47: The True Story of the Vendetta of the
47 Ronin from Akō
by Thomas Harper


history / japanese history

992 Pages
Hardcover: 29.95

Official Publication Date: October 1, 2019
ISBN 978-0-918172-77-8
Leete's Island Books

Available through your favorite local bookseller and at Amazon.


This is the story of a few men who valued justice more than life. They were members of the large Corps of Samurai in the feudal domain of Akō in western Japan. But when their lord committed the crime of drawing his sword within the castle of the Shogun, the law decreed that he should be sentenced to death, that his heir would not inherit the domain, and all of his vassals would become ronin, dismissed from employment, evicted from their homes, and deprived of their income. All 308 samurai in Akō knew the law and accepted it. And if their lord had succeeded in killing the man he attacked in the castle that would have been the tragic end of this episode. But their lord was subdued and failed to kill his enemy; which meant that yet another law came into play: the Principle of Equal Punishment. 47: The True Story of the Vendetta of the 47 Ronin from Akō tells the harrowing tale of how all this was argued, what was decided, what the results were, and what ultimately became of those 47 men who remained. 47 tells the tale in immense detail—with maps, graphics and gorgeous illustrations. It provides a richer and more in-depth picture of the Samurai than readers will find in any other medium, offering a comprehensive picture of a tale of justice, honor, politics, and the law of equal punishment. The Shogun, however, decided to pardon the other party to this quarrel instead of punishing him.  This was a clear violation of the law, and rightly enraged the samurai in Akō. 47: The True Story of the Vendetta of the 47 Ronin from Akō tells the harrowing tale of how this case was argued, what was decided, and what ultimately became of the 47 samurai who remained determined to right this injustice to their lord -- complete with maps and gorgeous illustrations.


about the author:

Thomas Harper is retired from the Centre for Japanese and Korean Studies at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, where his academic specialty was The Tale of Genji and its readers. In 2015 he and his co-compiler Haruo Shirane published Reading The Tale of Genji: Sources from the First Millennium (Columbia University Press), prior to which he had written several scholarly articles on this subject. He is also the translator of Tanizaki Jun'ichirô's In Praise of Shadows, published by Leete's Island Books.

For the past thirty years, however, he has also maintained a deep interest in a very different corner of Japan, the vendetta of the 47 Ronin from Akō (1702).  As it happens, this famous event is one of the best documented episodes in Japanese history. Harper has spent years, first collecting these materials, and then writing the story as they tell it, rather than as legend tells it.  This book is the culmination of that work, and the first time all of these documents have been used to tell the complete story of the Akō vendetta in English.