Forty-seven rōnin

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shemp
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Forty-seven rōnin

Post by shemp » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:22 pm

No, not the shitty 2013 movie, the legend.

My question regards the criticism by samurai and monk Yamamoto Tsunetomo regarding the delay of the revenge.

Quoting from Wikipedia:
The rōnin spent more than 14 months waiting for the "right time" for their revenge. It was Yamamoto Tsunetomo, author of the Hagakure, who asked the well known question: "What if, nine months after Asano's death, Kira had died of an illness?" His answer was that the forty-seven rōnin would have lost their only chance at avenging their master. Even if they had claimed, then, that their dissipated behavior was just an act, that in just a little more time they would have been ready for revenge, who would have believed them? They would have been forever remembered as cowards and drunkards—bringing eternal shame to the name of the Asano clan. The right thing for the rōnin to do, wrote Yamamoto, was to attack Kira and his men immediately after Asano's death. The rōnin would probably have suffered defeat, as Kira was ready for an attack at that time—but this was unimportant.[32]

Ōishi was too obsessed with success, according to Yamamoto. He conceived his convoluted plan to ensure that they would succeed at killing Kira, which is not a proper concern in a samurai: the important thing was not the death of Kira, but for the former samurai of Asano to show outstanding courage and determination in an all-out attack against the Kira house, thus winning everlasting honor for their dead master. Even if they had failed to kill Kira, even if they had all perished, it would not have mattered, as victory and defeat have no importance. By waiting a year, they improved their chances of success but risked dishonoring the name of their clan, the worst sin a samurai can commit.[32]"Its better to be wise,patient and honorable,than to be a quick tempered, unthinking and dead fool."
I've long been interested in the legend, but Yamamoto's argument makes a lot of sense. It seems that the actions of the forty-seven rōnin were not true to the tenets of bushidō, that they were obsessed with revenge over honor. If, indeed, Kira had died of illness, they would have had no way to restore the honor of their master, nor their own honor. Under this condition, could they still have regained honor through seppuku? (On the other hand, at least we wouldn't have had that shitty movie.)

Perhaps Doc and Anax, knowing far more about Japanese culture and history than I, could give some deeper insights into this?
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Re: Forty-seven rōnin

Post by Anaxagoras » Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:25 am

I do live in Japan but I'm not really an expert on bushido. I realize this is Wikipedia, but that last sentence in the quoted bit seems to contradict what came before it.

"Its better to be wise, patient and honorable, than to be a quick tempered, unthinking and dead fool."

It's in quotes so I assume it quotes Yamamoto although it's not really clear.

Anyway, according to that quote, they were right to be "patient" and to "think" rather than attack immediately and end up as "dead fools".

Honestly, the criticism to me seems silly. People in those days probably had different ideas about bushido. This guy is considered an authority today because his opinions were recorded at the time and have survived to the present day. Whereas others may have had other opinions, since they did not write them down, or if they did, those writings were lost, we don't really know what other people thought.
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Re: Forty-seven rōnin

Post by Anaxagoras » Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:23 am

There's a dark side to bushido as it was revived by the Imperial Japanese government prior to World War 2. Although some Japanese units did surrender, it was strongly frowned upon and they were supposed to fight to the death, and never to be taken prisoner.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) adopted an ethos which required soldiers to fight to the death rather than surrender.[6] This policy reflected the practices of Japanese warfare in the pre-modern era.[7]
While Japan signed the 1929 Geneva Convention covering treatment of POWs, it did not ratify the agreement, claiming that surrender was contrary to the beliefs of Japanese soldiers. This attitude was reinforced by the indoctrination of young people.[9]
The Japanese military's attitude towards surrender was institutionalized in the 1941 "Code of Battlefield Conduct" (Senjinkun), which was issued to all Japanese soldiers. This document sought to establish standards of behavior for Japanese troops and improve discipline and morale within the Army, and included a prohibition against being taken prisoner.[12] The Japanese Government accompanied the Senjinkun's implementation with a propaganda campaign which celebrated people who had fought to the death rather than surrender during Japan's wars.[13] While the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) did not issue a document equivalent to the Senjinkun, naval personnel were expected to exhibit similar behavior and not surrender.[14] Most Japanese military personnel were told that they would be killed or tortured by the Allies if they were taken prisoner.[15] The Army's Field Service Regulations were also modified in 1940 to replace a provision which stated that seriously wounded personnel in field hospitals came under the protection of the 1929 Geneva Convention for the Sick and Wounded Armies in the Field with a requirement that the wounded not fall into enemy hands. During the war, this led to wounded personnel being either killed by medical officers or given grenades to commit suicide.[16] Aircrew from Japanese aircraft which crashed over Allied-held territory also typically committed suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured.[17]
These attitudes also affected how they treated prisoners of war that they captured. In China they slaughtered Chinese soldiers who tried to surrender.

If you are interested in Japanese history, Shemp, you might be interested in a podcast I listen to called Hardcore History. The most recent series he's doing is called Supernova in the East and the first two episodes are available. It does take him a while to create new episodes. They generally come out about twice a year.

I just realized he made a Youtube video of it too. But you can also find it in Apple podcasts or whatever podcasting service you might use.

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Re: Forty-seven rōnin

Post by Doctor X » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:52 am

While I enjoy Yamamoto's work--and quote some "interesting bits" from it--he was a poser. He was "samurai" when that meant "I am a clerk." Think of the very good film Twilight Samurai. Him opining about what "true samurai" should do and all of the ideals is like Boring Old Walter Scott crapping out Ivanhoe.

There never was a "bushidō" as in an actual code. That was a myth, as Anax recognizes, promulgated by the militarists. The history of the samurai is drenched in the unchivalrousness [何?--Ed.] expected by any "knight in shining armor."

Yamamoto basically argued it would be better if the 47 simply rushed in, died, and failed. What the fuck does he know? It is like me or you arguing how "great" it was that Union soldiers charged the hill at Fredricksberg, or the Light Brigade charged the guns, or Picket's Charge, or any other incident of people manly going forth to manly fail due to the incompetence of piss-poor planning. Add in "All of WWI" to that!

A very, very good movie with one of mine, Kurosawa, and Mifune's favorite actors--"Still alive, Mother Fuckers!"--Tatsuya Nakadai is Harakiri.

See it.

Then you will know what "bushidō" really was, especially in the time of Yamamoto.

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shemp
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Re: Forty-seven rōnin

Post by shemp » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:00 pm

Thanks for your interesting responses. It certainly sheds new light on this for me, I'll have to look into this further.
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Re: Forty-seven rōnin

Post by Witness » Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:29 am

Anaxagoras wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:25 am
Honestly, the criticism to me seems silly. People in those days probably had different ideas about bushido. This guy is considered an authority today because his opinions were recorded at the time and have survived to the present day. Whereas others may have had other opinions, since they did not write them down, or if they did, those writings were lost, we don't really know what other people thought.
This. Similarly in Western philosophy we have lots of texts from Plato & Aristotle, only fragments from Leucippus (even his existence has been debated).