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Unformatted text preview: Only when it became clear that the shogunate would not agree to continuation of the Asano house did the two groups come together to carry
out their violent act of revenge.
Those among the rònin who all along insisted upon killing Kira did so,
according to Eiko Ikegami, primarily because of their determination to 210 Heterodox Trends remove the stain to their personal honor caused by a clash that resulted
in the death of their lord but not the other party. The fact that they did
not even know why their lord attacked the other party was immaterial to
them. Their determination stemmed from the ancient honor tradition of
After a lively debate among officials, intellectuals, and others about
how to deal with the rònin, the shogunate decided that they must die
because they broke “public” law. The rònin were, however, granted the
privilege of dying honorable deaths by seppuku (rather than decapitation).7 Although people at the time may have differed in their opinions
about the shogunate’s decision to punish the rònin for their “public” behavior, nearly everyone appears to have agreed that their “private”
behavior as samurai had been exemplary. Some Japanese even glorified
the rònin in death as gijin or “men of high moral purpose.” Such glorification was in keeping with Yamaga Sokò’s idea of bushidò, according to
which the samurai of Tokugawa times should serve as exemplars of loyalty
and morality. But whereas Sokò conceived loyalty and morality in Confucian terms, the revenge-conscious rònin (if we follow Ikegami’s analysis) were motivated largely by more particularistic, feudal sentiments of
personal honor and loyalty. Their main concern was about their honor
and their loyalty, not about honor and loyalty as universal ideals.
The rònin story was produced on the stage of the puppet theatre within weeks of the attack on Kira; and although the shogunate banned it, it
proved to be only the first of an endless stream of theatrical and other versions of the sto...
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- Spring '13