenge for their lord on January 30, 1703, and presented his head to their lord's grave in Sengaku-ji Temple before committing seppuku by the order from the shogunate. These events are together called the Genroku Ako Incident.
This incident is also commonly known as 'Chushingura' (The treasury of Loyal Retainers); however, the name does not indicate the actual event, since it came from a ningyo joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theater) play as well as a kabuki (traditional performing art) play called 'Kanadehon Chushingura' (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers) and the general term for other related materials.
Attack at the Great Pine Corridor
On March 3, 1701, the Edo bakufu appointed the lord of Ako Domain in Harima Province, Naganori ASANO, and the lord of Yoshida and Uwajima Domain in Iyo Province, Muratoyo DATE, to attend to Emperor Higashiyama's messenger Sukekado YANAGIWARA (former Dainagon (chief councilor of state)) who was planning to go down to Edo, Yasuharu TAKANO (former Chunagon (vice-councilor of state)), and Emperor Reigen's Inshi (a messenger from the retired emperor) Hirosada SEIKANJI (former Gon Dainagon (provincial chief councilor of state)). Their instructor was koke's (the position in charge of rituals and ceremonies) sponsor Yoshinaka KIRA.
The Imperial messengers and Inshi arrived in Edo on April 18 and entered the bakufu's residence for imperial messengers (current location of the Industry Club of Japan). Asano Takumi no Kami also entered the residence the previous day, and they were supposed to attend to the guests for the next few days under the instructions of Kira. After arriving at Edo-jo Castle on April 19, Imperial messengers delivered the messages from the current and retired emperors to Seii Taishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians) Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA. On April 20, they enjoyed Sarugaku Noh.
On April 21, there was supposed to be a ceremony in which Shogun Tsunayoshi giving his response to a messages delivered from the Imperial messengers and Inshi after their arrival to Edo-jo Castle. However, when Kira Kozuke no Suke and a bakufu hatamoto (direct retainer of the bakufu) Yoriteru KAJIKAWA were discussing the ceremony at the Great Pine Corridor in Honmaru Palace of Edo-jo Castle at around 10 a.m., Asano Takumi no Kami suddenly attacked Kira Kozuke no Suke with a small sword. Although his back and forehead were slashed, Asano Takumi no Kami was immediately held down by a hatamoto, Yoriteru KAJIKAWA, and Kira was taken to the Sotetsu Room by other koke members, including Koreuji SHINAGAWA and Yoshiyasu HATAKEYAMA.
Kajikawa later recorded that Asano attacked him by shouting 'do you know what this revenge is for?'
When he was captured and investigated by the bakufu's inspectors Shigetomo OKADO and Shigeoki KONDO, Okado stated as follows. Asano claimed as follows.
I do no have anything against the bakufu.'
I just hold a personal grudge against Kira.'
That is why I stayed true to my intentions and tried to kill him as an act of revenge.'
Meanwhile, after his wounds were stitched up by the leading doctor in surgical department Dou KURISAKI, Kira Kozuke no Suke was also questioned by the bakufu's inspectors Tadashige OKUBO and Masakiyo KUME and said 'I do not remember doing anything to upset Takumi no Kami. He must have been out of his mind.
Besides, I am an old man and can not remember everything even if I had done something.'
Shogun Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA became very angry, since the ceremony with the Imperial court was ruined, and ordered Asano Takumi no Kami to commit seppuku on the same day, as well as the elimination of the Asano clan. Kira Kozuke no Suke, however, did not receive any punishment because not fighting back inside the palace was considered commendable behavior.
It was very rare for a feudal lord to commit seppuku on the same day, and although the inspector Shigetomo OKADO claimed the necessity to investigate this revenge, it was turned down by the lord chamberlain Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA. It is thought that the reason Tsunayoshi rushed Asano's seppuku was to show the Imperial messengers and Inshi his loyalty to the emperor and thus not to cancel out his mother's, Keishoin's, long-desired Juichii (Junior First Rank).
Asano Takumi no Kami was taken to Tatsuaki TAMURA's residence (domain of Ichinoseki in Mutsu Province) in Shibaatagoshita (current location of Shinbashi, Minato Ward, Tokyo) and was summoned and committed seppuku around 7 p.m. upon the arrival of Yasutoshi SHODA (ometsuke), Shigetomo OKADO (inspector) and Tadashige OKUBO (inspector) past 6 p.m.
Punishments from the bakufu
On April 22, the bakufu sentenced Nagahiro ASANO, who was an adopted son and Asano Takumi no Kami's brother, to home confinement. His cousins; the lord of Ogaki Domain in Mino Province, Ujisada TODA, the lord of Ogaki Nitta Domain, Ujinari TODA, the lord of Okabe Domain in Musashi Province, Nobumine ANBE, hatamoto Nobukata ANBE, Nagatsune ASANO, and Nagatake ASANO, were sentenced to enryo (prohibition on coming to Edo-jo Castle).
The lord of Tatsuno Domain in Harima Province, Yasuteru WAKISAKA, and the lord of Ashimori Domain in Bicchu Province, Kinsada KINOSHITA, were ordered to be in charge of the surrender of Ako-jo Castle, and hatamoto Masahane ARAKI and Masayoshi SAKAKIBARA were appointed as metsuke for the surrender. Although this position was initially supposed to be given to Hirosada KUSAKABE, Sakakibara was chosen instead, since Kusakabe was distantly related to the Asano family. On April 25, it was decided to send local governors Masauji ISHIHARA and Toshinobu OKADA to Ako to rule the place, since it was going to be a shogunal demesne for a while.
Urgent message to Ako Domain
It was early in the morning on April 27 when the message was delivered to Ako Domain. The first messengers from Edo, Mitsutaka HAYAMI and Shigezane KAYANO, arrived at the head of chief retainers, Yoshio OISHI's, residence located in Ako-jo Castle and gave the letter from Daigaku ASANO, which described Asano Takumi no Kami's attack against Kira Kozuke no Suke. Kura no suke (a position of the Bureau of Palace Storehouses) soon ordered about 200 feudal retainers of Ako to go to Edo-jo Castle. The chief retainers of the Asano family who were in Ako Domain at that time were the following.
Head of chief retainers - Yoshio OISHI (1500 koku)
Lower ranking chief retainer - Tomofusa ONO (650 koku)
Heads of the groups - Naoyuki OKABAYASHI (1000 koku), Genzaemon SOTOMURA (400 koku), Goemon ITO (430 koku), Sadayoshi OKUNO (1000 koku), Shichiroemon TAMAMUSHI (400 koku)
Chief foot soldiers - Denbei KAWAMURA (400 koku), Soemon YASHIMA (300 koku), Toshimoto SHINDO(400 koku), Yoshimoro OYAMA (300 koku), Iemon SATO (300 koku), (Mototoki HARA who was the express messenger from Edo, (300 koku)), Kanesuke YOSHIDA (200 koku) (who later arrived in Ako from Asano family's distant territory, Kato District)
Chief Mochizutsu (troops with guns) - Hikoshiro FUJII (250 koku), Kuzaemon TAGAWA (400 koku)
Magistrate of the county as well as the pictorial map - Matanojo-Takanori USHIODA (200 koku)
Magistrates of spear - Jurozaemon INAGAWA (a little over 220 koku), Heisuke HAGIWARA (150 koku), Jiroemon KOBAYASHI (150 koku)
Lord chamberlains - Seibei TANAKA (300 koku), Yogozaemon UEMURA (300 koku)
Ometsuke - Masaaki MASE (200 koku with reward of 10 koku), Masakata TANAKA (150 koku with reward of 10 koku)
Heads of the lowest ranking samurai - 多儀清具(200 koku), Yaichiemon OKI (500 koku)
Heads of hoko koshogashira (who served the Shogun and performed several duties including attending him throughout the night) - Yaemon NAKAZAWA (300 koku), Jiemon TSUKIOKA (300 koku)
When all the feudal retainers gathered around, lower rank chief retainer Tomofusa ONO read out the urgent message. This letter from Daigaku stated no information on Kira's survival, and thus they thought that Takumi no Kami murdered Kira. Since there was not enough information, Yoshio OISHI sent Bunzaemon HAGIWARA (100 koku) and Yasuemon ARAI (15 koku with salary for 5 servants) to Edo at around 1 p.m. The second message was delivered to Ako by a foot soldier and a courier at around 7 p.m. It still had only information about the attack. Although the third messengers, Mototoki HARA and Nobukiyo OISHI, arrived at around 11 p.m. and told the news about Takumi no Kami's seppuku, they still had no idea about Kira's survival and confiscation of their properties in Ako Domain. However, since it was predictable what would happen to the clan that caused such an attack, Oishi ordered the commissioner of finance Tsuneki OKAJIMA to deal with the money used in Ako Domain and established a few currency exchange offices on April 27, which allowed conversion of the money at the rate of 60%, in order to avoid economic confusion.
On April 29, the fourth messengers arrived and delivered information about Nagahiro ASANO's confinement. On May 2, the fifth messengers reported information on confiscation of the Asano family's properties in Edo. Since there was still no news about Kira's survival at this stage, Kura no suke became doubtful of his death and sent ometsuke Masakata TANAKA to Edo and the head of the group Goemon ITO to Miyoshi Domain to investigate his death. Meanwhile, Masatomo Shichiroemon OTA, a retainer of Hiroshima Domain, arrived in Ako that day, and Kuranosuke OISHI's uncle Yoshimizu OYAMA, who was also a retainer of Hiroshima Domain, came down to Ako on May 3. It was Hiroshima Domain's way of putting the pressure to surrender the castle without fighting.
Surrender or besiege the castle
When Oishi was given the choice between the surrender or besiegement of the castle, he held a big meeting at a hall inside the castle over the next three days starting on May 4 in order to organize the retainers' opinions. In this meeting, there was a confrontation between the radicals who called for the besiegement of the castle and the moderates who called to surrender the castle and ask for the restoration of the clan. The radicals were led by a leader of foot soldiers Mototoki HARA and brothers of commissioner of finance Tsuneki OKAJIMA, whereas the moderates were led by Tomofusa ONO, the lowest rank chief retainer. The sixth messengers arrived during this meeting on May 5 and reported that Masahane ARAKI and Masayoshi SAKAKIBARA were appointed as inspectors for the surrender of the castle and Masauji ISHIHARA and Toshinobu OKADA as local governors of Ako. This made the radicals quite irritated and isolated the moderates led by Ono even more.
