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Strawberry-Kiwi Cocktail Jam
Homemade Gifts
Image by yummysmellsca
Sweet and tangy, with a definite tropical twist! If you like the combination of strawberries and kiwi, this is for you! Adapted from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, Second Edition: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.…

Graves of the 47 Ronin
Homemade Gifts
Image by www78
Sengakuji is a Sōtō Zen Buddhist Temple located in a residential area of Minato. While certainly a nice temple complex, it is by far famed for being the final resting place of Asano Naganori and 47 of his retainers, led by Ōishi Yoshio, who embarked upon an epic tale of revenge known as the Ako Incident, the Chūshingura or simply the 47 Ronin. It is perhaps Japan’s national story, encompassing ideals of honor, loyalty and sacrifice.

The story begins in Edo, where the young Lord of Akō, Asano Naganori embarked on his Sankin-kōtai, the periodic attendance of all lords at the court of the Tokugawa Shogunate. With Lord Kamei of the Tsuwano, Asano would be given instruction on court etiquette by Kira Yoshinaka, a master of ceremonies. According to legend, Kira was either insulted by the miserly gifts given to him by the two lords under his instruction,that he was downright corrupt and demanded a gift/bribe (a time honored tradition in Asia to this day), or that he was naturally rude and arrogant. In any event the stories have Kira in some way insult or mistreat the students. Kamei is enraged and attempts to kill Kira, but Kamei’s retainers defuse the situation by secretly bribing the master of ceremonies, whereupon Kira immediately smooths things over with the Lord of Tsuwano and redoubles his insults on the Lord of Akō.

What is factual is that Asano finally loses his temper. On March 14, 1701, (supposedly in the legends after Kira calls him a country boor with no manners before the assembled representatives of the Shogun), Asano pulled out his short sword in the Great Pine Corridor of Edo Castle and attacked Kira, wounding the Master of Ceremonies in the face with the first strike. His second strike misses and hits a pillar. Guards then quickly separate the pair.

Both individuals are quickly condemned before their peers, Asano for his inept attack and Kira for his cowardice. but whereas Kira was effectively demoted, Asano had made a far greater offense; it was a crime to unsheathe a weapon in the home of the Shogun, a much greater crime to attempt murder within the grounds. Asano was quickly forced to commit seppuku and buried at Sengakuji, his Akō lands confiscated, his family ruined, his samurai declared leaderless Rōnin.

This did not sit well with Asano’s chief retainer, Ōishi Yoshio, a man known to be honorable and loyal. However he surprised everyone when he quietly moved the Asano family away, gave up the Akō lands, and voluntarily went into exile. Though the Shogun had specifically prohibited acts of revenge associated with the Ako Incident, the laws of honor (bushido) dictated that the samurai should seek revenge, and indeed Kira immediately sought protection with guards within his fortified compound. However Ōishi instead petitioned the Shogunate to restore the Ako lands to Asano. When that failed, he dispersed Asano’s 300 retainers to become tradesmen and farmers. Ōishi began to frequent taverns, geisha houses and brothels, disgraceful conduct for a samurai, and when confronted by his wife and children, publicly divorced his wife. One day, after drinking heavily, he tripped and fell on the street drunk. Passers-by laughed at him, and when a passing Satsuma samurai recognized Ōishi, he spat on the old ronin and kicked him in contempt of his behavior. Seeing how far the ronin had fallen, and running low on funds, Kira dismissed the bulk of his guards and let his guard down.

It was all a ruse. Before disbanding Asano’s samurai, Ōishi had persuaded a core 46 followers to a secret pact to avenge their lord by killing Kira. Seeing that Kira was relaxing, the 47 ronin sprang their plan into action. On January 30, 1703, Ōishi reassembled the 47 ronin. Armed with homemade armor to not arouse suspicion and supposedly with a map of Kira’s estate obtained after one of the ronin married the daughter of Kira’s architect, the ronin set out on a snowstorm to attack. Coordinated by drumbeats, the party split into two, one led by Ōishi attacking the front gate of Kira’s home, while the other led by his son Ōishi Chikara went in the back. A few individuals were left behind to knock on the doors of neighbors, telling them to not fear as this was a personal vendetta. While ten of Kira’s retainers held off Ōishi’s forces at the front gate, his Chikara’s forces broke through. The two parties quickly joined up and dispatched the waking members of the Kira’s guards moving up from the barracks. In a few minutes the fighting had ended. 16 of Kira’s retainers had been killed, another 22 wounded, including Kira’s grandson. However the former Master of Ceremonies himself was missing.

