The 47 Ronin Story

"47 Ronin Story is the classic Japanese story of Lord Asano of Ako and one of the bloodiest vendettas in Japan’s feudal history. In a shocking clash between the warriors and the merchant class of seventeenth century Japan, there emerged the most unlikely set of heroes—the forty-seven ronin, or ex-samurai, of Ako." (text taken from Amazon)
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Tuttle Publishing
ISBN Number
Average: 4 (4 votes)


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47 Ronin: Fact or Fiction?

Field of Interest/Specialty: East Asia/HS English Teacher
Posted On: 05/05/2019

The story of the 47 ronin, masterless samuri, has become fairly well-known in the United States due most recently to a Hollywood movie staring Keanu Reeves. Although the movie departs from the story in drastic ways, an evil sorceress and a non-Japanese half demon among others, the story of revenge against the death of their master is still there. What I found extremely interesting was the forward to the actual story on the 47 ronin which tells the true story and how illegal their actions were at the time, so I was somewhat disappointed when Allyn told the false version of the story that has been performed in kubuki for generations.
Lord Asano, a rural gentleman, is required to spend a certain amount of time in Edo, Japan's capital, where he is expected to follow a protocol that is strange and different. Asano is being taught the proper rituals by a corrupt court official, Kira, who insults Asano's wife. Through a misunderstanding of body lanugage, Asano believes that Kira is going for his sword and strikes Kira down, The Emperor appears just after the deed and sentences Asano to suppuku, ritual suicide, which leaves Asano's samuri ronin.
Oishi plots with his fellow ronin and they come up with a plan to regain their lord's honor, but it will require patience and deception on their part. After waiting two years, ruining his reputation, and quarrels among the leaders, it is time to take action and Oishi leads the ronin on their quest for redemption. Of the many ronin who had initially said they were willing to be part of the plan, only fourty-seven actually take part in the raid on Kira's house where Kira shows his cowardice once again before getting the justice he deserves. The emperor understands why the ronin did what they did, but can find no legal way to spare them which is why they are allowed to commit seppuku.
Allyn did a fair job of telling the story, but I found it to be somewhat wordy and dull in places. He drew out some parts of the story and slid too quickly through other parts. I did enjoy learning about the time period of the ronin and wish that there had been more historically interesting information wrapped into the story.

47 Ronin Book Review & Lesson Idea

Field of Interest/Specialty: Special Education
Posted On: 02/25/2019

Jocelyn R. Woods
Shady Spring High School
Special Education, Grades 9-12
The book 47 Ronin, written by John Allyn, is a great story of honor and revenge. The book is appropriate for any 9-12 English and/or Social Studies course. I like the story, because it’s a great story, based on factual events that has stood the test of time. The story tells of a group of samurai who become Ronin, master less samurai, after the lord Asano Naganori assaulted a court official, and committed seppuku, as his punishment. The Ronin wait 2 years, plotting and planning, before they can avenge their master’s honor and present they enemy’s head at the grave of their master. 46 of the Ronin involved in the attack were sentenced to ritual seppuku; the 47th had been sent to Ako to report that their revenge had been completed. This wasn’t mentioned in the book, but when Terasaka Kichiemon, the 47th Ronin, returns from his mission he asks to be able to complete seppuku, but the shogun pardons him.
My students love being read to and using their imagination to recreate the story, a scene from the story, or a news report. To incorporate the book, 47 Ronin I, would read the story to the class. Since the book has twenty chapters, two chapters would be read each day for two weeks. At, the end of each reading, my higher functioning students would take notes, highlighting on key points or events that occurred in the chapter, for reference on their future projects. At the end of the book students would be given a vocabulary/comprehension quiz to check for understanding and reading comprehension of the book.
Prior to reading the book to the class, students would review the following vocabulary and identify the definition of each word: samurai, Ronin, Shogun, seppuku, ceremony, loyal, revenge, honor, punishment, spy, daimyo, fiefdom, katana, hakama, tatami, kamishimo, hibachi, komuso, shoji, haori, miya, tera, torii, geisha, maiko,
Students would also be given a map prior to the readings and as the following locations and presented in the book the students would mark them on their maps: Ako, Honshu, Edo (Tokyo), Kyoto, Ogaki, Osaka, Yamashina, Tokaido, Yonezawa, Kamakura, Nihombashi, Honjo,
After the readings, and quiz, students would be given the assignment to retell the story in their own way given one of the following choices: a News Broadcast, a journal entry as an eyewitness to the attack, an iMovie recreating a scene from the book, a puppet show, creating a woodblock print, or a giving Kabuki performance. Students would be able to work with a partner, or with a group of 3. Prior to the start of the student projects a lesson would have been taught on woodblocks, Banraku (puppet theatre), and Kabuki. Students would be provided 3-4 days to work on their projects, before presenting them to the classroom. Students may use notes taken throughout the readings, to help in the development of their final project.

