Lord Asano assaults Kira, Utagawa Kuniteru (19th century)
However, the ronin have also found a place in history as heroes and legends. There were several cases in which disgraced samurai decided to avenge the unjust loss of their leader, the most famous one being the tale of the 47 ronin, also known as the “Ako incident”. In the year 1701, lord Asano Naganori was ordered to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) after attacking the corrupt court official Kira Yoshinaka. Having lost their master, Asano’s men became ronin, 47 of which chose to ignore the shogun’s ruling forbidding them to retaliate, and sought vengeance against the arrogant Kira. Two years later the ronin gathered and commenced the attack. Led by Oishi Yoshio, the ronin charged Kira’s mansion in two groups, swiftly defeating the defenders. The terrified Kira was found hidden in a secret courtyard, and killed by the ronin. Their revenge now complete, the 47 ronin turned themselves in for defying the shogun’s order, who in turn honoured their sacrifice by granting them death by ceremonial seppuku rather than a criminal’s hanging.