The 47 Ronin

(Message delivered during the Intercessory Program of PAC 7/13/2013. My gratitude overflows to that person who encouraged me and prayed for me. All photos courtesy of Wikipedia)

In ancient feudal Japan, 18th Century to be exact, 47 samurai were ordered committed seppuku or honorary suicide. Among them was a 16 year old young boy.

They had no choice.

They were told either they would be convicted and executed as criminals or they would die as samurai by committing suicide. Those were times where concepts of honor and duty were sacred.

The men were samurai under the household of Asano Naganori. Their story is not really something worth emulating but we can pick up a lot of lessons from their story.

Ukiyo-e scene from Chūshingura, depicting the assault of Kira Yoshinaka by Asano Naganori in the Matsu no Ōrōka of Edo Castle. from Wikipedia

Asano Naganori was a rich daimyo who owned a large area of land. His household had more than a hundred samurai aside from servants. As honor and dishonor were highly regarded in their time, he was enraged when a corrupt court official named Kira Yoshinaka insulted him. In his anger he attacked the man and severely wounding him in the face.

As punishment for attacking, Asano was ordered to commit seppuku. His family, servants and samurai were also considered dishonorable. In revenge, the remaining 47 samurai loyal to their daimyo planned to kill Kira and offer his head to their master’s grave. Being without a master, they were now called ronin.

The ronin attack the principal gate of Kira’s mansion. retrieved from Wikipedia

Lead by a the most trusted ronin named Oishi. It took two years of careful and stealthy planning to execute their master’s enemy. To avoid the spies of their master’s enemy, their leader pretended to be losing his mind and will to live. Oshi spent two years living like a drunkard, spending night and day in brothels. People in the neighborhood already had the impression that the Ronin had lost courage and face to avenge their master. He kept the act in public to put off the guard of the court official, Kira. However, each night, the 47 secretly met, reviewed their plot and re-committed themselves to their code as samurai.

After two years, Kira lifted his guard, thinking that the 47 ronin had already given up on their plot to avenge their master. As soon as this was done, the 47 ronin surrounded the house one night and exacted their vengeance.

After that night, only Kira Yoshinaka died. His household, his guards were all spared save sixteen who tried to fight back. After exacting revenge, the men turned themselves in to the authorities. On their way to the Edo Castle, they were lauded by everyone for keeping their honor and for following the samurai code.  At the trial, they were given the option of being executed as criminals or dying as samurai. Their tombs are now a tourist attraction in Japan.

Now, that’s not a really good story. Maybe it sounds something out of fiction but this truly happened. It is historical and accounts may be varied and sketchy but scholars agree that it really happened.

Now I find it amazing how these 47 men still pursued their master’s enemy despite being dead. What’s more amazing is how they truly adhere to their code. Bushido, the code of the samurai is a code that protects honor and promotes justice.

We may not be samurai. We may not be adept with sword or arrows. However we learn a valuable lesson from these men, no matter how bloody their hands may be, they adhered to their code. They committed themselves to their master and respected the lives of the innocent. In the same manner, we are called to adhere to our master, Jesus Christ and cultivate a life of adherence to the code: the code of the Gospel of Christ.

Imagine how these men committed themselves to do their master’s bidding. They even went so far as to have that willingness to kill and commit suicide for their master. Imagine how dedicated they were to their goal that they were even willing to make themselves the laughing stock of the public. They allowed themselves to go so low in humiliation.

We may not be exacting revenge, but we are still beset by an enemy. We may not be after the head of a man, but our enemy is after our hearts. Therefore, we need to meet in fellowship regularly, review our code regularly and to remember our master daily. We may live in humiliation, shame, problems and worry, but we have to keep in our hearts that Christ lives in us and that we are given the grace and love for free. Allow ourselves to be lead, even through the darkest paths to improve our lives.

God leads His people on step by step. The Christian life is a constant battle and a march. There is no rest from the warfare. It is by constant, unceasing effort that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. As a people we are triumphing in the clearness and strength of the truth. We are fully sustained in our positions by an overwhelming amount of plain scriptural testimony. But we are very much wanting in Bible humility, patience, faith, love, self-denial, watchfulness, and the spirit of sacrifice. We need to cultivate Bible holiness. Sin prevails among the people of God.

