Oishi Yoshio (大石良雄)

Yoshio OISHI held the rank of Hittokaro (the head of chief retainers) of Ako Domain in Harima Province. He gained prominence during the Genroku Ako Incident, recounted in the Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), which made him famous. Kuranosuke (a position of the Bureau of Palace Storehouses) is a common name and refers to the undersecretary of Kuraryo (Bureau of Palace Storehouses). His first name was Yoshio. His last name was Fujiwara. His family crest was the Migi-Futatsudomoe.

Birthplace

The OISHI family was a branch of the Oyama clan, who were descendants of Hidesato FUJIWARA. For generations the family managed the Kurita estate of Oishi manor (currently Oishi-Higashi cho and Oishi-Naka cho districts in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture) under the Omi-no-kuni shugo (Military Commissioner of Omi-no-kuni) of the Sasaki clan, and thus the family name became OISHI. Yoshinobu OISHI served Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI, although subsequently the Oishi clan chose not fight in conflicts such as the Onin war. After Hidetsugu's defeat, Yoshikatsu OISHI (Yoshio's great-grandfather and the illegitimate second son of Yoshinobu), was made to enter the Buddhist priesthood in Kyoto, whereupon he escaped to Edo and became ronin(masterless samurai) in Edo where he came to serve the Asano clan. As Yoshikatsu had distinguished himself during the Osaka Natsu no Jin (Summer Siege of Osaka), he was appointed permanent Karo (chief retainer) of Nagashige ASANO (the great-grandfather of Naganori ASANO and lord of Kasama Domain and the Hitachi Province Makabe), the third son of Nagamasa ASANO. Oishi family relocated to the Ako region when Naganao, the first son of Nagashige, was assigned to that region.

Yoshitaka OISHI, the first son of Yoshikatsu, also became the Hittokaro (the head of chief retainers) of the Ako Domain of the Asano family. Yoshishige OISHI, the second son of Yoshikatsu, also attained the rank of karo (chief retainer) and married Tsuruhime, the daughter of Naganao ASANO (Naganori's grandfather); their two children, Nagatsune ASANO and Nagatake ASANO, whose domains were subdivided by Naganao ASANO, became bakufu hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu, which is a form of Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

Yoshitaka OISHI married the daughter of Tadakatsu TORII (Mototada TORII's son) and gave birth to Yoshiaki GENNAI, their first son. Yoshiaki OISHI, became the indirect vassal of Yoshishige IKEDA, a senior vassal of Okayama Domain, wielding power similar to a daimyo (Japanese feudal lord), who governed the Amagi region (valued at 32,000 koku). He was, in fact, in line to head the Ikeda clan of the Okayama Domain. For details, see Ikeda clan or Okayama Domain.) daughter, Kumako IKEDA had Kuranosuke Yoshio OISHI as their first son. As a child he went by the name of Matsunojo or possibly Taketaro.

Hiroko KONOE, the sixth shogun midaidokoro (wife of a shogun or a highest-ranking nobleman), was a member of the Oishi clan and served as a Tayu (geisha of the highest rank) of the Konoe family to the Oyama clan. Thus, Iehiro KONOE, Hiroko's younger brother, produced kigo (calligraphy) for their monument of gishi (loyal retainer).

Until Ninjo (scar by sword) on matsu no roka (literally, a corridor of pine trees).

He was born the first son of Yoshiaki OISHI in 1659. As a child he went by the name as Matsunojo.

On September 6, 1673, his father Yoshiaki died at the age of 34 and was adopted by his grandfather Yoshitaka OISHI.
He celebrated his coming of age (genpuku) the same year and started to call himself 'Kinai.'
On January 26, 1677, upon the death of his grandfather Yoshitaka, Yoshio inherited at the age of nineteen 1,500 koku and the common name Kuranosuke (a position of the Bureau of Palace Storehouses). He then became an apprentice of the chief retainer of Ako Domain and was looked after by his grand-uncle Yoshishige OISHI. He officially became Hittokaro (head of the chief retainer) at the age of 21. On May 18, 1683, Yoshishige, who had acted as his guardian, passed away, finally forcing Kuranosuke to be independent.