At around this time, Kuranosuke OISHI received information about Kira's survival. On March 29, Kuranosuke sent Kuzaemon TAGAWA and Jiemon TSUKIOKA to Edo to give the letter to the inspectors for the surrender of the castle, Masahane ARAKI and Masayoshi SAKAKIBARA, who stated as follows.
Ako retainers may not be sophisticated but have tremendous loyalty to their lord and would not try to leave Ako.'
I am not asking to give punishment to Kira Kozuke no Suke; however, please give us the logical reasons which would convince our retainers.'
However, since Tagawa and Tsukioka missed Araki and Sakakibara on the way around Odawara, after arriving in Edo they went against Kuranosuke's order to 'hand the letter directly to the inspectors' and gave it to chief retainer in Edo Hikoemon YASUI, who reported the matter to the lord of Ogaki Domain Ujisada TODA, and they brought back the letter from him, which stated 'surrender the castle without fighting.'
The messengers from the related feudal lord families were sent almost every day to convince them to surrender the castle without fighting. The lord of Ogaki Domain Ujisada TODA's retainers Gengozaemon TODA and Shichirozaemon UEMURA visited Ako on May 5, the lord of Hiroshima Domain Tsunanaga ASANO's retainers Masatomo Shichirozaemon OTA on May 6, the third vice lord in position of Hiroshima Domain Nagazumi ASANO's retainers Magoemon UCHIDA on May 8, retainers of the Toda family Gonzaemon TODA, Judayu SUGIMURA and Magodayu SATOMI on May 13, retainer of the Toda family Dennai OHASHI on May 15, retainers of the Asano family from Hiroshima Danemon INOUE, Genbe NIWA and Bunemon NISHIKAWA on May 16, Rizaemon TAKAYA and Kansuke MURAOKA from the Toda family and Denzaemon NAITO, Kinshichiro UMENO, Noemon YAGI, Heinai NATSUKA, Seiemon NOMURA and Sadaemon SUEDA from the Asano family from Hiroshima on May 18, Sasabe MASAKI, Heiemon ARATO from the Toda family and Hachirobe YAZAWA and Shinpachi TSUKIYAMA from the third Asano family on May 19.
These visits made the conflict between Ono and the Hara brothers more intense. Even when deciding dividends, it became complicated since the Hara brothers claimed the regressive rate which was better for lower ranking retainers whereas Ono suggested to pay dividends based on one's salary. It was settled when Oishi, the head of chief retainers, agreed with the Hara brothers, and dividends were paid favoring the lower ranking retainers. Moreover, Oishi gained their support since he declined to receive a dividend.
Oishi, on the other hand, was becoming more and more isolated and left Ako with his son Gunemon OISHI at night on May 19.
It is thought that it was because Ono made Okajima very angry when he found out that Tsuneki OKAJIMA's retainers stole money under this confusion happening in Ako and questioned Okajima thinking 'he must have been a part of this crime.'
After Ono left Ako, the fate of Ako Domain was left in the hands of Yoshio OISHI. Oishi was in favor of surrendering the castle as a way to restore the clan; however, he thought it would not be accepted by many and therefore he supported the idea of besieging the castle at first and gained support from people such as Soemon HARA who were in favor of the besiegement. He then suggested that all the retainers commit seppuku, and in the end, retainers of the Asano family came to a settlement to surrender the castle on condition that they would kill Kira as an act of revenge for their lord.
Kuranosuke OISHI asked 60 to 80 retainers (the number who submitted the oath depends on the books) who agreed to commit seppuku to each submit an oath sealed with his own blood and formed an alliance, although the heads of the groups did not participate, except for Sadayoshi OKUNO. All the chiefs of foot soldiers submitted the oath except for Soemon YASHIMA.
Surrender of Ako-jo Castle
It was decided to surrender Ako-jo Castle, and Kuranosuke welcomed the inspectors Masahane ARAKI and Masayoshi SAKAKIBARA on May 22.
Kuranosuke met those two and asked for permission to allow Sadayoshi OKUNO, the head of the group, to be the chief retainer on behalf of Tomofusa ONO who 'became sick.'
After the local governors Masauji ISHIHARA and Toshinobu OKADA arriving in Ako on May 22, Kuranosuke implored them three times for the restoration of the Asano family by Asano Takumi no Kami's brother, Nagahiro ASANO when Ako-jo Castle was being examined by those four members on May 25. It is stated in "Koseki Kenbunki" (A Chronicle of Things Heard and Seen in Edo and Ako) that Masahane ARAKI finally promised for the third time to pass the idea of the Asano family's restoration to the Shogun's Council of Elders. On the same day, more than 4,500 troops from Tatsuno Domain led by Yasuteru WAKISAKA arrived in Ako, and Kuranosuke handed over Ako-jo Castle without fighting on May 26. It is said that the way Kuranosuke surrendered the castle was truly impressive.
After the surrender, a small group of retainers including Kuranosuke OISHI and Chuzaemon YOSHIDA went to Enrin-ji Temple and dealt with the remaining domain duties until June 26. Meanwhile on June 10, he sent Tozaemon HAYAMI and Kanroku KONDO to Mt. Koya to build a grave for Naganori ASANO near Gobyo Bridge located in the inner temple.
Kuranosuke stayed in Ako even after they finished the domain duties, in order to treat the swelling on his arm. During this time, he devoted himself to the restoration of the Asano clan by sending Mototoki HARA to Osaka to meet up with chief retainer of the Asano family in Hiroshima Domain, and Hosaemon TOJIMA and the head priest of Enrin-ji Temple Yukai to Edo to meet the highest ranking priest Ryuko who had a strong influence on Shogun Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA and his biological mother Keishoin.
Masahane ARAKI, who had previously promised to be the mediator for the restoration of the Asano clan, passed the idea on to the members of shogun's Council of Elders as well as Junior Elders after returning to Edo
On July 14, Araki visited the residence of hatamoto Nagatsune ASANO who was from a branch family of the Asano in Ako and asked them to tell Kuranosuke that 'there are possibilities for the restoration of the Asano clan.'
On July 17, Kuranosuke left his hometown Ako after the swelling was treated.
Changes in the residences maintained by feudal lords in Edo after the attack
Chief retainers of Ako who were present at the time of the attack on April 21 were the following.
Successor to the lord of Ako Domain - Nagahiro ASANO (3000 koku)
Chief retainer of Edo - Hikoemon YASUI (650 koku plus 9 and a half retainer)
Chief retainer who was in charge of accompanying the lord of domain - Muneshige FUJII (800 koku)
Head of foot soldiers - Mototoki HARA (300 koku) (However, he left to Ako straight away)
Lord chamberlains who were in charge of domestic economy - Chuemon OKUMURA (300 koku), Hidenobu KASUYA (250 koku)
Ometsuke - Sosuke HAYAKAWA (200 koku plus executive allowance of 10 koku)
Keeper of Edo - Kiroku TAKEBE (250 koku), Masaemon KONDO (250 koku)
Lord chamberlains - Takafusa KATAOKA (350 koku), Masahisa ISOGAI (150 koku), Sadashiro TANAKA (150 koku)
It is said that when Nagahiro ASANO, who was a brother of Asano Takumi no Kami and his adopted son, rushed from the residence for imperial envoys (current location of Japan Industrial Club at 1-4 Marunouchi, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo) to the Tepposhu Kamiyashiki (one of the residences granted to the feudal lord) (current location of St. Luke's International Hospital in Akashi-cho, Chuo Ward, Tokyo) as soon as he received the news about the attack, he was in such panic and unable to answer any question from Asano Takumi no Kami's wife Aguri (later known as Yozenin) about Kozuke no suke's survival. The lord of Ogaki Domain in Mino Province Ujisada TODA, who was a maternal cousin of Asano Takumi no Kami, also came over to the Tepposhu Kamiyashiki. Moreover, the inspectors Shigeoki KONDO and Shigetomi AMANO were sent from the bakufu to the Kamiyashiki and told Daigaku ASANO and chief retainer Muneshige FUJII to deal with the confusion happening inside the residence.
After Ujisada TODA left the Kamiyashiki, he went to the residence for imperial envoys and ordered the removal of Asano's belongings. It is said that Mototoki HARA impressed the bakufu inspectors by working very quickly when removing his belongings.
Nagahiro Daigaku ASANO wrote a letter to chief retainer Kuranosuke OISHI and sent Tozaemon HAYAMI and Sanpei KAYANO to Ako as the first messengers at around 2 p.m.
At around 5 p.m., the messengers from the Tamura family in Ichinoseki Domain told Nagahiro ASANO to send some retainers to hand over the body of Asano Takumi no Kami. In response to this request, he sent Gengoemon KATAOKA, Jurozaemon ISOGAI, Sadashiro TANAKA, Seiemon NAKAMURA, Kanzaemon KASUYA and Kiroku TAKEBE to the Tamura residence and received his body. They went straight to Sengaku-ji Temple and held a funeral for Takumi no Kami; however, the ceremony was too dreary for a feudal lord. After that, Gengoemon KATAOKA, Jurozaemon ISOGAI and others cut their chignons off in front of Asano's grave and promised their lord to avenge Kira Kozuke no Suke.
Yozenin tonsured at Kamiyashiki around 11 p.m. On April 22, commoners gathered around at midnight for the purpose of plunder and broke into Asano's Tepposhu Kamiyashiki from the back door. They were able to maintain public order only after the guards who were sent from the Toda family of Ogaki Domain as well as Taketsune HORIBE chased them off with swords in their hands, and troops of Hiroshima Domain (50 foot soldiers, 30 kobito) led by Shingoemon KOBORI (military commander for the castle guards) arrived upon the request from the head family Tsunanaga ASANO the next day.
