Chshingura although obviously known to be a largely

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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 the samurai. 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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