Unfortunately, in peace time OISHI appeared to have been a mediocre chief retainer and he was famously nicknamed 'the miscellany of articles surrounding a paper lamp stand.'
Thus, the administration of the Domain fell to the control of a chief retainer Tomofusa ONO who was experienced and good at finance. In 1686, he married Korinin who was eighteen years old and a daughter of Tsuneyoshi ISHIZUKA, Hittokaro of the Kyogoku clan of Toyooka Domain. In 1688 they had their first son Matsunojo (later known as Chikara OISHI). Their first daughter, Kuu, was born in 1690 followed by their second son Kichinoshin OISHI (also known as Kichichiyo) in 1691.

It is believed that in 1693 Kuranosuke OISHI began his study of Confucianism in Kyoto under Jinsai ITO. The previous year he had become a disciple of Shigemoto OKUMURA of the Togun-ryu school.

When Mizutani clan of Bicchu-matsuyama Domain underwent Kaieki (the forfeiture of samurai rank and properties) in February 1694, the lord Naganori ASANO (Asano Takumi no Kami) was appointed to the position of messenger of castle management. Kura no Suke went in advance to Matsuyama-jo Castle (Bicchu Province), where those dissatisfied with the Kaieki policy displayed an attitude of do-or-die resistance, and persuaded Kuranosuke TSURUMI, the chief retainer of the Mizutani clan, to surrender the castle in peace. As both of them happened to be named 'Kuranosuke,' there exists an anecdote of a 'face-off between the two Kuranosukes', although it appears to be a myth created after the seige as no evidence to support this currently exists. After the surrendering of the castle in peace, Takumi no Kami went back to Ako, but Kuranosuke stayed on and administered Matsuyama-jo Castle for about a year and half until Shigehiro ANDO became the new castle lord the following year. He returned to Ako in August 1695. His second daughter Ruri was born in 1699. Takumi no kami left Ako for Edo to participate in Sankinkotai (a system under which feudal lords in the Edo period were required to spend every other year in residence in Edo) in June 1700. That is the last time Kuranosuke saw his lord.

February 4 of the fateful year of 1701, Takumi no kami was appointed in Edo by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) head of entertainment for Imperial envoys travelling from the capital to Edo as messengers of Emperor Higashiyama. The conductor of entertainment was Yoshinaka KIRA of the Koke-kimoiri (performing good offices for nobles).

Takumi no kami's Ninjo and the extinction of the Asano family line.

The ceremony for Imperial decree was set for March 14, 1701 at Edo-jo Castle, whereupon the Shogun would respond to the Imperial proclamation brought by the Emperor's envoy. However, just before the ceremony, Asano Takumi no Kami, the head of entertainment for Imperial envoy, tried to cut Kozukenosuke Suke KIRA down with a sword in the matsu no roka (the hallway of pines) in Edo-jo Castle. Greatly angered by this disruption to the ceremony, Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, who was Seitaishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader) and had reverence for the emperor, immediately ordered Takumi no Kami to commit Seppuku (suicide by disembowelment) and furthermore ordered the extinction of Asano family line, which was an unprecedented punishment for a daimyo (Japanese feudal lord). Meanwhile, Kozukenosuke escaped blame for the incident.

A stream of information came from Ako Domain's hantei (residence maintained by a daimyo in Edo) to the provincial capitol of Ako: the first dispatch came from Tozaemon HAYAMI and Sampei KAYANO, the second from an ashigaru (common foot soldier) and express messenger, the third from Soemon HARA and Sezaemon OISHI, and the fourth, fifth and sixth from town express messengers, until, by March 28, information such as the assassination attempt, the Seppuku of Asano Takumi no Kami and the Kaieki of Ako Domain arrived. All the vassals in Ako were ordered to come to the castle for a three day stay from 27th, where they divided into two factions: one made up of those who were dissatisfied with their treatment at the hands of the Edo bakufu and insisted on holding the castle, urging of resistance to the bitter end, and another faction who were insistent on surrendering the castle. Kurobei ONO of the deference faction was in fierce conflict with Soemon HARA, Yasoemon OKAJIMA and those of the stalwart faction and eventually fled Ako on April 12. Meanwhile, Kuranosuke accepted the paper bearing the seal of blood of the feudal retainers' alliance (who hoped for holding the castle and following their master to the grave) and unified the opinion of the people of his Domain in agreeing to the surrender of the castle and punishment of Nagahiro ASANO, younger brother of Asano Takumi no Kami, while simultaneously petitioning for the restoration of Asano family and the reprimand of Kozukenosuke KIRA. Also, Kuranosuke tried to alleviate Ako's economic confusion by redeeming han bills of Ako Domain which would be heaps of worthless paper and to avoid family dissention by reapportioning the distribution money increasing the amount to the lower ranks and lightening the amount distributed to the upper ranks of the feudal retainers. It was unbelievably astute solution considering he had once been called 'hiru-andon' (a daytime lamp with a paper shade).

