Friday night I watched Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle (Ako-jo Danzetsu). Starring in this movie is Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba and Toshiro Mifune and was filmed in 1978. This samurai movie is about the Chushingura or Loyal 47 Ronin. The story of the 47 Ronin is probably the most famous samurai story in Japanese history. The story is supposed to be the classic example of samurai loyalty and honor. Of course the story has been sensationalized and glorified in the over 300 years since the incident.
Basically in a real simple explanation, the Lord of the Ako domain was gravely insulted by court official in the Shogun's castle. The enraged lord pulled his knife and attacked the court official but failed to kill him. It was a grave offense to pull your weapon in the Shogun's castle, especially against a shogunal official. The lord was sentenced to commit seppuku and his fief was confiscated and his loyal samurai retainers then became ronin or masterless samurai. A group of the ronin vowed vengeance on the court official who they felt was responsible. They planned for two years and finally the day came for them to act. They attacked the court official's heavily guarded compound and finally killed him. All the surviving ronin were then sentenced to commit seppuku.
And that is what this movie was about. It was an entertaining movie even though all of the intense samurai action took place at the end of the movie. During the final battle scenes I could feel myself moving my body as I really got into the fight scenes. This is the only movie I have seen based on the 47 Ronin so although there may be others that are better, this movie was pretty good.
Earlier this year I read the book called The Dog Shogun by Beatrice Bodart-Bailey which is about the life of shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. It was during Tsunayoshi's reign that the Ako Vendetta, as it is also called, took place. This was a great book and it did a great job analyzing the 47 Ronin incident. It was very interesting how, even though the 47 Ronin are a national legend, Bailey logically explained the faults of the Lord of Ako as well as the loyal retainers. See the post for that book here.