The Legend of the First Samurai: Rebel Taira Masakado.
Taira Masakado made his debut in Japanese history by attacking neighboring provinces and threatening to head to war against then ruling government. This rebellion provided Taira with fame and the title of Shinno [new emperor.] With fame also comes tragedy. He then lost his head, which was placed on a shrine for show in the ancient of Kyoto. Legends say that Masakado’s head “hung out side the East Market, Eyes never closing and color remaining unchanged.” In memory of Masakado, Buddhists placed shrines in their temples.
The Tale of the 47 Ronin
In 1701, two lords were chosen by the shogun Tokugawa Tsunayosh to host and entertain a member of the Imperial court in Kyoto. They had no prior experience in hosting such functions, thus Yoshinaka Kira was told to assist them.
Yoshinaka was greedy and full of him self. After assisting the lords in the party, they gave Yoshinaka gifts of appreciation of help. He was not satisfied. He believed that the gifts that he received from Lord Asano and the other chosen lord were not quite expensive. Yoshinaka then got scornful and started to insult Lord Asano. Asano got tired of it, and drew his sword in attempt to kill Yoshinaka.
Drawing a sword in attempt to kill out of anger was against the law. Especially doing so inside the Edo Castle. Lord Asano only wounded Yoshinaka, thus led to his confinement. Lord Asano was then ordered to commit suicide. His property and lands were then seized.
Yoshio Oishi, Lord Asano’s chief counselor, called a meeting for Lord Asano’s younger brother after hearing about the news. The meeting discussed the petition to the shogun to reinstate Lord Asano’s house and its head to Daigaku, Asano’s younger brother. If the petition did not pass, Oishi and others were ready to defend Lord Asano to death.
Lord Asano had hired many samurai, but many had left castle. The remaining 60 signed the petition. Through it all, Daigaku Asano wrote a letter to Oishi and asked him to give up the fight and give up the castle.
The men were quite surprised by Daigaku’s letter. They all left the castle but didn’t quite give up that easily. They secretly planned to seek for their revenge on Yoshinaka. Knowing that Yoshinaka had men watching them, they decided to split up. The Shogun had his suspicions on Daigaku, so he had him arrested. This was to make sure that the Asano House would not be again.
In spite of Daigaku’s arrest, Oishi and the others planned a secret meeting to discuss their plans to move in and attack. 13 men were sent out to their families, the rest were to pretend to be one with the Edo. On December 14, 1702, the attack on the Yoshinaka mansion they had planned for a while finally happened. They managed to get passed Yoshinaka’s guards but somehow, he escaped into an outhouse and hide out.
Asano’s men found the outhouse that Yoshinaka was hiding. They hen proceeded in piercing it with a spear. Yoshinaka was stabbed by the spear, but he made sure he wiped the blood off, that way no one would notice he was inside. His plan did not work and he was dragged out of the outhouse and beheaded.
The youngest samurai then went to inform Lord Asano’s wife of what happened. Yoshinaka Kira’s head was then taken to Asano’s grave and offered its spirit as a gift. The men were then sent in four separate groups to different Daimyo and were condemn. They were all buried at the Sengaku Temple, Edo. Their legacy has since been passed down through many generations.
Edwin1710. “47ronin” May 3, 2007. Accessed July 29, 2008.
<http://flickr.com/photos/edge1710/482506195/> Permission to use and adapt this image was granted on Edwin1710’s Flickr web page by Creative Commons License.
Loving, Matthew. "Friday, Karl F. The First Samurai: The Life and Legend of the Warrior Rebel Taira Masakado.(Brief article)(Book review)." Library Journal 132.17 (Oct 15, 2007): 74(1). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Washington. 8 July 2008
Nemo’s Great Uncle’s. “平将門の首塚 #8613” September 7, 2007. Accessed July 29, 2008. <http://flickr.com/photos/edge1710/482506195/> Permission to use and adapt this image was granted on Nemo’s Great Uncle’s Flickr web page by Creative Commons License.
"The Tale of the 47 Ronin." Dark Childe's Sanctuary on the Web 2008 30 Jul 2008 <http://www.bookmice.net/darkchilde/japan/the47.html>.