Kuranosuke sent Jiemon TSUKIOKA and Kyuzaemon TAGAWA, who were Monogashira (Military Commanders), to Edo and had them hand over the petition for the restoration of Asano family and the reprimand of Kozukenosuke KIRA, to Masahane ARAKI the bakufu's castle management metsuke (inspector of foot soldiers) (However, the two mistakenly handed it over to Hikoemon YASUI, the Edo family's chief retainer, and brought back a letter by Ujisada TODA, lord of Mino-Ogaki Domain). When Juroemon ARAKI arrived in Ako on April 18, Kuranosuke himself petitioned three times for the restoration of the Asano family and the reprimand of Kozukenosuke KIRA. ARAKI joined forces with Kuranosuke's effort and personally reported their collaboration to the chief retainer upon his return to Edo. On April 19 the following year, Ako-jo Castle was surrendered to the castle management army led by Yasuteru WAKISAKA, lord of the Tatsuno Domain in the neighbouring province, and Kinsada KINOSHITA, lord of Ashimori Domain of Bicchu Province. After they left Ako-jo Castle, they did the remaining domain duties in Enrin-ji Temple and meanwhile they were given fuchi (stipend) for 29 people by bakufu. On May 21 Kuranosuke had nearly completed his duties and on June 25 he finally left his birthplace of Ako.

Restoration of the family and conflict with Edo radical faction.

After leaving Ako, Kuranosuke went into seclusion with his family in Kyoto City's Yamashina ward from there and got in touch with the old Ako feudal retainers. The reason why Kuranosuke chose Yamashina seems because of the matrimonial and familial ties between the Oishi family and the Konoe family (Nagayuki SHINDO (vassal of the Konoe family), was a relative of Genshiro SHINDO, his uncle on the Oishi side, who was the caretaker).

However, early on, opinion was divided amongst the elder Asano family retainers. One area of contention regarded the fact that some members from certain branches of the family received a higher salary such as Sadayoshi OKUNO who received 1,000 koku as kumigashira (group leader), and Genshiro SHINDO who received 400 koku as ashigarugashira (head of the ashigaru) who retained warriors controlling the ashigaru, Yoshikazu KOYAMA who received 300 koku as ashigarugashira, and Shigeyuki OKAMOTO who received 400 koku as Osaka rusuiyaku (a regent) amongst others, as opposed to the Adauchi faction, which prioritized avenging Kozukenosuke KIRA, primarily powerful vassals such as Taketsune HORIBE who received 200 koku as Edo rusuiyaku, Gunbei TAKADA who received 200 koku as Umamawariyaku (body guard), and Shigemori OKUDA who received 150 koku as arms bugyo (magistrate) amongst others who were supported by a smaller stipend. Both had displayed characters representative of their factions: Many were formerly vassals located in Ako while several of the those who formerly acted as representative in Edo became members of the radical Edo faction.

Kuranosuke OISHI, the head of one faction, adopted a neutral attitude by avoiding the split and did his best to restore the family by suggesting that the radical Edo faction bide their time for revenge. Before leaving Ako he sent Yuma, a chief priest of Enrin-ji Temple, to Edo and asked the Shogun Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA and the daisojo (a Buddhist priest of the highest order) Takamitsu at Kanda-Goji-in Temple, who had influence over Tsunayoshi's birth mother Keishoin for mediation in the restoration of the Asano family; he then visited Ogaki-jo Castle in Mino province with Junai ONODERA to discuss the Asano family restoration with a cousin of Naganori ASANO, Ujisada TODA. OISHI then received a letter from Masahane ARAKI which read 'there is hope for the Asano family restoration' which had been petitioned for earlier.