During this disturbance, the former lord of Sanji and Hiroshima domains Nagateru ASANO (the lord Nagasumi ASANO was in his hometown Sanji) requested to have Aguri back since it was her hometown and sent Takatsugi Chubei OHASHI (the head of the front line foot soldiers) and Sadashige Kichizaemon KIMURA (the head of the soldiers with guns) to Kamiyashiki after receiving permission from the bakufu. Aguri was guarded by those people and moved to the Imai residence in Akasaka (current location of Hikawa-jinja Shrine in Akasaka, Minato Ward, Tokyo). It is thought that it was around 2 a.m. on April 22.
When they finished removing Asano's belongings on April 23 and retainers of Ako Domain as well as Hiroshima Domain left the Tepposhu Kamiyashiki by 4 p.m., Ujisada TODA became a temporal manager until it was handed over to the lord of Shinjo Domain, Dewa Province Masanobu TOZAWA on April 24, and it then became the residence for the lord of Obama Domain Tadasono SAKAI on April 27.
The Shimoyashiki (one of the residences granted to feudal lord) located in Akasaka Nanbuzaka (current location of Roppongi, Minato Ward, Tokyo) was also handed over from Matazaemon FUJII and Sukeemon TOMIMORI to the lord of Hitoyoshi Domain Nagaari SAGARA On April 25. Although the residence in Honjo was initially used to store Asano's belongings removed from the Tepposhu Kamiyashiki, it was handed over from Hikoemon YASUI to Yasutsune KATO (the lord of Ozu Domain in Iyo Province) on April 27 after the goods were transported to somewhere else.
The Edo radicals
Except for the retainers working in Edo such as Hikoemon YASUI and Muneshige FUJII who escaped from Ako Domain, many started to claim that they should avenge Yoshinaka KIRA for their lord. Especially Taketsune HORIBE (bodyguard, 200 koku), who was known to be a great swordsman in Edo, Yoshitsugu TAKATA's descendant Gunbe TAKATA, who was known for his spear skills (bodyguard, 200 koku), and Magodayu OKUDA (magistrate for arms and armor as well as a bodyguard, 150 koku), who came from the same sword school as Horibe, strongly suggested killing Kira Kozuke no Suke. People who called for revenge also included Gengoemon KATAOKA, Jurozaemon ISOGAI, and Sadashiro TANAKA, who worked very closely for Asano Takumi no Kami and received a lot of favors from him. However, those who wanted to show off their skills to the world, such as Horibe, demanded for the raid into Kira's residence whereas others, such as Kataoka, who received favor from their lord, wanted to kill Kira immediately even if it meant attacking the procession. Kataoka left Edo due to the differences of opinion and tried to look for comrades in Ako on May 4; however, since the idea of committing seppuku under Kuranosuke OISHI was accepted in Ako-jo Castle at that time, Kataoka's plan to avenge Kira was not acknowledged and he left Ako. After that, he returned to Edo and began looking for the chance to kill Kira Kozuke no Suke with three of them.
Yasube HORIBE, Gunbe TAKATA and Magodayu OKUDA arrived in Ako on May 21 right before the surrender of Ako-jo Castle. Although they asked to see Kuranosuke and other chief retainers as soon as they arrived and suggested the revenge against Kira Kozuke no Suke, he responded by saying as follows.
We will avenge Kuranosuke but must restore the Asano clan first.'
They returned to Edo after watching the surrender of Ako-jo Castle on June 17. However, even after they moved back to Edo, they continued working out the plan to avenge Kira and kept asking Kuranosuke to come down to Edo.
Since there were many retainers working in Edo who wanted to prioritize the revenge over restoration of the clan, they were called the Edo radicals.
Conflict between people prioritizing the restoration and the Edo radicals
Kuranosuke moved to Yamashina Ward, Yamashiro Province in July after leaving Ako. It was a property of Oishi's distant relatives, the Konoe family, who was a court noble as well as Regent, and the property was managed by Toshimoto SHINDO (who worked as the Konoe family's Shodaibu) who was from the same clan as a comrade of Kuranosuke's relative Nagayuki SHINDO.
Soon after Kuranosuke moved to Yamashina, his focus was on the restoration of the Asano clan rather than on the revenge against Kira. He went to Ogaki-jo Castle in Mino Province with Hidekazu ONODERA to meet Ujisada TODA and implored him for the restoration. He also kept in touch through letters with the monk at Enrin-ji Temple Yukai who was working for the restoration of the Asano clan in Edo.
Although Oishi's actions irritated the Edo radicals and they began sending letters to request coming down to Edo since June, he kept on declining by telling them to stay calm for the sake of Daigaku. When Horibe and others were very frustrated and sent a letter on August 19, which stated 'I am sure Daigaku will not be able to stand in public if he sees his brothers and parents commit seppuku even if he receives 1,000,000 koku.,' Oishi started to feel the urge to send messengers to calm down the Edo radicals.
Kuranosuke sent Soemon HARA (the head of foot soldiers, 300 koku), Matanojo USHIODA (magistrate of ishiezu, 200 koku), Kansuke NAKAMURA (private secretary, 100 koku) to Edo first at the end of September and later Genshiro SHINDO (the head of foot soldiers, 400 koku) and Gengo OTAKA (koshimonokata, 20 koku with salary for 5 servants)
However, since they were convinced by Yasubei HORIBE and joined the radicals, Kuranosuke OISHI came down to Edo on November 19, 1701. This is called Oishi's first trip down east.
Oishi met Horibe at the residence of Chudaibu MAEKAWA located in Mita, Edo (current location of Mita Station, Minato Ward, Tokyo) and promised to carry out the plan in March of the next year, the first anniversary of Asano Takumi no Kami's death. While he was in Edo, Kazuemon FUWA, who was exiled from Ako Domain, stated his desire to join the party, and Oishi gave him the permission to return to the Asano clan and become their comrade in front of Takumi no Kami's grave when visiting Sengaku-ji Temple where he rests. He also met Masahane ARAKI and Takumi no Kami's wife Yozenin during his stay. He returned to Kyoto in December after finishing his business in Edo.
It is said that Kuranosuke OISHI started having a dissipated life in Shumoku-machi Town, Fushimi (current location of Shumoku-machi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture) after his return to Kyoto
Although his dissipated lifestyle was recorded in the book 'Koseki Kenmonki' by Katsunobu OCHIAI, the truth is unknown. Some suggests that it is doubtful, since there was no book written by Horibe which mentioned Oishi's dissipated life, and therefore, at least comrades in Edo did not know the fact. Koseki Kenmonki' explained that it was to deceive Fushimi bugyo Masanoki TAKEBE, who was a distant relative of the Kira family.
Genshiro SHINDO and Gengozaemon OYAMA sent a mistress named Okaru to Kuranosuke in order to control his dissipated life since it could create more anger among the Edo radicals. This woman shows up as one of the characters 'Okaru' in 'Kanadehon Chushingura' (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers).
Alterations in properties of the Kira family
While Oishi was working hard for the restoration of the Asano clan and having a dispute with Horibe, the Edo bakufu sentenced Kira to some strict punishments.
Kira was forced to change his residence located in Gofuku-bashi near Edo-jo Castle to the residence of Nobumochi MATSUDAIRA located in Honjo, the edge of Edo (current location of Ryogoku, Sumida Ward, Tokyo) on September 21, 1701, and on August 23, the bakufu then called the governor of Shimousa, Shoda (ometsuke who was in charge of Asano's seppuku in the yard), Yoshitaka OTOMO (a Koke member who was close with Yoshinaka KIRA) and Fuyushige TOJO (who was a biological brother of Yoshinaka KIRA) and took their positions away by saying 'your services were not good enough.'
Under such circumstances, Kira lost his hope to gain his position back as Koke kimoiri, and retired after abdicating from the head of the family and handing it over to his adopted son Yoshimasa KIRA on January 9, 1702. There was a rumor that Kira Kozuke no Suke might be moving to Yonezawa-jo Castle, since his biological son Tsunanori UESUGI (150,000 koku) was working as the lord of Yonezawa Domain in Dewa Province. His wife Baireiin also experienced this alteration and moved back to the Uesugi family from which she had come. Although there are various theories as to why Tomiko did not move into the new residence and went back to the Uesugi, the truth is unknown. Some theories include a divorce, the conflict created by her statement 'Why don't you commit seppuku since Asano did,' Kira worrying about her safety as he might get attacked, and the new residence being too small to have her servants around.
Some people started leaving the domain toward the end of the year, and one of the comrades Sanpei KAYANO committed suicide due to the struggle between her father Shichirozaemon KAYANO and his loyalty to the Asano clan, and Heizaemon HASHIMOTO also committed suicide when he became romantically involved with a prostitute named Hatsu and deserted his loyalty. One of the central members of Edo radicals Gunbei TAKATA also left the group when he arranged the adoption with a direct retainer of the bakufu Mototomo UCHIDA. Their loss of Takata brought shame to the Edo radicals and weakened their influence.
Kuranosuke took this chance and on March 13, 1702, held meetings in Yamanashi and Maruyama where he decided that 'we will not take any action until some kind of punishment is given to Daigaku.'
On April 1, Chuzaemon YOSHIDA (administrator of Kato district, 200 koku) and Kanroku CHIKAMATSU (bodyguard, 250 koku) went down to Edo to tell this decision to their comrades. Yoshida first met Takumi no Kami's close vassals such as Gengoemon KATAOKA who were isolated from everyone else and convinced them to join Oishi's alliance. On April 4, a meeting was held in Yonezawa-cho Town, Ryogoku (current location of Higashi Nihon-bashi, Chuo Ward, Tokyo) with one of the leaders of the Edo radicals, Yasubei HORIBE. However, as expected it failed to persuade the Edo radicals led by Yasubei HORIBE, and he decided to come down to Kyoto in June to settle the matter with Oishi as they began searching for a way to have Soemon HARA as a leader instead of Kuranosuke to carry out the revenge.
Some suggest that Yasubei was ready to get rid of Kuranosuke, as 'Oishi was no longer needed.'
Meanwhile, at around this time, Kuranosuke received information through Yukai from Enrin-ji Temple that the restoration of the Asano clan was not going well. When the bakufu actually told Nagahiro Daigaku ASANO to be held to Hiroshima Domain on August 11, the hope for the restoration was thwarted. Kuranosuke's focus was then on the raid against Kira, and the conflict with the Edo radicals including Yasubei came to an end.
