In 1701, two daimyō, Asano Takumi-no-Kami Naganori, the young daimyō of the Akō Domain (a small fiefdom in western Honshū), and Lord Kamei Korechika of the Tsuwano Domain, were ordered to arrange a fitting reception for the envoys of Emperor Higashiyama at Edo Castle, during their sankin-kōtai service to the shōgun.
Asano and Kamei were to be given instruction in the necessary court etiquette by Kira Kozuke-no-Suke Yoshinaka, a powerful official in the hierarchy of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi’s shogunate. He allegedly became upset at them, either because of the insufficient presents they offered him (in the time-honored compensation for such an instructor), or because they would not offer bribes as he wanted.
Other sources say that he was naturally rude and arrogant or that he was corrupt, which offended Asano, a devoutly moral Confucian. By some accounts, it also appears that Asano may have been unfamiliar with the intricacies of the shogunate court and failed to show the proper amount of deference to Kira. Whether Kira treated them poorly, insulted them, or failed to prepare them for fulfilling specific bakufu duties,offence was taken.
Initially, Asano bore all this stoically, while Kamei became enraged and prepared to kill Kira to avenge the insults. However, Kamei’s quick-thinking counselors averted disaster for their lord and clan (for all would have been punished if Kamei had killed Kira) by quietly giving Kira a large bribe; Kira thereupon began to treat Kamei nicely, which calmed Kamei.
To be continued.