Monday 14 September 2020






What is generally known as ‘The Ako Incident’ occurred in 1701 in Ako in Western Japan and ended in Tokyo some two years later.

                                           Ako is located southwest of Osaka and Kobe.

The story, which is legendary in Japan describes how a group of Ronin, or leaderless Samurai when their feudal Lord Asano Naganori was compelled to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka took revenge. After waiting and planning for over a year the ronin avenged their master’s honour by killing Kirra, cutting off his head and displaying it in a bucket. They were then obliged to commit seppuku for their deeds. The 47 and Asano are buried in Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo and on December 14, each year a ceremony is held commemorating the event. Around Tokyo, including Sengakuji you will find various memorial to the 47. There is even a bucket (for any stray heads) and a washing area.

                                                          Asano's Grave In Sengauki

The Story in More Detail

In 1701, Asano Naganori a young Daimyo (or feudal lord of the Ako Domain), a small fiefdom in Western Honshu (just west of Kobe) and one other (Kamei) were ordered to arrange a reception for the envoys of Emperor Higashiyama at the Edo Castle (present day Imperial Palace in Tokyo). Asano and Kamei were to be given instructions in the necessary court etiquette by Kira Kozuke-no-Suke Yoshinaka, a powerful official in the hierarchy of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi’s shogunate. He allegedly became upset at Asano and Kamei, either because of the insufficient presents they offered him as a time-honoured compensation for his teachings or because they would not offer bribes that he wanted. Other sources say that Kira was rude and arrogant and he was corrupt, which offended Asano. Either way they did not get on and Asano may have not shown the appropriate respect to Kira. Whatever the reason significant offense was taken.

            Asano was relatively calm but Kamei was irate and was prepared to kill Kira but this was averted and his advisors appropriately (by providing Kira with a large bribe) and Kira then treated Kamei with normal respect but continued to treat Asano badly, calling him names and Asano could hold it in no longer. In the main grand corridor (Matsu no Oroka) connecting the meeting area with the residence of the Palace, Asano attacked Kira with a dagger, wounding him in the face with the first strike. Kira was not badly hurt but the attack on a shogunate official was a grave offence and the drawing of any weapon in the shogun’s residence a serious offence. He was accordingly ordered to kill himself by seppuku and his lands were to be confiscated and his family ruined. His retainers would also be leaderless and out of a job.

                                                                      The stone memorial

Edo Casstle In the East Garden of Imperial Palace a short walk from the Corridor

            Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshio, Asano’s head of staff who took over and moved the Asano family away and then surrended the castle to the government. Oishi and the forty-seven swore a secret oath to avenge their master by killing Kira although they knew the consequences.

Kira was well guarded, however, and his residence had been fortified to prevent just such an event. The Ronin saw that they would have to lull the suspicions of Kira and other shogunate authorities, so they dispersed and became tradesmen and monks. Kira still feared a trap and sent spies to watch Asano's former retainers. Oishi was either very smart or was the way he acted as he became a drunk, frequented brothels and did things uncharacteristic of a samurai, all of which was reported to Kira as Oishi had hoped as he was attempting to rid himself of spies. Kira was taken in. After a year and a half and thinking they were harmless he let down his guard  

                                                      Statue of Oishi in Sengakuji

The forty-seven, now back in Tokyo as workmen and merchants studied Kira’s house (one of them actually married the daughter of the builder of the 

house to get information). After two years on December 14, 1702 the ronin attacked the principal gate of Kira’s house in Edo.

Kira's House in Ryoguku

The site where Oishi and 16 others did their thing. 

Oishi’s part broke into the rear of the house, killing sixteen of Kira’s men and wounding 22. There was no sign of Kira. A new search identified a secret courtyard where two armed guards were found and killed. They then found Kira who refused to say who he was but the scar on his faced proved it was Kira. They then killed Kira and cut off his head. 

They arrived back in Sengakuji about ten kilometres on the other side of Tokyo and near Shinagawa as the sun rose where they washed and cleaned the head of Kira. The story spread quickly and everyone praised their action. They gave the head to the man in charge of the temple (the receipt for the head still exists at the temple), handed over all their money seeking a decent burial when they were gone. They then turned themselves in and they were broken up into four different groups. The Shogun ordered them to honourably commit seppuku rather than have them executed as criminals. Even though there 47 at the raid of Kira’s house only 46 committed seppuku on the 4th February 1703, the 47th returned from some mission and was pardoned probably because of his youth. The youngest of those that committed seppuku was only 16. The 47th ronin lived until he was 87 and was buried with his comrades at Sengakuji.

During the last visit to Tokyo we stayed at


It is a short walk to Sengakuji and even closer to the site where Oishi committeed Seppuku. See map.

In More Detail 

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