47 Ronin
By: Mark Kodama

Katana, the Mortician's Tale
Prologue: The High and the Low

Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievement if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death's final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill–supplied but wasteful of it.

Seneca
On the Shortness of Life

A Japanese woman, about 30 years of age, with long black hair that partially covered her face said she was next. She said she was from a samurai family from the land of Ako. In her country, was a mortician. Her voice was soft and clear, just above a whisper. She wore five rings upon five of her fingers. This is her story. "If you, please," she began.

The high and the low; the small and the great,
All Animals and Man share the same fate,
Death will meet them all on their appointed date,
And will bring each to St. Peter's pearly gate.

Death conquered Alexander in Babylon on his day,
Death seized Caesar below the statute of Pompey,
Death massacred Genghis Khan in his ger,
Death exterminated Hitler in his bunker.

Hercules wrestled with Death for the life of Alcestis,
In the end, the Grim Reaper both bested,
Although Hercules may have delayed Death awhile,
In the end, it was Death that smiled.

Hercules was on his last day consumed by fiery
Cloak prepared by his wife's jealousy,
Hercules was burnt atop a funeral pyre,
By life ending purifying fire.

Pyrrhus cleaved in one stroke a man in two,
He was later killed by a roof tile an old woman threw.
Artificial means may prolong you stay,
But in the end, Death always has his way.

Gilgamesh and Shi Wang Di
Sought the elixir of life – immortality
Both kings Death did best
And they were mortal like the rest.

King Arthur's Viking funeral pyre,
Could not destroy by flaming fire,
The fact that morality does require
Arthur, like all other men, expire.

Lugubrious displays of grief do not move me.
In the end all that live will some day see
That end the end your lifeless body will be with me
So make the most of your life's journey

I will wash and prepare your body
Enclose it in a coffin to bury,
Then place you into the ground,
To protect your dreamless sleep
From life's unpleasant sound.

Justice is to help your friends
And harm you enemies.

Katana, the Mortician's Tale
The Knights of Hiroshima

One doesn't live under the same heaven with the enemy of one's master or father.

The Book of Rites
-

Once upon a time,
There was a great warlord named
The Lord Asano
Takumi no Kaimi.
Who ruled the land of Ako.

More than three hundred
Samurai served Asano
Now Hiroshima
In Chugoku in Honshu,
Also known as Broad Island.

In Edo Palace
It was Lord Asano's turn
To serve the Shogun
It was in 1701.
He served as an official.

Lord Asano's job
Was to receive the envoy
Of the Emperor
For an important dinner
At the home of the Shogun.

Kira Kotsuke
No Suke was given task
Of training his charge
The proper etiquite
For receiving the envoy.

Minister Kira
Was greedy and arrogant.
He made demands that
Lord Asano pay a bribe
To him for his services.

There was nothing more
Loathsome to the young warlord
Than dishonesty.
He refused to pay the bribe
Lord Asano was enraged

Minister Kira
Repeatedly insulted
Proud Lord Asano.
Kira demanded the lord
Adjust the socks on his feet,

The Lord Asano
Could bear no more insults and
He drew his short sword,
In the palace of the shogun.

Minister Kira
Tried to run from Asano
Who cut his head with his blade.
Then Lord Asano
Thrust his short sword at Kira.

The blade missed Kira
And stuck in a wood pillar.
Another court official
Kajikawa Yosobei
Wrestled the lord to the ground.

Young Lord Asano
And the Minister Kira
Were seized and jailed.
Both were interrogated
By the high court officials.

When Lord Asano,
Was asked to explain himself,
He said: "I regret,
Only that I didn't kill him."
That ended the inquiry.

A Court was convened.
Since Lord Asano attacked
A man in the Shogun's palace
He must be punished.
The Council quickly ordered
Asano to kill himself.

Minister Kira
Was released from custody.
Just before his death
Lord Asano requested
Paper, pen and ink.

He wrote this poem:
"The wind blows the cherry blossoms
Away. But how shall
I complete the Spring season?"
He then disemboweled himself.

His head was cut off
By an executioner.
His last remains were buried
At Sengakuji Temple.

The council ordered
That Lord Asano's castle
And property seized
His brother was imprisoned
And his retainers scattered.

General Oishi,
Asano's Chief Retainer,
Gathered together
All of Ako's samurai,
To respond to the events.

Some said they should fight,
To defend their lord's castle.
Others said they should,
Kill themselves outside the walls
Of the castle in protest.

Wise Oishi listened,
To the Debate of his men,
Before weighing in.
He abandoned the castle,
And collected all debts owed.

General Oishi,
Petitioned the Great Shogun,
In the Capitol,
For restoration of their
Lord Asano's property.

The men of Ako,
Stored their weapons and armor,
Then left the castle
And waited for Shogun's
Decision and for justice.

Minister Kira
Lived in a fortress mansion
In Edo, with his own armed guard.
Kira feared revenge
So he sent spies to Ako.

The men of Ako
Feigned drunkeness and frequented
The brothels of Gion,
While they trained in secret,
For their day of reckoning.

The Shogun denied,
Oishi's petition to
Return the castle
And lands of Lord Asano.
Minister Kira relaxed.

Thirteen months went by.
The Forty Seven,
In the middle of winter
Met at a safe house
Near the minister's mansion.

The forty seven,
In their homemade armor
Marched in formation,
To Kira's fortess mansion
In the quiet snowy night

General Oishi
Led the frontal attack,
His son Chikara,
And his men entered the back.
Kira's men gathered their arms.

Archers on the roof
Ten in all shot messengers
Dead as they tried to call for
Reinforcements from Edo.

The men of Ako,
After a furious fight.
Slew bodyguards to a man.
Minister Kira
Was found hiding in a shed.

General Oishi
Offered Minister Kira
A most noble death.
Minister Kira refused
So Oishi cut off his head.

The Forty Seven,
Marched in glory to their Lord's
Grave, washed Kira's bloody head,
Then laid the head at the grave.
They then disemboweled themselves.

The Forty Seven,
Who perished by their own hand,
Were interred by their
Lord Asano's gravesite
To be honored forever.

Brave men of Ako,
A heavy price you did pay,
On that bloody night,
Your fame, legend and spirit
Live on to this very day.

-

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