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The 47 Ronin Story (Tuttle Classics) Paperback – September 15, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: Tuttle Classics
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Revised edition (September 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804838275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804838276
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #771,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The book contains a new foreword by Stephen Turnbull, the historical advisor for 47 Ronin and the author of more than 50 books on military history. …As Turnbull says in his foreword: "The raid of the Forty Seven Ronin holds a unique place in Japanese history. There is nothing quite like it, and John Allyn's masterful re-retelling of the tale captures for modern readers much of the excitement with which the Japanese populace of the mid-eighteenth century would have responded to what for them was the equivalent of a newspaper sensation.""—Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Allyn Jr. attended the Army Specialized Training Program at Stanford University in 1944, majoring in the Japanese language, and also attended the Army Intensive Japanese Language School at the University of Michigan in 1945. During the first four years of the U.S. occupation of Japan, he worked as Pictorial Censor of the Civil Censorship Detachment of G2, SCAP, in Osaka and Tokyo. After his return to the United States he entered UCLA where he received his master's degree in Theater Arts in 1951.

Stephen Turnbull is the author of over 50 books on the military history of Europe and the Far East. He works as a Japanese cultural consultant and is Lecturer in Japanese Religion at the Department of East Asian Studies at Leeds University. He served as the historical advisor for the Universal Pictures film 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

I read the book so I can see the Movie.
Bill Hicks
The book not only tells the story of the 47 Ronin, it also gives great insight into this particular place and time -- how it really was in feudal Japan.
Gerald Drinkwater
The story was slow moving and I kept expecting something more.
John G.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Wing on January 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first went to Sengakuji Temple (the burial site of the 47 Ronin) about 20 years ago, just as a tourist thing and not knowing the background of the temple or the story of the 47 Ronin. I was inexplicably moved by the visit, and found a copy of John Allyn's book at an English-language bookstore in Tokyo. I instantly loved the story and Allyn's telling of it.

The climatic event took place over 300 years ago and much of the details have been lost to history, but Allyn clearly has a solid grasp of traditional Japanese culture and history and fills in the holes believably and elegantly. Allyn's style is descriptive yet clear and very enjoyable. You get a immersive feeling of the period, but it never gets bogged down.

I was delighted to discover this book had finally come to Kindle. I have read several English-language books on the 47 Ronin over the past 20 years, but I consider this one to be the definitive telling of the tale. The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most beloved in Japanese history, and for anyone with even a passing interest in it, this is a must-read.
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110 of 122 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
bodhiman@hotmail.com from California, USA , 03/04/98, rating=10: Please accept my revised review which I have edited for errors.
As a student of martial arts and Japanese history, I found this story, which is little known outside of Japan to be a most impressive example of the ideals of the elite warrior class of Japan known as Samurai. In Japanese, it is entitled "Chushingura" which translates as "Vengeance" The Forty-Seven Ronin Story probably ranks as one of my favorite books about history ( and I have read many). Unlike other historical situations where men were faced with death, these men had a choice between life and death and they chose death with honor. The warriors were driven by allegiance to their code of chivalry known as "Bushido" which emphasizes a fanatical loyalty to their lord, tempered by the serenity and wisdom of Confucianism and Buddhism. The book provides fascinating insight into the feudal system known as "bakufu" under the Tokugawa shogunate and the influences of Confucianism and Buddhism on Japanese society. While it may be fictionalized or embellished in places, the book is based on a true incident which occurred in 1701. The loyal retainers of Lord Asano were given the choice of a free life with a loss of reputation suffered when their lord was wrongly forced to commit seppuku. Instead, the men chose to seek vengeance and restore honor to their clan. The loss of face caused by the death of their lord was more than they could endure and the men sought revenge after a two year facade of drunkeness, unruly behavior and poverty.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on June 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
John Allyn here presents for English language audiences one of the most oft-told episodes in Japanese history. In March 1701, Lord Asano of Ako, having been summoned before the Shogun in Edo (modern Tokyo), was provoked into attacking a corrupt official, Kira, the Shogun's Master of Ceremonies. Asano was forced to commit seppuku, ritual suicide, and his lands were forfeit. His death left his samurai masterless, or ronin , but when they learned that Kira had survived his wounds they determined to avenge Asano, following the Confucian edict that :
[N]o man may live under the same sky with the murderer of his lord.
After biding their time until Kira was in an exposed position--no longer protected by the Shogun's forces--forty seven of Asano's former samurai attacked his castle (December 14, 1702) and killed him, despite the almost certain death their actions were likely to bring :
[S]ome people live all their lives without knowing which path is right. They're buffeted by this wind or that and never really know where they're going. That's largely the fate of the commoners--those who have no choice over their destiny. For those of us born as samurai, life is something else. We know the path of duty and we follow it without question.
Their action proved so popular that the Shogun allowed the forty seven to commit seppuku rather than be executed as criminals. Their gravesite, at Sengaku-ji Temple, remains a national shrine; the story is a staple of Japanese theater under the title Chushingura; and there are several film versions, including one which was used as WWII propaganda by the government.
In Allyn's capable retelling, the story is brisk and thrilling, with a minimum of extraneous philosophizing or psychoanalyzing.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
The story of the 47 ronin is THE national story of Japan and the key to understanding Nihon Kokoro, the japanese mind. Just as the United States has the legend of the Alamo, Japan has the story of the 47 Ronin. The popularity of the story comes from the fact that the heroes had become an ideal. They embody all that a Nihonjin, a Japanese person strives to be. It also illustrates the cultural chasm between the asian cultures and western cultures regarding duty, honor and death (the japanese consider seppuku a very honorable way to die).
The heroic warriors were offered a chance to live, but in a solemn and dramatic ceremony, each man, in turn, knelt down and ran his thumb over the blade of a razor sharp Katana (sword blade)in order to draw blood. One by one, they then impressed their thumbprint on a document swearing loyalty to the end to Asano, Lord of Ako. More than three hundred fifty men in all executed the blood oath, and forty-seven would avenge him. The Ronin were buried next to their Lord and his wife on the grounds of a buddhist temple, a site of ritual pilgramige to this day. A must read for anyone studying martial arts, this book is the key to understanding the spirit and the drive of the Japanese people.
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