I've been going through Hakkenden anime recently, since it occured to me that I've never watched it all, in order, end-to-end before. And Hakkenden recently came to mind thanks to Mirage of Blaze since a shine in Tateyama was mentioned in passing, and, in researching more about Tateyama it turns out that Tateyama Castle happens to host a Hakkenden museum since Tateyama was home to the Satomi clan back in the time period that Hakkenden is set. (Isn't it amazing how it all interrelates?)
Anyway, while checking that out, what do I suddenly find but... The 47 Ronin! Whaaa?!
Yes, I know time-wise they aren't terribly related. But...
I was trying to figure out what connection (if any) existed between Uesugi Sadamasa who was mentioned in passing in Hakkenden and Uesugi Kenshin. (I know they won't be related, since Kenshin was adopted into the Uesugi clan.) A side note (which I will write up more on later, sometime when it's not well past my bedtime) made me track down a bunch of information related to Uesugi Kagekatsu, Kenshin's heir. (Okay, technically one of two, depending on which story you believe.) Out of curiousity, I read a bit about his heir, Sadakatsu. Sadakatsu seems to have done little of historic note other than be an able administrator (which is fairly noteworthy, considering.) His son and heir Tsunakatsu did nothing that the book noted other than adopt a son of Kira Yoshinaka as his heir.
Wait a minute, I thought... Wasn't Kira Yoshinaka one of the main players in the 47 Ronin?
Why, yes. Yes, he was.
I'm going to digress for a moment, for the benefit of anyone who is not familiar with the story. The time is 1700. The fifth Tokugawa shogun rules, though he has a variety of problems, and is generally not noted as being one of the finer Tokugawa shoguns.
Asano Naganori is a minor young daimyo from Ako, down near modern Hiroshima. To say that his domains are out of the way is not an exageration. He recently arrived in the Edo to do his time there, as mandated by the shogunate. He was given the (dubious?) honor of entertaining envoys from the emperor. Being from somewhere a bit out of the way, he was told to talk to Kira Yoshinaka, who was essentially master of ceremonies in Edo.
Naganori went to talk to Yoshinaka, but he did not bring the correct type (or, more importantly, number) of presents to show his appreciation for Yoshinaka guiding him in his task of receiving the imperial envoys. Offended, Yoshinaka went out of his way to insult Naganori at every opportunity, calling him a country bumpkin among other things. This went on for a while until one day Naganori got fed up. He drew his short sword and smacked Yoshinaka on the head. Apparently he had enough sense to not hit him with the sharp bits, since Yoshinaka survived this. Naganori, however, was commanded to kill himself, since he committed the capital offence of drawing a sword within Edo Castle.
(I gotta pause here and comment that the term "Edo Castle" is a bit misleading, since the main keep burnt down in the mid 1600's, and was never rebuilt thanks to a lack of finanaces. There was, however, a substantial manor and buildings dedicated to various aspects of government.)
After the sudden death of their lord, the Asano clan fell on hard times. The retainers were forbidden to seek revenge on Yoshinaka by direct order of the shogun. The leader of the retainers, Oishi Kuranosuke moved to Kyoto and publicly took up a life of drink, women, and partying. But secretly he was plotting revenge.
A note in my book mentions that the adopted son of Uesugi Tsunakatsu (whose historic importance is so great that my book fails to mention his name anywhere) was suspicious of Oishi Kuranosuke and, thinking that he was secretly plotting revenge, set men to watch him. All the men could discover, however, was that Kuranosuke was what he seemed to be: a drunken, besotted ex-retainer. The nameless adopted son of Uesugi Tsunakatsu obviously did not hire the best and brightest spies, since Kuranosuke was, in fact, secretly plotting revenge. The tale of the 47 Ronin is one of the most popular ones in Japanese literature and drama, and the scene of Kuranosuke in a room partying (while secrety plotting) while spies hang from the rooftop trying to eavesdrop is a classic of Japanese drama.
It took two years, but in the end Kuranosuke and 46 fellow ronin broke into a banquet at Kira Yoshinaka's residence and killed him. They took his head, marched across Edo to Senkaku Temple where their lord was buried, and presented the head to him. They then surrendered to authorities.
Said authorities were not pleased. The shogun was furious. He had ordered that no such vendettas should be carried out, and here a bunch of uppity ronin ignored him. They needed to die. This decision did little to endear him to the people, who thought there was something rather nifty about a group of ex-retainers being loyal enough to their lord to spend two years of their lives plotting revenge on the guy who indirectly caused their lord's death. There was a lot of debate, but in the end the 47 ronin were ordered to commit suicide. Their graves are now in Sengaku Temple, next to the grave of their lord.
The nameless adopted son of Uesugi Tsunakatsu had his fief reduced by half after the death of his blood father, Kira Yoshinaka. I have no idea why. I'm going to have to do some digging, since this perplexes me.
As an aside, Kira Yoshinaka had the title of Kouzuke no suke. The title implies to me that he was from the area that is now modern Gunma prefecture. At the time this was either a current or former Uesugi holding (I don't recall if they lost that domain after Kagekatsu decided that siding with the Toyotomi against the Tokugawa was a really groovy idea. I believe they did, but I could be mistaken.) So it seems likely that there was some reasonable cause for acquaintance there. Must research further. (Anyone besides me scared by those words?)
And all that was from something that was supposed to keep me entertained for five minutes while files copied. *sigh*