Giving back the oath
Yasubei HORIBE immediately returned to Edo to tell this news to the Edo radicals. Meanwhile, Kuranosuke OISHI sent Gengo OTAKA and Yazaemon KAIGA to their comrades in order to give them a chance to leave the alliance by handing the written oath back, as some might have joined the group simply for the restoration of the Asano clan. Gengo OTAKA told about the raid only to those who refused to take their oaths back.
This act is called 'giving back the oath.'
Although their comrades totaled over 130 people including the ones in Edo and who handed it in later, the number went down to less than 60 after giving the oath back.
People who left the alliance among chief retainers included Sadayoshi OKUNO (head of a group, 1000 koku), Toshimoto SHINDO (head of foot soldiers, 400 koku), Yoshikazu KOYAMA (head of foot soldiers, 300 koku), Denbei KAWAMURA (head of foot soldiers, 400 koku), Kozaemon SASA (head of foot soldiers, 200 koku), Kuzaemon TAGAWA (head of mochidutsu as well as foot soldiers, 400 koku), Jiemon TSUKIOKA (head of hoko kobito, 300 koku), Shigeyuki OKAMOTO (keeper of Osaka, 400 koku) and Hidenobu KASUYA (lord chamberlain, 250 koku).
Among those people, Shogen OKUNO possessed 1,000 koku, which was the greatest number of koku except for Kuranosuke OISHI, and Genshiro SHINDO and Gengozaemon OYAMA were Kuranosuke OISHI's uncles. They worked for Oishi when trying for the restoration of the Asano clan. Although Oishi expected a certain number of people to leave the group, he was very sad to see those three people go, as it was quite unexpected.
At this point, those who decided to stay in the group moved to Edo after dealing with their families.
The person who had the most difficulty was a young comrade Emoshichi YATO whose family had moved to Osaka after they left Ako, since he experienced his father Chosuke YATO's death due to sickness. Emoshichi took his mother and young sister to make their way to his mother's hometown in Shirakawa Domain, Mutsu Province; however, since they did not carry the pass which was required for women to pass a barrier, they were unable to go through Arai checkpoint. Therefore, he left his mother and sister at their friend's in Osaka and moved to Edo.
Kuranosuke kept his legitimate son Yoshikane OISHI by his side, who wished to join the group, and sent his wife Korinin and other sons to Tsuneyoshi ISHIZUKA's in Toyooka after disowning them. Since he was afraid that especially his second son Kichichiyo OISHI might get involved, he made him enter the Buddhist priesthood. He then sent Chikara OISHI to Edo on November 8. Kuranosuke made his way to Edo as well on November 25 (the Oishi's second trip down to the east). Unlike the first trip, this time the purpose was to attack Kira.
Until the raid
It is said that Kuranosuke visited the grave of the Soga brothers, who were known for their revenge story, in Fuji along the way.
Some TV series are directed for Oishi to run into real Gorobei KAKIMI whom he was pretending to be during his journey when he was using the name 'lord chamberlain of the Hino family, Gorobei KAKIMI.'
He arrived in Kamakura on December 11. He was welcomed by Chuzaemon YOSHIDA. Chuzaemon let Oishi stay at an annex separate from Gihe KARUBE's residence located at Kawasaki Hirama station. During his stay, he issued 'the Ten Instructions' to his comrades, which showed the outline of their general plan.
On December 23, Oishi and his party entered Edo. They stayed at an inn called Koyamayaten located in 3 Ishi-machi Town, Nihonbashi, Edo (current location of Hon-cho, Nihonbashi, Chuo Ward, Tokyo). Oishi told them that he was Sanai KAKIMI's (Chikara OISHI's) guardian Gorobe KAKIMI, and he was there for a lawsuit. The number of people who stayed there was 12 in total including Kuranosuke and Chikara; Matanojo USHIODA, Junai ONODERA, Kanroku CHIKAMATSU, Sezaemon OISHI, Tozaemon HAYAMI, Hannojo SUGAYA, Jirozaemon MINOMURA, two young samurai working for Kuranosuke (Koshichi KASEMURA and Saroku MUROI) and Kanroku CHIKAMATSU's manservant.
Other comrades rented houses and stores in Kojimachi, Honjo, Ryogoku, Tsukiji, Minami Hacchobori Minatomachi, Fukagawa, and Kuroecho.
Kuranosuke OISHI sent his comrades to spy on Kira's residence in Honjo and obtained a pictorial map of his house.
Although there is a story about Kinemon OKANO and Otsuya (mentioned later) explaining how they acquired the map, Terasaka's diary stated that 'it was through a member from Kira's side.'
Some suggest that this 'member from Kira's side' is thought to be a member of the Tadami clan since the house of Yahei HORIBE's second wife was the Tadami, and they were retainers of Kira's neighbor Nagakazu HONDA (chief retainer of the Matsudaira family in Echizen, who was sent from the bakufu (supervisor)). Others believe that it was Sazaemon OISHI's maternal uncle, Kahei OTA, since he used to be a retainer of Nobumochi MATSUDAIRA, the previous owner of Kira's residence.
When they were trying to figure out the date when Kira Kozuke no Suke would be home, Oishi received information through his friend KADA no Azumaro, who was a scholar of Japanese classical literature, that the tea ceremony would be held on January 30 at Kira's residence since Azumaro was often invited to Kira's place to teach how to compose poetry and give lectures on "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji) as well as "Ise Monogatari" (The Tales of Ise). They received a recommendation from Azumaro, which enabled Gengo OTAKA (Shinbei WAKIYA) to become a disciple of a master of tea ceremony Sohen YAMADA. Because Sohen had his own tea room in Honjo, he was often invited by Kira Kozuke no Suke to the tea ceremony at Kira's. And they found out from Sohen that the tea ceremony at Kira's residence would be held at January 30. Kuranosuke thought it was reliable information and decided that January 30, 1703 was going to be the day when they would make a raid.
On January 16, 1703, Kuranosuke OISHI sent a full statement and supporting evidence showing how much Ako Domain money they used, to the lord chamberlain of Naganori ASANO's wife Yozenin, Katsunobu OCHIAI who was in the Sanji domain owned a residence in Akasaka Imai. It is said that this and the time when Oishi met Yozenin during his first trip to the east were the inspiration for the story 'Nanbuzaka Yuki no Wakare' (the parting in the snow at Nanbuzaka) which talks about Oishi meeting Yozenin just before the raid to say their last good-bye in their present lives.
On January 18, all the comrades gathered at Fukagawa Hachiman Tea House, where they pretended to be Tanomoshi-ko (a beneficial association).
The program called 'reminders for people' was then decided, which stated the details of weapons, clothes, one's belongings and signals at the time of the raid as well as how to treat Kira's head, and also described that 'the one who cut off Kira's head and guards in the yard will be considered to be equal in terms of serving our deceased lord; therefore, you must not question your roles.'
During their stay in Edo, 8 members left the group; Sadajiro TANAKA (lord chamberlain, 150 koku, due to causing a drunken frenzy), Shozaemon OYAMADA (100 koku, due to running away after stealing money from Gengozaemon KATAOKA), Seiemon NAKAMURA (lord chamberlain, 100 look, unknown reason), 鈴田十八 (reason unknown), Riheiji NAKATA (30 koku 4李施, reason unknown), Koheita MORI (onando (in charge of storage room), 20 koku with salary for 5 servants, reason unknown), Magozaemon SEO (retainer of the Oishi family, reason unknown) and Isuke YANO (foot soldier, 5 koku with salary for 2 servants, reason unknown).
The final number of comrades that stayed in the group was 47.
It happened at night on 30. According to 'The Notes of Rules for People', 47 Ako Roshi started moving into action at around midnight by gathering at three places in Edo and then heading down to the Kira residence (current location of Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Town Park) in Honjo (Sumida Ward). Although the time when they actually made the raid was around 4 a.m. on December 15 according to the old calendar (January 31 in the modern calendar), it is considered 'the raid on 14' since there was a custom to divide and start each day at sunrise (which was at 6:45 a.m. on January 31) in the Edo period. In "Kanadehon Chushingura," it is dramatized to be snowing that day, however, in reality, the weather was very clear with full moon yet it was very cold.
Front gate party
The major captain for the front gate party was Kuranosuke OISHI. Twenty three members belonged to this party.
There were nine members who broke into Kira's property; Takafusa KATAOKA (spear), Masayori TOMINOMORI (spear), Takashige TAKABAYASHI (spear), Shigemori OKUDA (sword), Suketake YADA (spear), Taketaka KATSUTA (spear), Kanesada YOSHIDA, Tsuneki OKAJIMA and Hidetomi ONODERA
Those six members who were sent to guard the yard were Mitsutaka HAYAMI (bow), Noriyasu KANZAKI (bow), Norikane YATO (spear), Tadao OTAKA (sword), Yukishige CHIKAMATSU and Mitsuoki HAZAMA (spear).
Those five who were sent to guard the new gate were Kanemaru HORIBE (spear), Hidenao MATSUMURA (spear), Kanehide OKANO (spear), Munetoshi YOKOKAWA (spear) and Tomonobu KAIGA.
Three members of Counselor rank, Kuranosuke OISHI (spear), Mototoki HARA (spear) and Masaaki MASE (small-sized bow) took up positions at the front gate and commanded the party.
Back gate party
The major captain for the back gate party was Kuranosuke OISHI's legitimate son Chikara OISHI. Chuzaemon YOSHIDA was the one who actually took the lead. Twenty four members belonged to this party. There were ten people who broke into Kira's property; Taketsune HORIBE (sword), Masahisa ISOGAI (spear), Takeyuki KURAHASHI, Tsugifusa SUGINO, Shigetaka AKABANE, Kanetsune MINOMURA, Masatoshi SUGAYA, Nobukiyo OISHI (spear), Takanao MURAMATSU (spear) and Nobuyuki TERASAKA.
Eleven members who were chosen for guarding the yard were Yoshikane OISHI (spear), Takanori USHIODA, Masatoki NAKAMURA (spear), Yukitaka OKUDA (sword), Masatoki MASE (spear), Mitsutada CHIBA (small-sized bow), Tsunenari KAYANO (bow), Mitsukaze HAZAMA (bow), Sadayuki KIMURA (spear), Masatane FUWA (spear) and Munefusa MAEHARA (spear).
