The 48 graves for 47 Ronin
Hard lockdown is finally over for us… replaced now with… eh… a ranked but broadly obtuse lockdown system that seems to be cobbled from strange bits of personal ideology. That’s South Africa for you…
Book shops are open again. And hardware stores. And really, at the moment, that’s all I care about.
I’ve been reading the same bedtime stories to the girls over and over again for a month. So primarily my sojourn out into Corona-ville was to get some new material for… well, for me. It was an act of selfishness, since they don’t seem to mind the repetition.
Also, although I do sometimes go through kindle-app phases… really, I’m a purist who likes actual books with cracked spines, dog-eared pages… and when you’re Joey, sauce stains from your paneer Korma that you amateurishly try and shovel into your mouth while reading.
In any event armed with new childrens books I head towards the the checkout counter via philosophy, which is divided up into eastern and western and then mythology where this caught my eye.
It looked a little cheesy. I’m wary of Japanese style wood-engravings used on… well anything really. But this turned out to be a hardcover reprint of ‘Tales of Old Japan, by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, a career British diplomat who served in Japan and first published this collection in 1871.
I am an unashamed Japanophile, so this is right up my alley.
I read 47 Ronin (the first chapter) in the bath last night.
I’m not going to rehash their story. Its… complicated. And to summate this tale into a couple of paragraphs feels unfair. But I did learn that there are actually forty eight graves at the Sengakuji temple where the 47 Ronin are said to be buried.
The chief protagonist in the story of the 47 Ronin is (or maybe was) a former samurai called Oishi Kuranosuke. He spent a year lulling his quarry (the central figure in the suicide of his Lord and master) into a false sense of security by pretending to be a drunkard and fornicator who’d given up all hope of revenge as well as his will to live.
Once the forty seven Ronin had avenged their master (in the final epic battle) they handed themselves over to the authorities and all of them committed ritual suicide. As their tale of honor and duty spread through the land the people flocked to to pray at the graves of these faithful men…
Among those who came to pray was a Satsuma man, who, prostrating himself before the grave of Oishi Kuranosuke, said: ‘When I saw you lying drunk by the roadside at Yamashina in Kioto, I knew not that you were plotting to avenge your Lord; and, thinking you to be a faithless man, I trampled on you and spat in your face as I passed. And now I have come to ask pardon and offer atonement for the insult of last year’.
With those words he prostrated himself again before the grave, and, drawing a dirk from his girdle, stabbed himself in the belly and died, And the chief priest of the temple, taking pity upon him, buried him by the side of the Ronins; and his tomb still remains to be seen with those forty-seven comrades.