Kabuki on Film: The 47 Ronin Project

In 2012, the JETAANC and San Mateo Kabuki Clubs teamed up to study the original Kabuki and Bunraku versions of The 47 Ronin (Chushingura), one of the most popular Japanese stories of all time. Using the links and resources below, explore on your own this masterpiece of Japanese theatre!

The 47 Ronin Project

Forty-seven samurai. One epic vendetta.

The evil Lord Morono tries to seduce the wife of the noble Lord Hangan but she rejects him outright. Full of rage and spite, Morono goads Hangan into committing a crime that results in his execution. Left without their master, can Hangan’s loyal 47 samurai retainers overcome all odds to avenge his death and restore his honor?

Made into more than 90 film versions—including one coming out next year with Keanu Reeves—the epic revenge tale of The 47 Ronin (Chushingura) is one of the most popular Japanese stories of all time. (synopsis) Join us below as we explore on film the Kabuki theatre saga that started it all!

Related Links and Resources

The popular story of  the 47 Ronin was based on a true story about 47 samurai who avenged their master under similar circumstances, known as the “Ako Incident.” Explore the story and the history that inspired it in the following links and resources:

Websites

  • Synopsis of the Kabuki version of The 47 Ronin
  • Synopsis of the Kabuki version with large format photos of famous scenes
  • A brief account of the Ako Incident
  • Bito Masahide’s critical examination of the Ako Incident, probably the best summary and introduction of the historical basis of The 47 Ronin
  • The 47 Ronin Wikipedia page
  • Website devoted to the Ako Incident
  • Website about The 47 Ronin, created by Columbia University Professor Henry Smith – much information about the many versions of the story in various media throughout history
  • Summary of Mitford’s famous re-telling of the Ako Incident
  • Mitford’s re-telling of the Ako Incident (electronic version)
  • Ako’s Forty-Seven Samurai – website created by students at Ako High School; contains the story of the 47 Ronin and many local photos
  • Wikipedia entry for seppuku, also known as hara-kiri, the ritual disembowelment that the characters of Hangan and Kampei perform in the play
  • Many more links and resources related to Kabuki, Bunraku, and other Japanese performing arts are listed on JETAANC Kabuki Club’s Resources and Links page

Books

Articles

Visual Arts

Videos

  • Short video documentary about the 47 Ronin
  • Video of the graves of the 47 Ronin at Sengakuji Temple, near Tokyo
  • Video excerpts from University of Hawaii’s English-language Kabuki production
  • Video excerpts from Children’s Kabuki production
  • Trailer for Ichikawa Kon’s film version
  • Trailer for Fukasaku’s film version
  • The raid on Kira’s mansion in Inagaki’s film version
  • The raid on Kira’s mansion in Watanabe’s film version
  • Mizoguchi’s film version Genroku Chushingura, an attempt to hew closer to the historical events of the Ako Incident, based on the work of Mayama Seika, who wrote a Kabuki version in the 1930s. The film features many actors from the Zenshinza Kabuki troupe.
  • Trailer for “Salaryman Chushingura” film version
  • Trailer for “Wan Wan Chushingura (Doggy 47 Ronin)” animated film version
  • Video of 47 Ronin Festival at Sengakuji Temple in the Shinagawa area of Tokyo

Record of 2012 Classes:

San Francisco at Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC)

Classes begin at 2pm. In Japanese with English subtitles.
*Bunraku puppet theater version

Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC)
1840 Sutter Street, San Francisco (map)
(415) 567-5505; communications@jetaanc.org

San Mateo Japanese American Community Center (SMJACC)

  • Act I, The Helmet Selection at Hachiman Shrine – February 5, 2012
  • Act II*, The Palace of Momoi Wakasanosuke – March 4, 2012
  • Act III, The Pine Room in the Shogun’s Palace – April 1, 2012
  • Act IV, Enya Hangan’s Harakiri and the Rear Gate of the Mansion – May 6, 2012
  • Travel Scene, The Bridegroom’s Journey – June 3, 2012
  • Act V, The Musket Shots on the Yamazaki Highway and Act VI, Kampei’s Suicide – July 1, 2012
  • Act VII, The Ichiriki Teahouse at Gion – August 5, 2012
  • Act VIII, The Bride’s Journey – September 2, 2012
  • Act IX, The Retreat at Yamashina – October 7, 2012
  • Act X, The Loyalty of Amakawaya Gihei – November 4, 2012
  • Act XI, The Attack on Moronao’s Mansion – December 2, 2012

Classes begin at 1:30pm. In Japanese with English synopsis provided.
*Bunraku puppet theater version

San Mateo Japanese American Community Center (SMJACC)
415 S. Claremont Street, San Mateo (near CalTrain) (map)
(650) 341-5872; communications@jetaanc.org