Kanesuke YOSHIDA (spear), Hidekazu ONODERA (spear) and Mitsunobu HAZAMA (spear) took up positions at the back gate and commanded the party.
Although the number of retainers on Kira's side is uncertain, as there are various theories, the book written by bakufu coroners after the raid stated that 'there were 89 chugen and komono (ranks below common soldier).'
In the Kuwana domain's memorandum, it is said that 'about 40 loyal retainers and 180 low ranking soldiers were sent by Danjo UESUGI (Tsunanori UESUGI) to Sahei KIRA (Yoshimasa KIRA).'
It shows that a great number of people from samurai class and non-samurai class followed Yoshimasa KIRA (the second son of Tsunanori UESUGI and adopted child of Yoshinaka KIRA) and moved to the Kira family. Those whose names are ascertained are the following.
Head of Chief Retainers - Kunai SAITO (150 koku)
Chief Retainers - Magobe SODA (100 koku), Tachu MATSUBARA (100 koku)
Toritsugi (attendant who serves Shogun by informing of a visitor and conveying messages) of that month - Yoichiemon SUDO (50 koku), Toneri IWASE (50 koku)
Toritsugi - Sukedayu HIRASAWA (15 ryo with salary for 4 servants), Jurobe SAITO (15 ryo with salary for 3 servants), Danemon SHIMIZU (5 ryo with salary for 5 servants).
Metsuke (inspectors) - Heima KASUYA (8 ryo with salary for 3 servants), Denzo SHINGAI (6 ryo)
Kinju (attendants) - Morihito YAMAYOSHI (30 koku with salary for 5 servants), Kurobe NAGAMATSU (7 ryo with salary for 3 servants), Yasumura SHINGAI (6 ryo), Sadanoshin AMANO (6 ryo), Asaemon SUZUKI (5 ryo), Jiemon TAKAHASHI (10 ryo)
Chugosho (lowest rank of samurai) - Genpachiro SODA (7 ryo), Seiemon SAITO (6 ryo), Chotaro KASAHARA (5 ryo), Kizaemon ITO (4 ryo), Mokuemon SUZUKI (4 ryo), Kidaibu IWASE (7 ryo), Shimanosuke MIYAISHI (5 ryo)
Yuhitsu (private secretary) - Kanzaemon HORIE (7 ryo), Motoemon SUZUKI (6 ryo)
Daidokoroyaku (supervisor in the kitchen) - Yaichihyoue IWATA (5 ryo)
Attendant chief retainer for inkyo (retired person) Heihachiro KOBAYASHI (150 koku)
Attendant lord chamberlain for inkyo - Masatsugi TORII (50 koku), Shinbe MIYAISHI (50 koku)
Attendant kinju for inkyo - Ichigaku SHIMIZU (7 ryo with salary for 3 servants), Jiroemon OSUGA (6 ryo), Heiemon SAKAKIBARA (6 ryo), Tazaemon KATO (6 ryo)
Attendant daidokoroyaku for inkyo - Hachiemon MITA (5 ryo)
Those whose positions or the number of koku are unknown included Chugoro OGASAWARA, Jingoemon MURAKAMI, Zenemon FURUSAWA, Jiroemon BABA, Yaemon ISHIHARA, Gozaemon TOMITA, Hachizaemon HOSHI, Shinemon WAKAMATSU, Tokube KONDO, Jinemon YAMASHITA and Goroemon SAKAKIBARA. People of non-samurai class who participated included Umaya-no-betto, Yogoemon SUGIYAMA, tea servers Shochiku SUZUKI and Shunsai MAKINO, foot soldiers Rokuroemon OKOCHI, Hanemon MORI, Gonjuro, Hachidaibu NAKAMA Hyoemon and Wakaemon. In fiction, the script is written for female servants to run around inside Kira's residence trying to escape when the raid occurred, however, in reality, his wife Tomiko had already left Kira's residence and thus her servants were not present either.
Details of raid
According to "Isogai Tomimori Ryonin Oboegaki" (Memorandum of Isogai and Tomimori) written by Jurozaemon ISOGAI and Sukeemon TOMIMORI on March 11, 1703, they placed a ladder to climb up the front gate and destroyed the back gate to go through it. In "Haga Kikigaki" (Haga's verbatim account) by Seidaibu HAGA, who was Sadanao MATSUDAIRA's retainer and in charge of confinement of Ako Roshi, it says that based on what he heard from Ako Roshi, it was Gengo OTAKA and Sawaemon ONODERA from the front gate party who climbed up the ladder and broke into Kira's property with Otaka announcing his name when jumping off the gate, and Sawaemon YOSHIDA and Yasoemon OKAJIMA followed after him. Soemon HARA twisted his ankle when he jumped off the gate and Goro KANZAKI also lost his footing and slid down due to snow; however, their injuries were not serious and they managed to perform their duties. Since Yahei HORIBE was old, Gengo OTAKA carried him and took him on the ground. Meanwhile, "Haga Kikigaki," which described the situation of the back gate, explained that Juheiji SUGINO and Jirozaemon MINOMURA broke the gate, and it was Kanpei YOKOKAWA who broke into the property first and Saburobei CHIBA defeated the guards with his small-sized bow. According to "Terasaka Shiki" (Terasaka's private record) by Kichiemon TERASAKA, after Soemon HARA put the verbal note of Asano Takumi no Kami's retainers in a box and put it between a green piece of bamboo, he placed it at the entrance of Kira's residence.
It is said in "Onodera Shojo" (Onodera's letters) that when the front gate party arrived at the entrance, they kicked the door to open it. While they were fighting against three guards who jumped out of bed and came rushing from the hall, Sawaemon ONODERA found bows lining up after killing one of Kira's retainers, and immediately cut off bowstrings so that they were no use. A TV series makes it out like it was Sawaemon's spontaneous idea; however, according to "Onodera Shojo," they had previously received information that a lot of Kira's retainers were good at shooting arrows, and therefore they decided to cut off bowstrings as soon as they found them.
According to "Haga Kikigaki," most of Kira's retainers became too scared to come out from their long house since the guards in the yard truly made Kira's retainers believe that there were more than a hundred people joined up for this raid by shouting 'a group of fifty go around to the east' and 'a group of thirty go around to the west.'
It is also described in "Isogai Tomimori Ryonin Oboegaki" that although much fighting took place in the residence, no single samurai came out of their long house. However, "Onodera Shojo" states that two of Kira's retainers rushed out from the long house, yet the first man was killed by Junai ONODERA with a spear and the other was killed by Kihe HAZAMA with a spear.
According to "Akagishiwa" (Kikigaki [account of what one hears] of Shusetsu TOJO who accomodated Ako Roshi after the raid) there was a retainer on Kira's side who furiously tried to kill Magokuro MASE, and although Magokuro stabbed him in the ribs with a spear, Kira's retainer started knocking the spear a few times, trying to haul it. When Magokuro let the spear go, that man died.
It is said in the letter sent from Kuranosuke OISHI to Genkei TERAI (who used to be a domain doctor for Asano Takumi no Kami) on December 19 (old lunar calendar) that Kazuemon FUWA did the most impressive work. He fought against four or five people and his sword was all chipped. According to a letter sent from Kazuemon FUWA to his father Shinsuke SAKURA, he was originally responsible for guarding the yard; however, he could not stand it and made his way into the residence where he ended up fighting against the head of Kira family Yoshimasa KIRA who was battling with his long sword. Yoshimasa ran away when he got injured. Yoshimasa testified that he fainted after the injury.
"Koseki Kenbunki" stated that there were six skilled men in the hall, and one in the kitchen where Kira's retainer Ichigaku SHIMIZU was killed.
Sukeemon TOMIMORI said that Jurozaemon ISOGAI brightened up the pitch-dark residence by capturing a lightweight person and making him bring some candles. When ometsuke Hisanao SENGOKU heard this story in the course of investigation, he was also impressed by Isogai's quick thought.
According to "Kyuso Shosetsu" (Kyuso's novel) by Kyuso MURO, which was written based on things Hakuseki ARAI heard through Kira's neighbor hatamoto Chikara TSUCHIYA, when he stepped outside and shouted with a wall between as it was getting noisy at his neighbor Kira's residence, he heard people say their names, Gengoro KATAOKA, Soemon HARA and Junai ONODERA, and that their long-cherished desire was satisfied by killing Kira Kozuke no Suke.
After he heard it, he put lights along the wall and placed archers underneath with the order to 'kill whoever tries to cross a moat.'
"Isogai Tomimori Ryonin Oboegaki" describes that big bowls and charcoals were thrown at Chuzaemon YOSHIDA and Jujiro HAZAMA when they tried to go inside the charcoal hut next to the kitchen as they heard someone whispering,
Even after they killed two of Kira's retainers who came out of the hut trying to attack them, they still saw something moving, and thus Jujiro HAZAMA plunged a spear. The person who came out was an old man trying to fight back with a small sword; however, he was killed by Tadashichi TAKEBAYASHI with one slash. When they examined the dead body, since he was an old man wearing a white robe, they were certain that it was Kira with scars on his face and his back, and his head was cut off by Jujiro, since he was the first to attack him. After they whistled as their signal to have Ako Roshi gather around by the entrance, they showed his head to three people who were guarding the front gate, and it became clear that it was Kozuke no Suke. According to "Kyuso Shosetsu," people at the Tsuchiya residence thought that Ako Roshi failed to catch Kira judging from their voice looking for him, since nothing was visible from their side.
However, all of a sudden they heard someone shouting 'tell us.'
They also heard others say 'look at the scar on his forehead.'
After a while, they heard someone burst into tears. Tsuchiya thought they were crying out of joy since they had managed to kill Kira.
Kira Kozuke no Suke's head was placed on the end of Matanojo USHIODA's spear.
After putting out the fire, they left Kira's residence and arrived at Zengaku-ji Temple at around 8 a.m., where Asano Takumi no Kami's grave is, and reported the successful revenge by placing Kira Kozuke no Suke's head
At this point, foot soldier Kichiemon TERASAKA departed from the group and there were 46 Ako Roshi left.
