The 47 Ronin (1941 film)

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The 47 Ronin
47ronin lefilm.jpg
Japanese movie poster
Directed byKenji Mizoguchi
Produced byShintarô Shirai
Screenplay byKenichirō Hara
Yoshikata Yoda
Based onthe kabuki play by Mayama Seika
StarringChōjuro Kawarasaki
Kanemon Nakamura
Kunitarō Kawarazaki
Utaemon Ichikawa
Music byShirō Fukai
CinematographyKōhei Sugiyama
Edited byTakako Kuji
Distributed byShochiku Kinema Kenkyu-jo
Release date
  • December 1, 1941 (1941-12-01) (Part 1 (Japan))[1]
  • February 11, 1942 (1942-02-11) (Part 2 (Japan))[2]
  • March 1979 (1979-03) (U.S.[citation needed])
Running time
223 min.
112 min. (part 1)
111 min. (part 2)

The 47 Ronin (元禄 忠臣蔵, Genroku Chūshingura, "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers of the Genroku Era") is a black-and-white two-part jidaigeki Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, adapted from a play by Seika Mayama.[3] The first part was released on December 1, 1941 with the second part being released on February 11 of the following year. The film depicts the legendary forty-seven Ronin and their plot to avenge the death of their lord, Asano Naganori, by killing Kira Yoshinaka, a shogunate official responsible for Asano being forced to commit seppuku.


The plot revolves around the consequences of an attack by Lord Asano Naganori on Lord Kira Yoshinaka, an influential court official in the Tokugawa Shogunate. After overhearing Kira insult him in public, Asano strikes Kira with a sword in the corridors of Edo Castle, but succeeds only in wounding him. As attacking a Shogunate official is a grave offense, Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi sentences Asano to commit seppuku and issues an edict stripping the Asano Clan of their lands and wealth. Kira, meanwhile, is not punished by the Shogun because, it is thought, of family connections. As a result of the Shogun's judgement, all samurai loyal to the Asano Clan become rōnin while the late Lord Asano's family is ruined. Many of the rōnin wish to seek revenge against Kira for the dishonor of their Lord, but their leader, Ōishi Kuranosuke, convinces them to wait while he first petitions the Shogun to restore the Asano Clan. When the Shogun refuses his request, Ōishi and the other forty-six rōnin begin planning their revenge. But because Kira has surrounded himself with warriors in his residence, Ōishi first disarms suspicion by posing as a drunkard and womanizer, to his own dishonor, and goes to the length of divorcing his wife.

Almost two years after the death of Asano, the forty-seven assemble in Edo and stage an attack on Kira's residence, resulting in Kira and several of his followers being killed. This is not shown on the screen but is reported in a letter to Asano's wife, who has returned to her father. After laying Kira's head on Asano's grave and formally making a report of their actions before it, the forty-seven turn themselves in to the authorities. There is sympathy for the rōnin for their faithfulness and sacrifice in such difficult circumstances and the forty-seven are granted the honorable death of committing seppuku despite their act of defiance. This comes at the end of some months' deliberation and is greeted with singing and dancing by the warriors. Each is then summoned down the corridors of the castle to enact the sentence; Ōishi is left until last and courteously excuses himself to the visitor to his room when his turn comes.


Actors in the film include:[1]

  • Chōjuro Kawarasaki as Ōishi Kuranosuke (大石 内蔵助)
  • Kanemon Nakamura as Tominomori Sukeemon (富森 助右衛門)
  • Kunitarō Kawarazaki as Isogai Jūrōzaemon (礒貝 十郎左衛門)
  • Chōemon Bandō as Hara Sōemon (原 惣右衛門)
  • Sukezō Sukedakaya as Yoshida Chūzaemon (吉田 忠左衛門)
  • Kikunojo Segawa as Otaka Gengo (大高 源五)
  • Utaemon Ichikawa as Tokugawa Ienobu (徳川 家宣)
  • Yoshizaburō Arashi as Asano Naganori (浅野 長矩)
  • Kazutoyo Mimasu as Kira Yoshinaka (吉良 義央)
  • Tokusaburō Arashi as Okuno Shōgen (奥野 将監)
  • Masao Shimizu as Katō Akihide (加藤 明英)
  • Mitsuko Miura as Yosenin (瑤泉院), Asano's wife


  • Seizaburō Kawazu as Hosokawa Tsunatoshi (細川 綱利)
  • Mieko Takamine as Omino (おみの), Isogai's fiancée


During the war, Kenji Mizoguchi was forced to make artistic compromises, producing propaganda for the military government. In 1941, the Japanese military commissioned him to make Genroku Chūshingura. They wanted a ferocious morale booster based on the familiar rekishi geki ("historical drama") of The Loyal 47 Ronin. Instead, Mizoguchi chose for his source Mayama Chūshingura, a cerebral play dealing with the story. The government foisted the project on the director as a wartime morale booster, and as justification for the expansionist, nationalistic, and ultimately suicidal world war that Japan was embroiled in during the middle of the 20th century.[4]


Part One was a commercial failure at a cost of ¥530,000,[5] having been released in Japan one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese military and most audiences found the first part to be too serious, but the studio and Mizoguchi both regarded it as so important that Part Two was put into production, despite lukewarm reception for Part One. The film wasn't shown in America until the 1970s.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The 47 Ronin: Part I". Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 8 February 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "The 47 Ronin: Part II". Retrieved 8 February 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "元禄 忠臣蔵とは". kotobank. Retrieved 10 November 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Landazuri, Margarita. "The 47 Ronin". Turner Classic Movies.
  5. ^ Gary, Morris (November 1, 1999). "Tragic Poignancy: Kenji Mizoguchi's The Loyal 47 Ronin". Bright Lights Film Journal.
  6. ^ "Movies". Chicago Reader.

External links[edit]