A Story of True Devotion: The 47 Ronin

I’ve been reading some different short stories recently, and I came across a collection of tales from Japan that is a mixture of folk tales and tales of historical significance. Naturally, I had to take a look. One of my favorite stories so far is the story of the 47 Ronin. For those of you who aren’t major Asian culture nerds like myself, ronin were masterless samurai during the feudal era. So here’s how the story goes:

Kira, court official of the shogunate, was put in charge of two daimyo, Asano and Kamei. The two offered gifts to Kira, as was customary, but the official considered them to be inadequate and began to treat them with contempt. Kamei was furious and wanted to kill Kira, but Asano encouraged him to be patience. In the background, however, Kamei’s retainers paid Kira a large sum of money. Kira began treating Kamei better but still treated Asano harshly to the point where Asano lost his patience.

After being insulted one day, Asano attacked Kira with his sword, leaving a shallow head wound. Because it was forbidden to draw a sword within Edo castle, Asano was ordered to commit ritual suicide. The shogunate then took possession of all his land and left his family in ruin and all of his samurai masterless. Now typically, samurai would follow their master in deat≥h rather than suffering the shame of being a ronin, but 47 of Asano’s samurai sought vengeance. Since Kira was on guard and ready for an attack, the ronin split up and took various jobs, vowing one day to restore their master’s honor.

They spent the next year waiting. They gave up everything they had in ordered to fulfill their vow. Their leader, Oishi, gave up his entire life, divorcing his wife, leaving his family, and falling into apparent drunkenness and ruin. When the time came, the ronin surrounded and attacked Kira’s house and took their vengeance on Kira. They took Kira’s head and presented it at their master’s grave to restore his honor, and there they waited to be arrested.

The ronin were ordered to commit ritual suicide, and they were all buried with their master. They instantly became heroes in Japan because of their adherence to bushido and their complete loyalty to their master, and their story has become one of the most popular in Japanese culture.

 Grave of the 47 Ronin

Grave of the 47 Ronin

What really strikes me about this story is the devotion that these samurai had to their master. They gave up everything they had for their master. They were willing to face any hardships, including death, in order to remain loyal to him. That’s devotion.

It’s more devotion than I have for my master. It’s humbling to look at a story like that because it keeps things in perspective for me, but that’s what Jesus wants. That’s what he calls all of his disciples to. He calls us to leave all our possessions and follow him. He calls us to love him so much that we hate everyone else by comparison. He calls us to leave behind the worries and cares of the world and follow him.

That’s the kind of devotion I want to have.