Meanwhile, the radical faction in Edo, including Yasube HORIBE, which had prioritized the decapitation of Kozukenosuke KIRA over family restoration repeatedly sent letters to OISHI requesting that he relocates to Edo. To suppress radical Edo faction, Kuranosuke sent Soemon HARA who received 300 Koku as ahigaruno ushira, Matanojo USHIODA who received 200 koku as bugyo (magistrate) and Kansuke NAKAMURA who received 100 koku as yuhitsu (private secretary), amongst others, to Edo in late September as well as Genshiro SHINDO and Gengo OTAKA who received 20 koku each and were fuchi warriors responsible for armament. The were converted, however, to the radical Edo faction by Yasube when OISHI went to Edo, the first of his clan to do so. OISHI had a meeting with HORIBE in the house Tadashi MAEKAWA tayu of Tokyo' Minato-ward in which he promised to stand up for Takumonokami ASANO the following March which happened to be the first anniversary of his death. At that time, Kazuemon FUWA, once expelled from AKO domain, expressed his interest in joining the uprising. Upon visiting the grave of Takuminokami at Sengaku-ji Temple, OISHI received the approval of FUWA re-entering the radical Edo faction. Upon arriving in Edo, he met ARAKI and the wife of Takuminokami, Yozenin. OISHI returned to Kyoto in December upon the completion of his duties. Upon return to Kyoto, he raised his son Chikara OISHI. Chikara OISHI was admitted to the radical Edo faction by his father Kuranosuke whereupon his pregnant wife Riku, his first daughter Kuu, his second son Kichinoshin, his second daughter Ruri were sent to his wife's hometown in Toyoka the following April, 1702. Riku gave birth to Daisaburo that July. The child then came to serve the Hiroshima domain.

Upon returning to Kyoto, Kuranosuke became famous for a life of debauchery in the red light district of Kuruwa. Based upon the influence of the Kanadehon Chushigura (The Treasure of Loyal Retainers), it is a commonly accepted myth that his debauchery was a ruse for deceiving the Kira and Uesugi families. However, it was known that Kura no Suke was a free spirit since his days in Ako, and thus there is a high probability that he was truly a seeker of pleasure. In recent performances presented by the Chushingura (the Treasury of Loyal Retainers) he has often been depicted as such. On the other hand, there prevails a theory in which he did not live a life of excess. An account of Kuranosuke's debauchery is depicted in a book written by Katsunobu OCHIAI, yet this seems to have been compiled from accounts of those who had left the radical Edo faction, such as Genshiro SHINDO and Gengozaemon KOYAMA, although none of this was mentioned in Horibe's account.

Around the end of that year, some began to drop out of the struggle, amongst them Gunbe TAKADA, who had been a central figure of the radical Tokyo faction. This was a loss of face for the radical Tokyo faction and weakened their influence. Kuranosuke took advantage of their leaving to decide that 'the uprising will be postponed until after the punishment of the Great Teaching' at a meeting in Yamanashi and Maruyama (Mt. Maruyama) in February 1702. He sent Chuzaemon YOSHIDA who received 200 koku as Kato-gun Gundai (Intendant of a region or an administer of a town) and Kanroku CHIKAMATSU who received 250 kuku as Umamawariyaku to Edo to tell of this radical Edo faction. However, the radical Edo faction was unsatisfied and sought independence from Kuranosuke, thus the leader of the radical Edo faction, Yasube HORIBE, relocated to Kyoto. It was said that he would kill Kuranosuke with a sword, uttering the words 'OISHI is no longer necessary'. It was at that moment that Kuranosuke came to learn from Yuma of Enrin-ji Temple of the difficulty regarding the restoration of the family. Finally, on July 18, the bakafu (feudal government) appointed Nagahiro ASANO custodian of Hiroshima domain. Thus it became unnecessary for the bakafu (feudal government) to concern itself as the restoration of the family became hopeless.

