Stories of the Faithful Samurai of the Red Castle

(Sekijô gishi den, 赤城義士傳)

Publisher: Ebi-ya Rinnosuke

c. 1848

In 1702, Lord Asano of Akô was provoked by Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka into drawing his sword in the shogun’s palace, for which he was forced to take his own life, and his estate was confiscated.  Forty-seven of Lord Asano’s retainers, who were now rônin (samurai without masters), planned and carried out a successful attack on Kira’s palace.  Kira’s head was cut off with the same dagger Lord Asano used to commit seppuku.  (The term “hara-kiri”, although more common in English than “seppuku”, is considered in Japan to be a vulgar and disrespectful description of an honorable act.).  The 46 surviving rônin were forced to take their own lives.  These events were made into the play, Kanadehon Chûshingura.  This series of prints portrays some of the 47 rônin.  The prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban. 

 

Title: Killing of the Spy Uyesumi (Uesumi kanja utsuzu, 上住間者討図)

Description: Teraoka Heiyemon Nobuyuki making a sword-stroke which has disarmed his unseen opponent and sent his hat flying

Robinson: S58.1

 

 

Title: Spying out the Enemy’s Mansion under the Guise of a Tradesman (Tei wo shizu, 商*成敵邸伺図)

Description: Senzaki Yagorô Noriyasu displaying fan-paintings from a number of lacquer boxes

Robinson: S58.2

 

 

Title: The Revenge-killing at the Takata Racetrack (Takata no baba adautsu no zu, 高田の馬場仇討の図)

Description: Oribe Yasubei Taketsune tying up his sleeves in preparation for his revenge fight

Robinson: S58.3

 

 

 

 

Title: Yoshikane Displays his Courage in the Temple

Description: Ôboshi Rikiya Yoshikane is seated with a fierce expression holding a musket moments before committing seppeku in the Kwagakuji Temple

Robinson: S58.4

 

I am grateful to Ward Pieters for locating this image

“Robinson” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.

 

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