Friday, December 27, 2013

The 47 Ronin

The Keanu Reeves movie, The 47 Ronin, opened this week to pretty mediocre business but it reminded me of this little blog post from 3 years ago about a visit I took to Japan. On arriving in Tokyo the first thing I did was get up early and take a trip out to the tombs of the 47 Ronin. I became aware of the Ronin initially through the Borges story "The Uncivil Teacher of Etiquette, Kotsuke no Suke," and then through the ukiyo-e, a remarkable series of woodblock prints on the subject of the Ronin. The shrine to the 47 Ronin is a surprisingly peaceful haven in the middle of Tokyo. I was the very first person there that morning and as such I got to light the first incense of the day to the memory of the Samurai...
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Like a total idiot I forgot to bring my camera to Japan but I did manage to take a couple of videos with the pinhole camera on my early model iPod nano.

30 comments:

Frankie said...

It can be liberating going somewhere without a camera, you can enjoy what you see without the pressure of getting the perfect pics to show everyone. You might be the only person in Japan without a camera though..go buy one and a robot dog.

Glenna said...

Other cultures never cease to amaze me, and remind me how sheltered it is here.

Thanks for the history lesson.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Thanks for this. Very much enjoyed learning about it. I always make it a point when traveling to get up early and explore. The most recent place being Singapore. Have some pretty cool pics, even one of a soccer field that was relocated to a platform in Singapore Bay to make way for a casino. You don't have much of an accent I noticed.

adrian said...

Frankie

Definitely the only person at tourist sites sans camera.

The iPod nano is an OK emergency backup though.

adrian said...

Glenna

If you clicked the link you can thank Wikipedia. I couldnt be bothered retyping all that. It is an interesting story though. I liked reading about the reactionary Samurai who criticised the 47 Ronin, saying that they should have done an immediate suicide mission!

adrian said...

Sean

Yeah after 17 years living in the States I've gotten myself a Van Morrison East Belfast-Santa Monica accent, which is weird because I never lived in either place!

The old Carrickfergus accent does come back on the phone to my mum or when I've been back in the Old Country for three or four days though.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Adrian- in one of the early episodes of Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi mentions Carrickfergus to his father at a Irish themed event.

adrian said...

Sean

What?! Really? Thats pretty cool. Its a small place and was MUCH smaller back in the twenties. I wonder what the context was for that remark.

Glenna said...
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Glenna said...

Adrian, I did use the link, but I never would have heard of it if you hadn't posted it.

I actually had the thought... wondering why they didn't just do the suicide themselves, but I assumed there was something in the code that said they had to go through the process they did for the avenging to really be honored. Also, why wouldn't hope to be spared? Maybe that's the American in me speaking though.

adrian mckinty said...

Glenna

I think its much cooler that they waited for a year and carried out a night attack. Makes for a far better story too.

Glenna said...

Definitely. And going back and reading your comment, I see I misunderstood. I thought you were talking about after all was said and done, which is what I meant, not when they attacked the castle. It does make more sense to wait until you can win.

I also noticed the lack of an accent, maybe next time you do a video you could bump it up a little for us ;)

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I'll check the episode on DVR and report back.

seana said...

Yeah, you do sound very Californian in patches. But you seem to sound slightly different in the several different situations I've had a chance to listen to you.

That's pretty good filming for an IPod. Are you thinking you might become a kind of Jonathan Meades Down Under?

I know that 47 Ronin Story, sort of. I don't know if I saw a movie of it or what, but I do know that I can picture Toshiro Mifune as Oishi, who he apparently played at some point.

Of course being me, I like the list of problematic areas about the tale appended at the end. Poor Kira. It's almost like being Herod. It's hard to be obscure, but it's better than getting the villain part in someone else's story.

I look forward to the Keanu Reeves version of the tale, which is apparently in the works.

I'm kidding. Not about it being in the works, but about looking forward to it.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

I think its something to do with being lazy. Frank McCourt lived in New York for 40 years and sounded as if he'd just stepped off the boat, whereas I'm pretty lazy with my speech and quick to pick up slang etc. My sister Diane says its because I have a musical ear but I dont know how that would manifest itself in an accent and not, you know, in music...

Keanu Reeves, eh? Didnt know that. Although he comes from a Japanese-Hawaiian background if I'm not mistaken.

And speaking of Hawaiians...On my last day in Tokyo I went to a female only mall (they werent strict about enforcing the rule) called the Venus Fort. I got lunch at a Hawaiian themed restaurant and ate what the Japanese thought of as Hawaiian food. I had steak topped with a fried egg, some sort of fish paste and rice and noodles. It sounds disgusting but it was maybe the greatest thing I've ever eaten.

seana said...

Uh, yes, that experience sounds like exactly your kind of thing.

I think it's interesting how people hold on to their accents and how they don't. I do think they are statements of some kind sometimes unconscious and sometimes not. I can see why Mr. McCourt would hold on to his. Very canny that way.

adrian mckinty said...

Glenna

I cant really bump it up consciously however usually after a few days back in Belfast in broadens all by itself.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

The "Venus Fort" was pretty bizarre but also really kind of fun.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Nice. Love the story of the 47 ronin. And it was nicely referenced and turned on its head in the movie called...errr...Ronin.

adrian mckinty said...

Brian

I was surprised by that movie. I really thought it was going to be shite, but it wasnt.

Peter Rozovsky said...
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Peter Rozovsky said...

Good thing you had your iPod with you. The Japanese are notoriously averse to photography, and you'd never have been able to find a camera.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Its a fair point, but oh my God the prices...

A packet of double A batteries was a thousand yen.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I got charged big yen at Narita airport for something that I insist to this day was not a hot dog.

It was cool to gather round a television set and watch a game with other beisoboru fans, though.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Of course I was out of season, however I did notice a lot of posters of Ichiro advertising watches and the like.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I was in the DR in the off-season, but I still saw a billboard of Sammy Sosa selling something or other.

adrian said...

Peter

I also saw a poster of Leonardo di Caprio selling tyres.

Peter Rozovsky said...

That just a pronunciation test for Japanese students learning English: "Poster of Leonardo DiCaprio selling tyres."

Alan said...

Adrian,Sadly the nobility,loyalty and persistence of the 47 Ronin led to such an exaltation of Emperor worship that countless men hundreds of years later died on unknown Pacific Islands in saber charges in World War Two. I wonder how often past mythology assumes almost religious proportions in national histories . I am thinking of "The Troubles" with its veneration of countless Irish Catholic martyrs and the Ulster Scots resistance in Londonderry .Still the tales of "The 47 Ronin" and "Miyomoto Musashi " are wonderful national treasures. Best Alan

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

The Ronin were criticized at the time for waiting to get their revenge instead of rushing in particularly by Tsunetomo in the famous Way of the Samurai. But I think the Ronin were right. Better to wait, reflect and then act before doing anything violent.