The Attack

Accepting the restoration of the family as hopeless, Kuranosuke invited Yasube HORIBE on July 28 to the Meeting of Maruyama to plan the attack on Kozukenosuke KIRA. Yasube went back to Edo to tell this to his comrades. That, August, he signed the Shimbun-keashi (a written oath agreeing to the return of the Shimbun) for Tomonobu KAIGA who received 10 ryo, 2 koku, 3 fuchi as kura bugyu (storehouse magistrate) and Gengo OTAKA and suggested those who do not want to die to drop out. At that time the faction for family restoration (sadayoshi OKUNO, Toshimoto SHINDO, Yoshimoro OYAMA, Shigeyuki OKAMOTO, Rokuroemon NAGASAWA, Tobe HAIKATA, and Kyuzaemon TAGAWA) dropped out one by one.
This is known as 'Shinbun-kaeshi.'

Yet, those comrades who honoured the compact continued to spend time in Edo. Chikara OISHI left Yamashina on September 19; Kuranosuke then left for Edo on October 7 under the name Gorobe KAKIMI. In the Chushingura, there is a story that tells of a meeting between Kuranosuke and the real Gorobe KAKIMI in which 'Gorobe recognized that Kuranosuke and troupe were the Ako Roshi (masterless samurai of Ako domain) who had tried to attack Kozukenosuke KIRA whereupon Kuranosuke apologized for being an impostor', but, of course, this fiction.

OISHI stopped at the house of Gohe KARUBE in Hirama village, Kawasaki, on October 26, and from there issued his first directive to his comrades. Kuranosuke and his group arrived in Edo November 5 and took up lodging in a house in Koyama Ishimachi 3-chome near Nihonbashi, whereupon he ordered his comrades to search the Kira-tei Residence until they found a visual map of the place. It was essential for them to know the exact date when they could expect that Kozukenosuke KIRA would be in residence at the Kira-tei; they learned from Shihen Yamada, a chajin (master of tea ceremony) that a tea ceremony would be held at his residence on December 14, of whom Azumamaro KADA, a scholar of classical Japanese literature and an old friend of Kuranosuke and his comrade Gengo OTAKA acting as Shinbei WAKIYA were disciples. Kuranosuke judged the information to be correct and set the attack for the night following the ceremony. Voicing his justification for the attack, he gathered his comrades at high class restaurant in the Fukugawa area of Hachiman disguised as a Tanomoshi-ko (charity) on December 2. This was their last meeting. The details of the attack codenamed 'remember your heart, everyone' were decided minutely down to the type of arms, garb, equipment, and secret password, as well as who would receive the head of KIRA, how it would be treated, and that those who would act as lookouts in the garden would also do so at the sacrifice of the deceased lord. Thus, it was decided that each shall accept their role.

Predawn on December 15. 47 Ako Roshis attacked the Honjo (proprietor or guarantor of a private estate) of Kira-tei Residence. Kuranosuke was Daisho (Major Captain) for the front gate while the legitimate heir Chikara OISHI was Daisho for the back gate. After a fierce battle lasting nearly two hours, the Ako Roshi cornered Kozukenosuke KIRA, killed him, and severed his head. Kuranosuke and the Ako Roshi upon fulfilling their desire for revenge, marched around Edo, returned to Sengaku-ji Temple to the grave of Takuminokami ASANO and placed the severed head of Kozukenosuke KIRA in front of their deceased lord's grave.

Final Moments

Kuranosuke sent Kanesuke YOSHIDA and Masayori TOMINOMORI to the house of the Ometsuke (cheif inspector of the Edo shogunate) Hisanao SENGOKU to deliver his dictated message entrusting judgement to the bakafu (feudal government). Around six o'clock that evening, the three Kachi-metsuke (night inspectors), Yaichiemon ISHIKAWA, Shinhachiro ICHINO, and Shohachiro MATSUNAGA, were sent to Senkaku-ji Temple. Kuranosuke relocated to the residence of Hisanao SENGOKU upon their orders. The Bakafu (feudal government) entrusted the Ako Roshi to four Daimyo families (families of feudal lords); Kuranosuke was left to the care of the house of Tsunayoshi HOSOKAWA of Kumamoto domain, Higo Province. His first son was left to the house of Sadanao MATSUDAIRA; it was the last time he saw his son.