Yamaga style Jin-Daiko and costume
Ako Domain had adopted Yamaga style tactics when Sako YAMAGA was exiled to Ako, and the lord of the domain studied under him.
In movies, TV series, and theatrical performances, Ako Roshi wears a matching haori (Japanese half-coat) with Yamaga design on underneath, and Kuranosuke bangs the Yamaga style jin-daiko (a battle drum used to order troop movements) in heavy snow.
The usual storyline has become an expert swordsman of Kira's family, Ichigaku SHIMIZU, noticing the raid by Ako Roshi when he hears the drum sound and says 'that is the true Yamaga style.'
In reality, Ako Roshi brought a whistle for a signal but did not have a drum. It is assumed that the noise of breaking the gate was changed to the noise of banging the jin-daiko in "Kanadehon Chushingura." Although Yamagata designs became widely recognized after showing up in "Kanadehon Chushingura," the use of its design is seen in works prior to that. When the raid occurred in reality, Ako Roshi were fully equipped with matching black costumes similar to those of fire fighters, battle helmets on top of hoods, and chain woven protective wear underneath the black short sleeved kimono. It is reported that some had haori on while others did not. It is not Yamagata patterns; however, some people had white cloths stitched up on their sleeves to combine short sleeved kimono and haori.
Loyal retainers of Uesugi family
It is often seen in the stories of Chushingura that when the lord of Yonezawa Domain Tsunanori UESUGI, who was a biological son of Kura Kozuke no Suke, heard about the raid by Ako Roshi, he became very angry and tried to send reinforcements to his father; however, chief retainer Takafusa CHISAKA (also known as Yasunaga IROBE) remonstranced and stopped him. In reality, Uesugi family relative and koke member Yoshiyasu HATAKEYAMA was the one who stopped Tsunanori, since Hyobu CHISAKA had died in 1700 and Matashiro IROBE was not at work due to mourning for his father.
Tsunanori had strongly suggested Kozuke no Suke to retire and come to Yonezawa, because there were many Ako Roshi in Edo and it was dangerous for him. It is said that the tea ceremony held at Kira's residence on January 30 was a farewell ceremony in Edo.
At the moment of the raid, Ako Roshi was very cautious about the reinforcements from the Uesugi family and a running battle when leaving. The Uesugi family had sent a few people to probe the situation and prepared enough people to be able to fight back against Ako Roshi. However, while they were doing so, they received the news that Kira no Kozuke no Suke was killed and Ako Roshi had already left the place. They failed to chase the group due to Kuranosuke OISHI's plan to avoid the Uesugi's running battle. There is a scene where commoners greet loyal retainers on the street with cheers on their way back; however, it was only scripted for plays.
The Uesugi family soon received the order from the cabinet officials of the Shogunate not to interfere with the punishments for Ako Roshi, as it would be done by the bakufu. Although there was nothing they could do other than follow the order, they were called cowards by the public with sardonic smiles.
Who played the most remarkable role on Kira's side?
Heihachiro KOBAYASHI and Ichigaku SHIMIZU often appears in plays which show Heihachiro KOBAYASHI sacrificing himself by fighting for Kira and Ichigaku SHIMIZU with two swords in his hands tormenting Ako Roshi greatly on the bridge over a pond in the yard, as well as battling a mass fight with the most skilled swordsman among Ako Roshi, Yasube HORIBE.
However, according to "Okochi Bunsho" (Okochi's Record) which was edited by the retainers of Uesugi family, when Heihachiro KOBAYASHI was caught by Ako Roshi trying to escape, he was beheaded after being asked and answered 'where is Kozuke no Suke?' 'I am just a low ranking retainer and do not know anything.' 'why are you wearing a silk nightwear if you are a low ranking retainer.'
It is also said that Ichigaku SHIMIZU did not play a central role either, since he was killed in the kitchen after crossing swords several times.
Okochi Bunsho mentions the names Yashichiro SHINKAI and Shinpachiro YAMAYOSHI as the retainers who played remarkable roles. Shinkai was killed at the entrance after a hard battle whereas Yamayoshi murdered Kanroku CHIKAMATSU and knocked him in a pond in the yard. Although Yamayoshi got injured, he survived and even after the elimination of Kira's family, he attended on Yoshimasa KIRA to Suwa Domain in Shinano Province, where he was exiled. Both of them used to be retainers of the Uesugi family who moved to the Kira family to follow Yoshimasa KIRA.
It is said that the head of the Kira family, Yoshimasa KIRA, who was 18 at that time, courageously fought against one of the expert swordsmen among Ako Roshi, Tadashichi TAKEBAYASHI (also known as Yasube HORIBE) with his naginata skills; however, he fainted after blood from his wound went into his eyes. After the incident, inspectors sent from the bakufu were very impressed seeing him acting brave even with such a severe injury.
People who lost their lives fighting for the Kira family included Heihachiro KOBAYASHI, Ichigaku SHIMIZU, Riemon TORII, Yashichiro SHINKAI, Yoichiemon SUDO, Seiemon SAITO, Genpachiro SODA, Jiroemon OSUGA, Genjiro KOZAKAI, Motoemon SUZUKI, Shichijiro KASAHARA, Heiemon SAKAKIBARA, Shochiku SUZUKI, and Shunsai MAKINO, two foot soldiers and 23 people were wounded
Those who got wounded among Ako Roshi were Kanroku CHIKAMATSU and Soemon HARA.
Chief retainer of the Kira family Magobe SODA was rumored to have run away in the middle of the battle since he survived the raid; however, he proved himself to be a loyal retainer by refusing to work for anyone else but Yoshimasa KIRA for the rest of his life even after Kira's exile, and gained his reputation back.
Kuranosuke OISHI sent Chuzaemon YOSHIDA and others to ometsuke Hisanao SENGOKU to hand in a verbal note and decided to put everything in the bakufu's hands. The bakufu decided to let 46 Ako Roshi withdraw from Sengaku-ji Temple to the residence of Hokinokami SENGOKU for a short period of time and then sent them to the families of 4 feudal lords, Tsunatoshi HOSOKAWA, Sadanao MATSUDAIRA, Tsunamoto MORI and Tadayuki MIZUNO. The way each feudal lord family treated roshi was different, as the Hosokawa family, who accepted Oishi and the Mizuno family gave them kind treatment, whereas the Matsudaira family and the Mori family gave them cold treatment.
There is a comic tanka left to describe that the Hosokawa family and the other family received praise from commoners in Edo; 'although a narrow stream of water flowing into the Hosokawa and the Mizuno is clean, it becomes muddy when it flows down by the Mori and the Matsudaira.'
It was to praise the Hosokawa family as well as the Mizuno family, who gave warm treatment, and to criticize the Mori family and the Matsudaira, who gave cold treatment. However, the Mori and the Matsudaira corrected the way they treated roshi, in response to criticism from commoners in Edo.
Samurai in Edo considered the raid of Ako Roshi a heroic deed and praised it highly. Those who made raids usually received the death penalty; however, since Shogun Tsunayoshi and the cabinet officials of the Shogunate, such as his chamberlain Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA, encouraged heroic deeds, they struggled between terminating and saving their lives. It is said that there were people from the Cabinet who claimed that 'the fact they secretly made the raid into Kira's in the middle of the night is no different than thieves stealing things during the night,' and thus they deserved decapitation and exposure of their heads at the prison gates ("Yanagisawake Hizo Jikki" (Yanagisawa's treasured record)). There were differences in opinions even inside the Cabinet since there were, on the other hand, Cabinet officials such as ometsuke Hisanao SENGOKU, town magistrate Yoshihiro MATSUMAE, and commissioner of finance Shigehide OGIWARA who were touched by the revenge for one's lord.
Shogun's consultative body, the Bakufu Conference Chamber which consisted of those Cabinet officials submitted a written statement favoring the Asano family's side to Shogun Yoshitsuna;
1, It seems that Takumi no Kami held some grudge, and for his retainers to get together just to fulfill his will cannot be considered a faction. 2, Retainers of Takumi no Kami should be confined and later forgiven since they are true loyal retainers. 3, Kira Kozuke no Suke's retainers who did not participate in the battle cannot be acknowledge as samurai and thus should be sentenced to decapitation.
4, Tsunanori UESUGI's properties will be confiscated, as he did not do anything to save his father.'
When opinions were exchanged among scholars, Nobuatsu HAYASHI and Kyuso MURO called for saving their lives as it was a heroic deed, whereas Sorai OGYU argued that they should commit seppuku for their honors as the law must not allow an exception.
Under these circumstances, Shogun Tsunayoshi was leaning toward saving their lives; however, it could mean that he admitted his decisions made in the past were wrong, and therefore he arranged to meet Cloistered Imperial Prince Koben who resided at Ueno Kanei-ji Temple as a chief priest of Rinno-ji Temple and indirectly asked him to grant a pardon in order to make it look like it was a member of the Imperial Family who granted a pardon.
However, Cloistered Imperial Prince stated as follows.
It was incredibly faithful of them to carry out their lord's will and avenge him.'
However, what would happen if we save their lives now, and some of them become depraved?'
It will probably disgrace their heroic deed as well.'
But if they die now, their stories will be passed on from generation to generation.'
It is sometimes a compassionate thing to do to let them die.'
Shogun Tsunayoshi agreed with this opinion and decided to issue an order to Ako Roshi to commit seppuku.
On March 20, 1703, the order to commit seppuku was delivered to 4 feudal lord families. On the same day, Hisanao SENGOKU from the Bakufu Conference Chamber asked the head of the Kira family, Yoshimasa KIRA, to come out and sentenced him to dismissal and deprivation of the Kira family's positions, privileges, and properties and also exile to Takashima in Suwa Domain, Shinano Province.
46 Ako Roshi committed seppuku on that day at the feudal residences where each was confined. Their bodies were buried at Sengaku-ji Temple, just like their lord Naganori ASANO. It is said that they committed seppuku after learning their manners a few days ago, as they had not known any.
Among children of Ako Roshi, those who were over 15 were sentenced to exile except for those who had entered the Buddhist priesthood. On March 4, 1706, Yoshimasa KIRA died where he had been exiled, and the head family of Kira in Mikawa came to an end.
