47 samurai from Ako

© Grigoris A. Miliaresis

It had all the elements for a great drama: samurai (Oishi Kuranosuke and the other 46 retainers of the feudal lord of Ako, in present day Hyogo Prefecture), aristocrats (the feudal lord of Ako, Asano Naganori Takumi no Kami and the shogunate official, Kira Yosihisa), an impressive setting (the shogun’s castle, Kira’s mansion, the Sengakuji temple), honor (Kira offending Asano and Asano attacking and injuring him), punishment (Asano being sentenced to seppuku ritual suicide for the attack), loyalty (the 47’s decision to avenge Asano), patience and persistence (the months of planning and  preparation), combat (the attack to Kira’s mansion and his execution), a climax (their night march from Kira’s mansion to Sengakuji to lay his severed head on Asano’s grave) and a tragic epilogue (their surrender to the authorities, their sentencing to seppuku and their burial next to Asano).

And a great drama it became! Less than 50 years after the incident, the story of the “47 loyal samurai from Ako” appeared first in the Bunraku puppet theater, then in Kabuki under the title “Kanadehon Chushingura” (仮名手本忠臣蔵) and has remained one of the most favorite stories of the Japanese with more than ten film and more than twenty television adaptations, countless books, comics and yearly stagings at the Kabuki every December so as to coincide with the incident’s anniversary on the 14th of the month. Moreover those visiting that day Sengakuji in Shinagawa, ten minutes from the JR station, will witness something similar to what Edoites saw that snowy night in 1703: 47 samurai parading the streets with Kira’s head in a bundle, heading for the temple and Asano’s grave.

There is a reason the Japanese refer to the story using its theatrical title (“Chushingura”): written in their collective conscience is its legendary rendering and not the historical truth. In the latter, Asano was a vulgar, womanizing rube who attacked without provocation a rather harmless elderly bureaucrat, the drunkard Oishi was known for his incompetence both in combat and in his duties as chief retainer and the other 46 got involved not out of loyalty to Asano but to defend their own honor and hoping to earn points in the eyes of future employers-feudal lords if they got away with it; sympathy for tragic heroes is so prevalent in Japan that there is a special word for it (“hougan-biiki”/ 判官贔屓), hence the countless bundles of incense always burning in the graves of Asano and the 47 in Sengakuji…

Grigoris A. Miliaresis is a journalist and translator. He has worked for many newspapers, magazines and publishing houses and specializes in the Internet, the martial arts and Japan where he has been living for the last few years. 


Γρηγόρης Μηλιαρέσης
Γρηγόρης Μηλιαρέσης
Δημοσιογράφος και μεταφραστής. Έχει συνεργαστεί με πλειάδα εφημερίδων, περιοδικών (τόσο του γενικού όσο και του ειδικού τύπου) και εκδοτικών οίκων και με ειδίκευση στο Ίντερνετ, τις πολεμικές τέχνες και την Ιαπωνία όπου και ζει τα τελευταία χρόνια. Από το 2012 μέχρι το 2016 έγραφε την εβδομαδιαία στήλη στο GreeceJapan.com "Γράμματα από έναν αιωρούμενο κόσμο" και το 2020 κυκλοφόρησε το ομότιτλο βιβλίο του. Περισσότερα στη συνέντευξη που είχε δώσει στο GreeceJapan.com.

Η αναδημοσίευση περιεχομένου του GreeceJapan.com (φωτογραφιών, κειμένου, γραφικών) δεν επιτρέπεται χωρίς την εκ των προτέρων έγγραφη άδεια του GreeceJapan.com


Pink cars

It is one more of those small things that the casual visitor will probably overlook, missing the English explanation in the chaos of ideograms...

Empty tables

It's one of those small details that are rarely mentioned in tourist guides and that people only notice when they stop at some café...

First, the rock

Fukushima Prefecture's Iwaki isn't exactly what anyone would call “main tourist attraction”; if it wasn't the birthplace of my mother-in-law I don't think I'd...

It’s raining –again

While linguists continue debating whether the Inuit (the ones who until recently we called “Eskimos”) have 50 different words for “snow” or not, anyone...


Recently, Japanese media (and consequently, their international counterparts and the Internet) are once again at the subject of tattoos: because of a tattoo artist...

Don’t give up Japan

Anyone who happens to come to Japan after “that day”, March 11, 2011 won’t fail to notice the slogan “Ganbaro Nippon!” (がんばろう日本!) which can...

It don’t cost nuthin’

The Japanese scratch their heads in disbelief: in a country with so many things to see and experience, old and new, classic and modern...

The Rite of Sports

Its name evokes images of the national holidays that used to characterize the Soviet Empire; considering that Japan never went through a soviet phase,...