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Film / Chushingura

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Chushingura (Chūshingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki—"Chushingura: Story of Flower, Story of Snow") is a 1962 film directed by Hiroshi Inagaki.

It is one of many, many works adapting the Japanese Based on a True Story story of The 47 Ronin. The time is 1701. Lord Asano of Ako has been charged by the local shogun with preparing a reception for the emperor in Edo Castle. Lord Kira, chief of imperial protocol, has been appointed by the shogun to give Asano guidance on how to make the castle and its people ready for the imperial reception.

The two are polar opposites. Asano is a young man, honest, honorable, well-liked by his people. Kira is a cowardly weasel who has used his position at the imperial court to extract bribes from noblemen. The idealistic Asano, who opposes corruption in all forms, refuses to give the bribe that Kira is very broadly hinting about. Kira in turn hates Asano for not paying him off. Kira continually insults and provokes Asano until the latter snaps and slashes at him with his sword.

Unfortunately, drawing your sword in an imperial castle is a capital offense, and consequently, Asano commits seppuku on the emperor's orders. Kira gets away with nothing more than a couple of scars.

This leaves the Asano Clan broke and disgraced. The samurai that served Asano are masterless Rōnin. Outraged at the unjust execution of their lord, they debate committing seppuku themselves, or fortifying Asano's castle and going down fighting. However, Oishi Kuranosuke, chamberlain of Asano's household and leader of the ronin, recognizes that their true enemy is Lord Kira and the only way the Asano Clan can regain its position and honor is by revenge. He pretends to surrender and spends over a year acting as a drunken reprobate, thus lulling Kira and the authorities into a false sense of security, while at the same time planning a raid on Lord Kira's castle.

Chushingura is a 3 1/2 hour epic in widescreen and color. Among the All-Star Cast are Toshiro Mifune in a small role as Tawaraboshi (another ronin, sympathetic to the forty-seven) and legendary star Setsuko Hara as Riku, Oishi's wife. It was Hara's last film appearance.note 

Compare 1941 epic The 47 Ronin, or 47 Ronin, a 2013 Western take on the story starring Keanu Reeves.