On February 19, 1709, when Ienobu TOKUGAWA succeeded the position of Shogun after the death of Shogun Tsunayoshi, he granted a pardon to Ako Roshi, and thus their children were also discharged. In August of the same year, Daigaku ASANO was set free and became a hatamoto once again after receiving 500 koku and joined a council. In 1713, Daizaburo OISHI, who was the third son of Kuranosuke, was employed by the head family of the Asano in Hiroshima with 1,500 koku.
Kinds of anecdotes and oral traditions
The Genroku Ako Incident has many anecdotes and oral traditions left, especially due to the dramatization of Chushingura. The following are famous anecdotes and simple oral traditions.
Yasuteru WAKISAKA's revenge against Kira
Soon after the attack happened inside the palace, the lord of Tatsuno Domain in Harima Province, Yasuteru WAKISAKA, felt the resentment of the lord of his neighbor domain Naganori ASANO and intentionally bumped into Kira Kozuke no Suke who was being carried in order to dirty his crest with Kira's blood so that he was able to punch Kira saying 'what an insolent fellow.'
Kira fell down due to severe pain and ran away asking for forgiveness by saying 'please forgive me.'
When an expert swordsman from Satsuma, Kiken MURAKAMI, found Kuranosuke OISHI at Ichiriki-jaya Teahouse indulging in dissipation, he insulted him by saying 'you do not even avenge for your lord, this coward, shame on you, you do not know what it means to be a samurai' and spit on Oishi's face before leaving. However, after Murakami found out that Oishi had killed Kura Kozuke no Suke, he committed seppuku at Sengaku-ji Temple where Oishi rests, since he was ashamed of his rude behavior toward Oishi. The grave which has the kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist names) 'Todo Kiken Shinji' engraved next to Gengo OTAKA's grave is believed to be Kiken MURAKAMI's.
Ono and Okuno being in the second troop
As a matter of fact, Kurobei ONO did not run away but stayed at Itaya Ridge in Yamagata Prefecture as a leader of the second troop to catch Kira in case Oishi was unsuccessful, since they thought he would be escaping to Yonezawa Domain.
When he received the news that Oishi's raid ended in success, he was very delighted and committed suicide there (although Ono's grave is at Itaya Ridge, it is said that it was created by people years later.)
There is also an anecdote about Shogen OKUNO being a leader of the second troop; however, there is also a story which describes that he had to leave the group because Oishi ordered him to raise Naganori ASANO's illegitimate daughter without letting the bakufu know.
Anecdote about Gengo OTAKA's written apology
Gengo OTAKA was told to 'get on the horse' by a rough packhorse driver named Danzo on his way to Edo. When Otaka refused, Danzo got carried away thinking he was a coward samurai and started telling him to write an apology. Since Otaka did not want to make it turn into a big fight, he agreed and wrote an apology. Although Danzo laughed at how cowardly he was, when he later found out that Otaka was one of the Ako Roshi who made the raid, he was ashamed of himself and became a Buddhist priest to hold a mass for Otaka. Otaka's written apology still exists at the Seko family, a former lodging, in Mishima. However, some suggest that this what appears to be Otaka's written apology was created by people years later. Yogoro KANZAKI shares a similar story.
Anecdote about Kinemon OKANO and Otsuya
Kinemon OKANO became Otsuya's boyfriend in order to acquire the pictorial map of the Kira Kozuke no Suke residence, since she was a daughter of the head of carpenters who was in charge of construction work at the Kira residence in Honjo. However, Kinemon started falling in love with Otsuya and struggled between loyalty and love due to a sense of guilt he was feeling for deceiving her and acquiring the map. After the raid, among people who were watching the Ako Roshi making their way to Sengaku-ji Temple, there were that father and daughter seeing Okano while crying.
Gengo OTAKA and Kikaku TAKARAI
Gengo OTAKA had a pen name as a haiku poet called Shiyo and was a well known Ako Roshi for his ability as a haiku poet. Since he was friends with Kikaku TAKARAI, who was a haiku poet, there is an anecdote as follows. When Otaka disguised himself as a merchant selling bamboo sticks for house cleaning in order to spy on the Kira residence the night before the raid, he bumped into Kikaku TAKARAI in Ryogokubashi.
Kikaku straightaway started the poem by saying 'the end of the year, the flow of water and even people's lives are,' and Otaka completed and hinted at the revenge by saying 'waiting for the treasure ship to come the next day.'
References on Matsuura no Taiko
Genzo AKABANE's farewell through a sake bottle
Genzo AKABANE visited his older brother's house to say the last good-bye just before the raid, since he had put his brother through trouble. However, he was not home. His sister-in-law pretended to be sick and did not come out of the house either, thinking he was here to ask for money. He then asked their female servant to bring and hang his brother's haori to pretend that he was there and poured sake, and after he finished, he said as follows and he exchanged sake with tears and left.
I know I have caused you a lot of troubles until now; however, I decided to set out on a journey to a place far away.'
We will not be able to see each other again easily.'
Although I wanted to see my brother and my sister-in-law very much before my departure if possible, my hope did not come true.'
This will be our last good-bye.'
After the brother came home and heard the story through his female servant, he was very concerned about Genzo. On January 31, the younger brother Genzo was making his way to Sengaku-ji Temple along with other Ako Roshi after cutting Kira Kozuke no Suke's head off.
Juheiji SUGINO was spying on the Kira residence by disguising himself as 'Jusuke at Yonaki Soba Restaurant.'
He eventually became friends with one of the regular customers named Genba TAWARABOSHI. On January 30, when Genba found out that the Ako Roshi had set their way to the Kira residence, he also made his way to assist them, since Asano has always been his favorite. However, he was refused to join the party by Oishi when he bumped into the Ako Roshi in Ryogokubashi. Much to his surprise, he found Jusuke from the soba restaurant in the party. They then exchanged the final good-bye. After that, Genba decided to stand strongly to guard Ryogokubashi at least until the Ako Roshi attained their long-cherished plan. This is believed to be a fictional story written by Bakaku DAIGENSAI from the Bunka era. The name Genba (玄蕃) came to exist by combining the characters '玄' and '蕃,' and '俵,' had a meaning of being able to thrust a bag of rice up with a spear, and '星' came from the name of the main character in Kanadehon Chushingura, Yuranosuke OBOSHI (大星由良助) (Kuranosuke OISHI being the model).
Retainers of the Uesugi family
When Tsunayori UESUGI heard about the raid, he announced the dispatch of troops to the Kira residence in order to save his biological father.
However, Edo chief retainer Yasunaga IROBE (also known as Takafusa CHISAKA) stood in his way to save the Uesugi family and shouted at his lord by saying 'you are supposed to be the head of the Uesugi family and not the Kira family.'
Tsunayori was overpowered and had to give up the idea of sending troops. It came from a scene in the novel called 'Ako Roshi' by Jiro OSARAGI, in which the Edo chief retainer of the Uesugi family stops Tsunayori UESUGI. However, it was impossible for Irobe to do such a thing since he was in mourning for his biological father and did not come out to work for the Uesugi family that day. The person who stopped Tsunayori was not his retainer but a member of the Uesugi family, koke Yoshiyasu HATAKEYAMA. In addition, it happened after and not in the middle of the raid.
There is also an anecdote which claims Tsunayori's mother Baireiin to be the person who stopped Tsunayori and not Irobe or Chisaka.
Nanbuzaka Yuki no Wakare (the parting in the snow at Nanbuzaka)
Kuranosuke OISHI made his way to see Naganori ASANO's wife Yozenin in Nanbuzaka to say the last farewell just before the raid.
However, he was unable to verbally tell her about the raid, since the spies of the Kira and Uesugi families were listening in, and told her 'please let me offer incense for my lord for the last time, as I will be working for another family.'
Yozenin became very angry and sent him away by saying 'I do not want incense to be offered from such an unfaithful retainer. Leave.'
The only thing Oishi could do was to secretly leave a letter which had all the names of people who would be participating in the raid, and leave. He also knelt down on the ground facing toward Yozenin to apologize for showing disrespect from outside of the residence.
In some stories, it says that Yozenin only found out about the letter when the spy was trying to steal it, and she regretted saying rude comments to Kuranosuke after realizing his true intention.
After the 'Unfaithful Retainer'
There were more than 300 retainers of the Asano family in Ako Domain; however, those who took part in the raid were 46 (Terasaka was a foot soldier and not in the samurai class), and more than 80% of them did not participate. As people who participated in the raid were praised more and more as loyal retainers, those who did not participate including their families were facing severe criticism until the end of Edo period. Children and brothers of those roshi who took part in the raid were invited from each domain, whereas the only known person who found another lord to serve was Nobuoki OISHI after leaving the domain. Shozaemon OYAMADA's father, Issen OYAMADA, committed suicide as he was ashamed of his son who ran away after stealing money from his comrade Gengoemon KATAOKA, and Naoyuki OKABAYASHI was ordered to commit seppuku by his older brother, hatamoto Tadasato MATSUDAIRA, due to nonparticipation in the heroic deed. Gunbe TAKATA, who was adopted by hatamoto the Uchida family, was turned down by his adoptive father Saburoemon UCHIDA as he could not stand unfavorable criticism. The former Ako retainers and their descendants were labeled as 'unfaithful retainers who did not participate in the heroic deed' and were looked down upon even from commoners, and they had to hide their place of birth and change their names because they were unable to buy even miso or soy sauce.
However, this was the only revenge done so openly by a faction of retainers from feudal lord families who experienced sudden dismissal and deprivation of positions, privileges, and properties and elimination of their clans, and therefore, it was not that other roshi were given logical criticism for not participating in the revenge.
Causes for an affair of sword fight
For Asano Takumi no Kami's comment 'do you know what this revenge is for?,' it is recorded in "Kajikawa Hikki" (Kajikawa's Notes), "Tamon Hikki" (Tamon's Notes) and "Takumi no Kami Oazukari Ikken" (Takumi no Kami's confinement) that Takumi no Kami said 'I hold a grudge.'
Every book talks about Takumi no Kami having a grudge; however, it does not go into details about the grudge that caused an affair of a sword fight.
