Once again, English name order 'cuz this is an English based site. Also a note...this node originally had rounin instead of ronin, which is probably a more accurate transliteration of the word taking into consideration how it is spelled using Japanese characters. ro-u-ni-n. If any misunderstandings were caused as a result of this, I apologize.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story of the 47 Ronin, go here for a concise writeup describing the story.
The story of the 47 Ronin is well-known throughout Japan. It is often quoted when a speaker or a writer would like to make a point. It has several morals, one of the most popular being that it is noble to do a good deed without thinking about any punishments you might incur for doing said good deed. Also it is sometimes used to promote the nobility of blind loyalty to your superiors.
Recently, a small detail of the story has been the issue of debate. Not all of the 47 ronin committed seppuku together. There is one, namely Kichiemon Terasaka who disappears as the Rounin prepare to offer Kira's head before their master's grave. In fact, he lives to the ripe old age of eighty-three before finally passing away. He is made the hero of many kabuki and joururi productions based on this incident.
Lately there has been a bit of historical debate as to the exact reason why Terasaka does not accompany the other 46 ronin. Some are more complimentary than others.
The first argument is that Terasaka was simply a coward. He did not have the courage to finally go through with the act when he realized that they would probably be executed for their actions. This argument was put forth by Sohou Tokutomi. This banner is now carried in the modern era by Akihiro Yagi, who believes that the story should be renamed to the 46 Ronin.
The second argument was that Terasaka was simply ordered by the other ronin to leave. The reasons for this are a bit unclear. It could possibly be that Terasaka, being the lowest ranked among them, was merely a footsoldier and therefore it would not be right to allow him to commit seppuku alongside the other ex-samurai. Others have stated that perhaps they wanted the story to be passed down correctly, and therefore wanted Terasaka to live. The argument that Terasaka did not flee in cowardice is currently being headed by Kuwashi Iio
The debate rages most hotly in the city of Akou, where the story of the ronin took place. The current situation is that the number remains 47, but the city provides a pamphlet with both Iio and Yagi's arguments, allowing each person to make up their own minds