  • Based on a True Story: As noted in the Useful Notes page, The 47 Ronin, the broad outlines of this story are true. There was an Asano, there was a Kira handling imperial protocol, Kira pissed Asano off somehow (probably by not handing over instructions for the visit, as in this film), Asano struck at Kira, Asano had to commit seppuku, and eventually the ronin invaded Kira's mansion and beheaded him.
  • Best Served Cold: Oishi's plan. He and the other loyal ronin will lay low, waiting until the time is ripe and Kira believes himself safe. The climactic attack on Kira's castle takes place well over a year after Asano's seppuku.
  • Blood Oath: To make sure the ronin understand that he's serious, Oishi makes them all sign a document supporting his plan, in their own blood.
  • Catapult Nightmare: The Gory Discretion Shot of Asano's ritual seppuku and beheading cuts to Lord Kira, bolting up in bed, having a Catapult Nightmare about that very event.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Cherry blossoms are falling at the moment of Lord Asano's death by seppuku.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Kira exploits his position as Grand Master of Ceremonies to extract bribes from all the minor lords who have dealings with the imperial court. The conflict between him and Asano comes after Asano refuses to pay up.
  • Death by Falling Over: Sayano is being carried by litter to the rendezvous of the ronin, when his litter knocks over an old peasant woman. The woman falls into a ditch that's maybe four feet deep. She dies.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The surviving ronin parade through the town with Kira's head on a spear (it's wrapped up in cloth, but the point is made).
  • Dirty Old Man: Kira actually self-identifies as this, saying "With lust and greed as my virtues, I intend to live a long life." He says that in front of his wife! Kira makes a habit of canoodling with geisha, and peeps at the geisha in Asano's castle.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Subverted when the ronin get a last-minute letter from four of their number, stating that they aren't coming. Kuranosuke says that it took "a kind of courage" to resist the peer pressure to show up and sacrifice themselves.
    • Played straight with Kira. He hides like a coward while the battle rages in his mansion. When the ronin finally dig him out, and Oishi presents him with a ceremonial knife and demands that he commit seppuku, Kira refuses. He whines "I don't want to die!" He dies anyway right after that when Oishi whacks off his head.
    • When the attack comes, three of Lord Kira's men hide inside a large stove in the kitchen.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sayano is eventually confronted by the family of the old lady who died by falling over when his litter knocked her down. They're seeking revenge, but he short-circuits them by slitting his own throat, as shown in a dramatic shot where his arterial spray splatters over a paper door.
  • Dual Wielding: One of Lord Kira's samurai makes a pretty good account of himself. Standing on a footbridge over a stream, one sword in each hand, he manages to simultaneously fend two of Asano's ronin, one on each side. Then he gets off the bridge and is facing a whole circle of ronin, until one finally gets him In the Back.
  • Epic Movie: 3 1/2 hours, in color and widescreen, with an invokedAll-Star Cast of Japanese cinema.
  • Geisha: Kira the Dirty Old Man likes to surround himself with them, and by his behavior clearly uses them as High Class Call Girls. Oishi does the same as part of disguising himself as a drunken fool, although it's all an act; one of the geisha catches on.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: There's a fair amount of violence during the raid, but the movie cuts away right before Asano's ritual seppuku, and again right before Oishi beheads Kira.
  • Jidaigeki: Namely, the Edo period, 1701-1703. Samurai, ronin, and swordfights.
  • I Know You Know I Know: A report comes in that Tarawaboshi the ronin has taken a job as Lord Kira's bodyguard. Horibe, one of Asano's ronin and Tarawaboshi's drinking buddy, is sent to kill him. Tarawaboshi rather easily defeats Horibe, then says that he's not working for Kira, but that he suspected that the ronin were planning to avenge Lord Asano. He spread the rumor that he was taking a job as Kira's bodyguard, figuring that if Horibe came for him, that would be proof that he was right. Horibe keeps his mouth shut, but Tarawaboshi needs no further confirmation.
  • Manly Tears: Oishi starts to weep when he receives news of Sayano's suicide, but to keep up the Upper-Class Twit facade, he pretends to stage a mock funeral of a pet bird, and he dribbles water on his face to account for fake tears.
  • Match Cut: From Otsuya kneeling so she can talk to a seated Okano, to a courtesan tripping as Lord Kira the Dirty Old Man sticks out his foot, so he can grab her.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: When the ronin get a last-second message from four of their number that they won't be coming, one of the older samurai rips it into pieces, and then burns the pieces in a candle flame for good measure.
  • The Peeping Tom: Lord Kira is established as a real creep early on when he peeks through a door at a bunch of geisha. One is in the process of taking off her kimono when a dog barks at Kira and forces him to retreat.
  • Romantic Fakeā€“Real Turn: A carpenter is constructing Lord Kira's new mansion. The ronin want the plans, which include secret passageways and such. So one of the samurai, young, handsome Okano, starts courting the carpenter's sister Otsuya in order to gain access to the plans. Naturally, he falls in love with her for real.
  • Rōnin: Forty-seven of them! Actually, more than forty-seven. Several of Asano's ronin do not show up for the climactic raid. There's also Tawaraboshi, a ronin who wasn't affiliated with Asano but is sympathetic, and who helps out at the end by blocking some of Kira's men from crossing a bridge and coming to the rescue.
  • Seppuku: Asano commits ritual suicide on the emperor's orders. A narrator at the end of the film confirms that the 47 ronin were compelled to do the same, but that they succeeded in restoring the Asano Clan to its rightful place.
  • Snow Means Death: Tokubei, one of the ronin, attempts to go to the rendezvous for the final attack despite being bedridden with advanced tuberculosis. He staggers out of his crude wooden house only to collapse in the snow, and, after he's ignored by two drunks who think he's another drunk, to freeze to death.
  • Stealing from the Till: Not all the samurai are honorable. Ono runs off with the Asano Clan's treasury.
  • Together in Death: A samurai confesses to his girlfriend that they're about to attack Lord Kira's mansion, an event that will certainly lead to his death, either in combat or seppuku. The girlfriend refuses to let him go, saying that if he does she'll inform Lord Kira's people. The next morning a neighbor finds the two of them dead in an alley, lying together, having evidently both committed suicide.
  • Too Important to Walk: Common amongst the nobility, especially since no one seems to ride horses, but taken to the point of absurdity when the shogun's dog is carried on a litter.
  • Toplessness from the Back: From a random geisha, as Lord Kira peeps through the doorway.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Oishi behaves like one, drinking to excess and cavorting with geisha, to lull Kira into a false sense of security. He is often pained at having to play this part when people come to him and ask him to avenge Asano.
  • Was It All a Lie?: As the ronin are making their triumphant march with Lord Kira's head, Okano makes a quick detour to Otsuya's house to tell her that he wasn't just wooing her to get the carpenter's plans, and he did really love her.