According to a popular theory originated in the play "Chushingura," Sakyonosuke DATE, who was in charge of attending to Inshi (a messenger from the Retired Emperor), sent 100 pieces of gold and Tanyu KANO's paintings to Kira Kozuke no Suke, whereas he sent two dried bonito to Asano Takumi no Kami, since he was known to be scrupulous. This Asano's act displeased Kirano Kozuke no Suke who was into bribery (as described later, the term bribe used here has a different meaning than the modern term), and the cause of the incident is thought to be Kira pointing out every single fault to Asano Takumi no Kami, who was not familiar with his position as an attendant such as the ways Asano contacted Inshi, re-covered the tatamis of Zojo-ji Temple and wore different formal dress inside the palace. However, Takumi no Kami had been given the position to be attending to Imperial messengers 17 years previously in 1683.
For gifts and bribes, unlike public employees today, who are able to pay at public expense, koke members and attendants for Imperial messengers had to pay their own expenses. If it was a feudal lord with large territories and a lot of koku, he would be able to manage; however, koke was only a hatamoto after all with limited territories and koku even though he had a high social status. The Kira family was a family lineage with the highest prestige; however, they only had 4,200 koku. It was nothing compared to Asano Takumi no Kami's income of 50,000 koku. For koke to receive gifts from feudal lords who appointed them as attendants, it was considered more as tuition and necessary expense and nothing greedy at that time.
One theory states that there was a conflict between Asano Takumi no Kami and Kira Kozuke no Suke over the process of making and marketing salt which was produced in their territories. It was discussed in the book "Kira no Shio" (Kira's Salt) written by an author named Shiro OZAKI who was from Kira. However, the ruins of salt pan were located not in Kira Kozuke no Suke's territory but in the territory of the Okochi family. The 'salt pan theory' is no longer accepted, since it was created without knowing there was an outland territory and stated that the salt pan was in Kira's territory.
There is another theory which looks into both of their personalities. There is a story left about Asano Takumi no Kami having a chronic disease called tsukae which would be equivalent to a psychosomatic disease today, and therefore, some suggest that he had a short temper from birth. When simply looking at historical facts, Asano Takumi no Kami sentenced one of 47 roshi Saburobe CHIBA to house confinement and removed chief retainer Masanori KONDO from his position as the head of the group. He also exiled one of 47 roshi Kazuemon FUWA from the domain. It is said both made Takumi no Kami very angry by Chiba speaking his mind plainly and Fuwa killing a person.
There is an anecdote left in Tsuwano, which stated that Kira Kozuke no Suke treated Korechika KAMEI harshly, and his harassments were constant. Taiga-dorama (NHK Historical Drama), "Genroku Ryoran" (Genroku profusion) adopted this theory, and it emphasized Kira's sadistic personality by portraying Kira entertaining himself by watching the feudal lord from the country being in trouble. Historical facts show that Kira Kozuke no Suke sent massive bills for things he secretly purchased as well as construction work done in his house to the Uesugi family of Yonezawa Domain where his son was acting as the lord, and troubled the accounting officer of the Uesugi family. There is a famous story about Yozan UESUGI trying to recover the finances of the Uesugi family when financial ruin was one step away, and it is said that it was Kozuke no Suke who jeopardized the Uesugi family to this extent.
However, in reality, they were forced to pay out double the amount of expenses compared to their income as they did not fire feudal retainers of the domain who were receiving 1,200,000 koku even after the income for the Yonezawa Domain was reduced to 500,000 koku due to their having fought against Ieyasu TOKUGAWA at the Battle of Sekigahara. At the same time, they also spent quite a lot of money to keep their dignity, and therefore, it is questionable to criticize only Kozuke no Suke, and one assumes that they were trying to cover up their own faults through Kanadehon Chushingura.
There is also a theory called gay revenge theory which explains that when Kirano Kozuke no Suke implored Asano Takumi no Kami to send some handsome pageboys, he was rejected and thus held a grudge against Asano.
Although they are hardly picked up in academic settings, some of the conspiratorial views of history include Asano Takumi no Kami being used to trap Kira Kozuke no Suke, the wife of a Shogun Nobuko TAKATSUYA trying to stop Keishoin from receiving Juichii (Junior First Rank), a salt merchant working with a bakufu official to eliminate the Ako Domain and turn it into bakufu land in order to gain profit by selling salt in Ako.
According to Nankibunko's "Kajikawa Nikki" (Kajikawa's Diary) owned by General Library, The University of Tokyo, there is no record of Asano shouting 'do you know what this revenge is for?' at the moment of the incident, and it says that he, all of a sudden, slashed at Kira while screaming. However, a doctor named Dou KURISAKI, who treated Kira's wounds, recorded that Takumi no Kami was 'not out of his mind' at that moment.
Kura no Suke's intentions
Some speculate that since Kura no Suke's primary focus was the restoration of the Asano family and received criticism from other retainers about extending the raid, 'To make the raid was not a part of Oishi's intention at first.'
In Oishi's letter written in August, 1701, 4 months after the raid (sent to a Buddhist priest at Enrin-ji Temple, Yukai who was asked for the entreaty of the restoration of the Asano clan), it says that 'Kira's safety depends on Daigaku's safety.'
Legitimacy of bakufu's decisions
The bakufu's decision on the punishment for this incident had to do only with drawing a hidden sword inside the palace, and it unconditionally deserved the death penalty regardless of the victim's survival or death, degree of injury, and drawing his sword. Kira, on the other hand, did not draw his sword, and therefore was found not guilty.
The retainers of the Asano family became very angry claiming that the fact only their lord Asano Takumi no Kami committed seppuku and Kira Kosuke no Suke did not receive any punishment was against 'Kenka,' and there are, in fact, some 'judicial precedents' for affairs of sword fight based on Kenka Ryoseibai (in a quarrel both parties are to blame) in the early Edo period
Examples of affairs of sword fight happened inside the palace before Genroku Ako Incident are the following.
1627: Page corp Magokuro NOMURA attacked Suzuki and Kozukuri with his sword in Nishi no Maru (a castle compound to the west of the main compound). Suzuki died. Kozukuri survived. Naomura was sentenced to commit seppuku and kaieki (sudden dismissal and deprivation of position, privileges and properties), and Suzuki and Kozukuri also received kaieki for their punishment based on Kenka Ryoseibai.
1628: the Toshima incident, in which Inspector Akishige TOSHIMA attacked a member of the Shogun's council of elders, Masanari INOUE, in nishi no maru palace (a castle compound to the west of the main compound) with his sword due to complications caused by an offer of marriage and killed Masanari as well Tadakiyo AOKI who was trying to stop him and committed suicide.
There are also affairs of sword fight that happened outside of Edo-jo Castle.
1609: Saheiji KUME (castle guard of hatamoto) attacked Tadayori MATSUDAIRA (the lord of Hamamatsu Domain, Totoumi Province) and Hanpachi HATTORI (castle guard of hatamoto) with his sword at the residence of Tadatane MIZUNO. Kume and Matsudaira were killed on the spot. Due to Kenka Ryoseibai, both the Kume family and the Matsudaira family were sentenced to kaieki, and Hattori was captured and sentenced to seppuku as well as kaieki. Mizuno was also ordered to commit seppuku even though he had no direct responsibility for the incident. The cause for this affair was to do with Matsudaira interjecting into an Igo (board game of capturing territory) match.
On July 21, 1680, Tadakatsu NAITO, who was a maternal uncle of Naganori, attacked Naonaga NAGAI during the funeral of the 4th Shogun Ietsuna TOKUGAWA at Zojo-ji Temple. Naito was sentenced to commit seppuku as well as kaieki. Nagai died straight away. Although the Nagai family was also sentenced to kaieki, it was not because of Kenka Ryoseibai but due to the fact that they had no heir.
There was no affair of sword fight from the Iemitsu TOKUGAWA to Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA periods, and even for the affairs that happened inside the palace in the Tsunayoshi period, victims were killed on the spot and offenders were sentenced to seppuku; therefore, the example of both victims and offenders surviving did not exist for a long time.
Kenka Ryoseibai' was the customary law which came to exist in the Sengoku Period when everything was out of order, and was loved by kabukimono. Ieyasu TOKUGAWA and Hidetada TOKUGAWA adopted this law as Shogunate law since they were both military commanders from the Sengoku Period; however, almost 100 years was gone when the incident happened in the Genroku era. Some Confucians criticized 'Kenka Ryoseibai' by pointing out the possibilities of punishing innocent people without making clear what is right and what is wrong, especially now that the politics had shifted from military government to civilian government although there were remnants left from the Sengoku Period (period of civil war).
The Edo bakufu was a society structured based on one's status, and the law and investigations were neither modern nor equal. The concept of 'Kenka Ryoseibai' was widely used to deal with disputes among people of low rank with little salary in order to cut down on time and effort on the investigations. The only case Kenka Ryoseibai was used for someone of feudal lord rank was Murayori DATE.
There was only one affair of sword fight similar to the one between Asano and Kira that happened years later. It happened in the main ward of Edo-jo Castle on August 25, 1726 in the Yoshimune TOKUGAWA period.
When Tadatsune MIZUNO (feudal lord) (the lord of Matsumoto Domain with 70,000 koku) went back to his room to get a folding fan, Morotaka MORI (the lord of Chofu Domain with 57,000 koku) picked it up for him by giving him a faint smile and said 'sokomoto's (casual way of saying you) fan is right here.'
Since Mizuno thought he was being insulted, he attacked Mori with his sword to kill him. However, Mizuno was held down by surrounding people, and both Mizuno's and Mori's lives were saved. Although Shogun Yoshimune TOKUGAWA sentenced Mizuno to confinement at Takafusa AKIMOTO's residence and kaieki, he did not let him commit seppuku and restored the Mizuno family by giving his relative Tadayoshi MIZUNO 7,000 koku in Saku District, Shinano Province. Yoshimune did not give any punishment to the Mori family. As a result, there were no complaints from either the Mizuno family or the Mori family. It is said that the way they dealt with similar situations was the difference between Yoshimune TOKUGAWA and Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA.
Future generations publicly honoring the incident
In 1868, Emperor Meiji, who moved to Tokyo, sent an Imperial messenger to Sengaku-ji Temple and gave the ordinance to praise Oishi and others. This had an affect on gaining sympathy from a new government by praising Oishi, who was admired by commoners in Edo.