47 Ronin: A Good Adventure

Field of Interest/Specialty: History
Posted On: 06/25/2012

Tim Jekel
High School History
World History I & II, Western Civilization, AP US History, AP European History
West Shore Christian Academy
The 47 Ronin story is a classic tale of honor set in the Japan of the early 1700's. Based on actual events, the story was told and retold, initially in theater productions, and eventually in the form of the novel. John Allyn's work brings this classic tale wonderfully to the English language in a novel appropriate for any high school grade.
The story begins in the rural and honorable estate of Ako, many days travel from the corrupt and degenerate practices of the court at Edo, the capital of the nation. In Ako, all is well as the loyal retainer Oishi cares for the estate of his honorable master, Lord Asano. But, in the capital of Edo, all is not well. Lord Asano feels out of place in the Edo court where etiquette and fashion seem more important than loyalty and honor. In addition, a corrupt court official, Lord Kira, is attempting to extract a bribe from Asano. Frustrated by Asano's continual refusal, Kira offends Asano during an important ceremony. Asano, enraged by this social inferior's lack of respect, unsheathes his sword and strikes Kira in front of the emperor. The sentence for such a crime is death - no exceptions can be made.
As the action unfolds quickly, Lord Asano is order to commit seppuku after getting his affairs in order. Almost before his loyal courtiers know what is happening, Asano, Daimyo of Ako, is dead. This sequence of events has rendered the various courtiers and retainers of Ako ronin - masterless samurai. The actions they take in response to the death of their master form the spine of the story and provides the energy of the entire drama. As a group, led by honorable Oishi, they decide to take revenge on Kira the corrupt official who survived the attack.
By the time the dust settles, 47 ronin have waited two years to make their move. The honorable Oishi, chief retainer of Lord Asano has had to live a life that would appear to be corrupt in order to put the spies from Kira off their guard. Only when Kira deems the situation safe do the 47 make their move. Traveling secretly to Edo, they gather for a secret pre-dawn raid on Kira’s compound. They successfully kill Kira and bring his head to the grave of their master at Sengaku-Ji. All 47 are ordered to follow their master to the grave by also committing seppuku. They do so gladly becoming national heroes to this day. All 47 are buried in Sengaku-ji with their master. Their graves can be viewed to this day.
The story works because it presents a notion of honor that is both believable and attractive. The contrast between the value system of the 47 and our society stands out. This accounts for the attraction to the story I have witnessed, especially among young men. While parts of the story show the dissolute night life of Kyoto of which Oishi participates while trying to throw the spies off of his true plans, the overall thrust of the story is a morality tale that speaks to any generation.
This story could be a part of a larger unit on the Edo period of Japan or as part of a unit on Bushido. The story also highlights the cultural forms that flourished during the heyday of the Kyoto Edo Road and the flourishing of the arts after the final unification of Japan under Tokugawa. The story is appropriate for written response in a world literature class or can be divided into quizzes for simple assessment of reading skills. While both males and females might enjoy this book, I find it best suited to 9th and 10th grade boys.

Famous story brought alive for students

Field of Interest/Specialty: East Asia
Posted On: 06/10/2009

I used this book in a Japanese history class for many years, and it has, in the past, been assigned in Pitt courses. While not beautifully written, it captures the interest of high school students in the exciting story of the 47 Ronin and a classic story of revenge and loyalty. The basic story is certainly one that all people studying Japan should know thoroughly.