Finding that Kira’s bed was still warm, the ronin searched and finally came across the entrance to a secret courtyard hidden behind a large scroll. Dispatching two more armed guards, the 47 ronin quickly found and disarmed an individual hiding in a woodshed. The scar on his face quickly revealed his identity: Kira Yoshinaka. Ōishi respectfully addressed him, stating that Asano’s samurai were out for revenge, and that if Kira would commit honorable seppuku using Asano’s dagger, Ōishi would act as his second. As Kira was frozen in fright, Ōishi finally decapitated him. It was over.

One of the ronin, Terasaka Kichiemon, leaves. The legends generally state that he was ordered to send the message of Kira’s death to Ako, though other legends state that he fled or was ordered away as the youngest member. As the victorious 46 ronin marched through the streets of Edo carrying Kira’s head, a large crowd gathered and praise of their act quickly spread. Finally marching to Sengakuji, the 46 Ronin washed Kira’s head in a well still present nearby, and presented the head and dagger to the grave of Asano Naganori. The ronin then await their fate and were arrested. Later, some of Kira’s friends came to collect the head for burial. A receipt of the exchange is still present at Sengakuji.

The Shogunate is left in a dilemma. On the one hand, the 47 Ronin had clearly violated the shogun’s orders. On the other, they had preformed the expected vendetta expected of a samurai, and letters of praise and support for the ronin soon flooded in. Finally the shogun decided on a slight compromise; the ronin were sentenced to death, but allowed to commit seppuku instead of being executed like criminals. Furthermore, Ako was restored to the Asano, though only a small fraction of its original lands were returned. On March 20, 1703, each of the 46 killed themselves. They are buried in front of their master’s grave, seen here. The last ronin, Terasaka was eventually found but pardoned by the shogun. He lives out his days, dying in 1747 and is buried with his comrades.

The tale of the 47 Ronin quickly captured the imagination of the Japanese public, which with the period of long peace and stability had saw the old laws of bushido slowly start to erode away. Now suddenly there had been a dramatic showing of loyalty to a dead master and death before dishonor expected for the highest morals of a samurai. It captured the national imagination and the 47 Ronin became heroes. A flood of kabuki and banraku plays, woodblock prints, then movies in ~1917, 1941, 1962, 1999 and 2013 are collectively known as the Chūshingura (Treasury of the Loyal Retainers).

An alternative viewpoint is also interesting. Even some contemporaries criticized the 47 Ronin as being too focused on success, using their complicated subterfuge to ensure that Kira dies. Indeed as famed scholar Yamamoto Tsunetomo, asked: "What if, nine months after Asano’s death, Kira had died of an illness?" The proper response, he stated would have been to attack immediately-almost certainly leading to failure, but one that would lead to lasting honor. Instead, Ōishi had gambled his success over his honor.

The graves of the 47 ronin remain to this day and is a popular spot for veneration of the assailants and their dutiful actions. One of the first visitors to the gravesite was the Satsuma samurai who had spat on Ōishi for his disgraceful behavior. Apologizing for thinking wrongly, the samurai begged for forgiveness and committed seppuku in front of the graves; he was buried nearby.
Sengakuji, Tokyo, Japan

Sail Away #5
Homemade Gifts
Image by Katie Burry
Outfit Details:
Dress – Made by me
Jacket – Wet Seal
Shoes – Rue 21
Belt – H&M
Hat – Gift from my big sister
Sunglasses – ModCloth via gift from my big sister

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