There was much public sentiment that the revenge was a heroic deed as the bakafu (feudal government) wavered between mercy and a death sentence, but the opinion of Sorai OGYU was upheld which stated that the law of the world may not be distorted thus Shogun Tsunayoshi sent an envoy to them as baishin (indirect vassals) ordering them to commit seppuku.

On February 4, 1703 the order of Seppuku was delivered to four Daimyo families. On that same day, the bakafu (feudal government) decided that the land of the Kira family should be forfeited and that the head of the Kira family, Yoshimasa KIRA (Sahei KIRA, the adopted son of Kozukenosuke KIRA), should be deported to Shinano Province. The envoy sent to the house of Hosokawa was Masahane ARAKI, the bakufu's metsuke (inspector of foot soldiers), who was acquainted with Kuranosuke. Kuranosuke, with the assistance of Ippei YASUBA, a vassal of the Hosokawa family acting as his second, committed seppuku by kaishaku (to assist someone in committing hara-kiri by beheading him). He died at the age of 45. His body was buried in the same temple, Takanawa Sengaku-ji Temple, as his lord Takuminokami ASANO. His homyo (a Buddhist name given to a person who has died or has entered the priesthood) was 忠誠院刃空浄剣居士.

Death haiku

According to some documents, Kuranosuke OISHI produced two death haiku although it is generally thought that he produced only one.

Happy at attaining my desire upon the sacrifice of life, the moon sits cloudless above the floating world
I rest easy upon attaining my desire at he sacrifice of life, the moon sits cloudless over the floating world
- "Kaiseki-ki" (The Story of Ako Roshi), "Goseki-kenbunki" (A Record of the Personal Experiences of Goseki) and "Gijin-iso" (The Posthumous Papers of Righteous Men).

Hovever, the above poems were produced for the grave of Takuminokami ASANO while the following is said to be his actual death haiku.

The road to Buddhist paradise is straight for you, as, with Amida, we number 48

An assessment of his personality

Morisetsu TOJO (the vassal of Tadayuki MIZUNO, lord of Okazaki domain, Mikawa province who held custody of nine of the Ako Roshi) described Kuranosuke as 'characteristically quiet, a man of few words'.

Senbo KURIYAMA, who studied Mitogaku (the style of learning cultivated in Mito domain) along with Yoshio, described him as 'well-tempered and restrained'.

Kyuso MURO, with whom Yoshio studied Confucianism, described him as 'quiet and dignified'.

Yoshio was quiet and modest didn't have much of an attitude for a Karo (chief retainer).'
In addition, he was broad-minded and loyal, especially to his family members. According to Kanran MIYAKE, his contemporary in the study of Mitogaku.

It seems that we was quiet and honest, big-hearted and respected.

Miscellaneous

He is said to have been about 157 cm tall. Research done on bone from his skull analyzing the musculature of the temple and under jaw has revealed that his facial structure was like that of most people.

An anecdote exist in Okayama that Kuranosuke was, in fact, the son of Genba IKEDA, the chief retainer of the IKEDA family of Okayama domain, Bizen province originally going by the name of Kyuma IKEDA and was later adopted by Yoshitaka OISHI. However, the document of Yoshi's kinship, which was submitted to the bakafu (feudal government) prior to his seppuku states '1. His foster father and real grandfather, Kuranosuke OISHI, died of illness on New Year's Day 28 years ago, 1. His real father, Gennai OISHI, died of illness in September 31 years ago', which reduces the credibility of the adopted child theory. It is possible that this account of his lineage was passed on by his birth mother. To this day, it is still believed in the local areas of Okayama.

The remains of the location where Yoshio OISHI and sixteen Ako Roshi died.

Takanawa, Minato Ward, Tokyo, (Tokyo Prefecture)

The remains of the house of Kenmotsu MIZUNO.

Shiba 5 chome, Minato Ward, Tokyo, (Tokyo Prefecture)

The place where Chikara OISHI, Yoshikane, and ten Ako Roshi committed Seppuku.

Mita 2 chome, Minato Ward, Tokyo, (Tokyo Prefecture)

The remains of the house of Kainokami MORI (Mori, Governor of Kai Province).

Roppongi 6 chome, Minato Ward, Tokyo, (Tokyo Prefecture).