It is not enough to merely profess to believe the truth. All the soldiers of the cross of Christ virtually obligate themselves to enter the crusade against the adversary of souls, to condemn wrong and sustain righteousness. But the message of the True Witness reveals the fact that a terrible deception is upon our people, which makes it necessary to come to them with warnings, to break their spiritual slumber, and arouse them to decided action.–Testimonies for the Church 3:253, 254.

Like the 47 ronin of Japanese history, let us cultivate that strict adherence and dedication to our master, Jesus Christ. He does not want us dead, but He wants us to live in Him. May we recommit our lives to Him as we go about our daily lives.


3 thoughts on “The 47 Ronin

  1. It never bodes well for a film when its release date is delayed – much less when it’s been pushed back a whole year, ostensibly to accommodate reshoots that would bump up Keanu Reeves’ completely imaginary role in a Western blockbuster take on a classic, awe-inspiring tale right out of the Japanese history books. That way lies disaster and madness, one would think – and certainly the bland, monster-heavy trailers for 47 Ronin did the film no favours. Smack down your inner critic, however, and this epic fantasy flick – for that’s what it is – turns out to be reasonably palatable fare.

    The bare bones of the true story are all there: the kindly Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) is ordered to commit seppuku – ritual suicide by disembowelment – when he almost mortally offends Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano – a nicely ironic name if ever there was one). This renders all the honourable samurai in Asano’s service masterless i.e., ronin. Led by the noble Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the loyal band of 47 ronin vow to avenge Asano – even though they have been ordered by their Shogun (top military commander) not to do so.

    What’s less accurate, of course, is pretty much all the rest of it. Reeves plays Kai, a half-British, half-Japanese orphan who’s taken in by Asano but treated like an outcast by everyone in the household – except, of course, for Asano’s loving daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki). Kira’s nefarious plans have the support of Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi), a witch who can apparently take any form she likes: wolf, snake or dragon. It’s all a bit nonsensical, especially when Kai tries to get swords for the ronin amongst some pretty creepy folk who have gone from society’s outcasts to being part of what looks like a supernatural cult.

    In other words, 47 Ronin is a faintly ridiculous addition to the wealth of Chūshingura – fictionalised accounts of the 47 ronin tale – that already exist in Japan. It’s the kind of big, dumb blockbuster in which the good guys literally live to die another day as long as the plot calls for it. These fearless ronin even survive when the villain is protected by a witch with crazy mystical powers! She can set an entire field on fire, create poisonous spiders and turn into a dragon! And the ronin – at least 47 of them – live anyway! It’s crazy! That’s what makes it all the more surprising when 47 Ronin turns out to be… well, actually not half-bad. Once you’ve accepted the sillier aspects of the film for what they are, it’s easy to get swept along by its very earnest drama and spectacle. Reeves’ storyline is a made-up jumble of nonsense, but is played very straight – this is, in effect, Sad Keanu: The Movie – and it just about works. Casting Reeves as the outsider allows him to do what he does best: play the role with stony-faced reserve, whether he’s levelling up by battling demons in cage matches or pining moodily after Mika. Kai’s restrained love story with Mika is fairly predictable stuff, with the girl fading a little too much into the background (don’t expect any bloodletting from Shibasaki, Battle Royale fans), but it’s salvaged by the rather non-Hollywood way in which it all ends.

    For all that Reeves takes centre stage in the publicity campaign, the film belongs just as much to Sanada’s Oishi. He undertakes a more arduous emotional journey: one that takes him from grudging to full-hearted acceptance of Kai’s worth as a warrior and comrade. His relationship with his family is more fully examined than Kai’s unwavering loyalty to the Asano clan. As Oishi plots his course of action, one that will bring him shame for disobeying the Shogun even as he avenges his master, he warns his wife and son Chikara (Jin Akanishi) to disavow him. Their reactions provide some of the most emotionally resonant moments in the entire film.

    All things considered, the title of the film is a bit of a misnomer – it would more accurately be called 2 Ronin, subtitled Oishi And Kai’s Excellent Adventure – and it suffers from a lamentable lack of humour and historical accuracy. But it’s not a complete travesty. Tucked away beneath a layer of mystical beasts and witches lies a story with enough heart, nobility and soul to survive even the oddest twists and turns.

    More about the movie you can also find it here


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