The eldest son of the Asano family and the feudal lord of Ako, Naganori was trained as a samurai, but was sent to the Japanese Imperial Court in Edo (modern day Tokyo) to take on a low ranking position in the Tokugawa Shogun’s government, where he met and clashed with a high-ranking politician named Kira Yoshinaka. After a heated argument, Asano drew his sword and wounded Kira and was sentenced to death by seppuku, an extremely painful and slow form of suicide. His death was the trigger that created the 47 Ronin, whose story lives on to this day.
When word of Asano’s death reached his estate in Ako, 400 miles to the south, the men loyal to him sought revenge. It took two years and careful planning, but on 15 December in 1703, forty-seven samurai warriors loyal to Asano broke into Kira’s home in the dead of night, exacting their revenge by beheading the man and placing his head on the tomb of their late lord. The next day, they all turned themselves in to the authorities and were executed by seppuku. Today, their graves (including Asano Naganori’s, pictured above) are popular tourist attractions in Sengaku-ji. There, the people still burn incense and leave flowers at the graves of the legendary heroes.