Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
Then Oishi explained to him the reason for their attack on him, and in the polite w ay of the Japanese begged his forgiveness for their rudeness in disturbing him, but they only came in this way because of their love for their late master, and because they could not live and see the man who had caused his death living happily as if nothing had occurred. They therefore had come to invite him to commit hara-kiri, and they were there to see him do it, not at any future time, but now.
But Kotsuke, the bully, had not been man enough to defend himself. So when he whimpered that he could not do it, they took it into their own hands and with a sword sliced his head off.
Then, taking the head with them in a bucket, they marched off in the early dawn to go to the Sengkuji Temple near Yeddo where their lord was buried.
Tired, cold, hungry, and many of them sorely wounded, they plodded along, eager to complete their work of placing the head of his enemy on Takumi’s tomb.
When passing one great man’s place the owner met them at his gate, and, praising them for their loyalty to their dead chief, he begged them to rest in his house and take food there. They gladly came in to take a little to eat, but they could not wait to clean themselves up or to rest themselves; they wanted to push on and get their duty done.
At length the great gate of the temple enclosure was reached. Inside the enclosure on the side of the hill on which the grave of Takumi stands there is a spring of water in a little garden. Here they washed the head. Then they took it to the priest in charge of the temple and reverently asked to be allowed to place it on Takumi’s tomb ; and this was done with a solemn service.
The End of the Ronins
Among the papers preserved at the temple is still to be seen that which the priest wrote acknowledging the receipt of Kotsuke’s head.
After it was all over, the forty-seven went down from the hill-side satisfied that they had done their duty and could now die happy.
They went straightway and gave themselves up to the authorities, and asked that they might be allowed to kill themselves instead of being executed – and this was granted.
So the whole forty-seven, from the oldest of seventy-seven down to the youngest of sixteen, all committed hara-kiri.
The admiration of their deed was so great that they were honoured as heroes, and they were all buried round their lord whom they had so faithfully served.
But instead of forty-seven graves there are forty-eight, for the man from Satsuma who had spit upon Oishi when he was pretending to be drunk was so ashamed of himself when he heard what was the truth, that he came to the grave of Oishi and apologised to his spirit, and then committed hara-kiri.
For this he was given a grave in the same enclosure with the forty-seven Ronins.
I went to visit their graves while I was in Tokio. There was the little spring in the garden beside the footpath where they had washed Kotsuke’s head, and higher up on the hill-side was the cemetery of forty-eight granite gravestones ranged in a square round the central one of their master.
Oishi’s tomb is specially honoured by having a shed over it.
Each tomb consists of a narrow upright headstone with the name of the dead man upon it. In front of each there is a small block of stone on which admirers burn sticks of incense, and alongside it