浪人 (Rōnin) means “masterless Samurai“.
When a 侍 (Samurai) lost his leader or master because of death or any other reason, he would either commit 切腹 (ritual suicide) or become a 浪人 (Rōnin).
There’s a famous story of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin).
The tale of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) is a true story (probably embellished over the years).
Basically the story is of a Samurai who unintentionally insults a higher-ranking Samurai.
One thing led to another and finally the slighted, higher Samurai accuses the other of attempted murder…and he’s found guilty and forced to commit 切腹 (ritual suicide).
The higher ranking Samurai knew that the other had 47 Samurai who served him (who were now 浪人 (Rōnin)) that would surely try to avenge their master…so he surrounded himself with extra bodyguards to protect himself from their attack.
The 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) knew that they couldn’t kill the other Samurai with so many guards protecting him…so they did nothing for months.
The whole town lost respect for them and mocked them as cowards.
It was all a part of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin)’s plan…once the higher Samurai let his guard down because he no longer felt any threat from the “coward” 浪人 (Rōnin)—that’s when they struck!
After they killed the man responsible for their master’s death, they all committed 切腹 (ritual suicide) to retain their honor.
The graves of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) is at the 泉岳寺 (Sengakuji Temple) in Tokyo.
I went to the graves of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) and took some photos. It was raining a bit today…I think the overcast, rainy weather added to the atmosphere.
Here are the photos I took today:
By the way, did you know that the American actor Keanu Reeves will star in the upcoming Hollywood movie to be titled “47 Rōnin” about this tale?
Also, in modern Japan, the term 浪人 (Rōnin) is sometimes used to describe someone who’s failed their high school or college extrance exam and must wait a year to try again.