The Temple for 47 Samurai – Sengaku-ji Temple

I wrote about Tozen-ji Temple and Takanawa Church which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentice.  These are all in Takanawadai in Minato-ku.  Not far from these places, there is a famous temple Sengaku-ji.  This temple is very popular among those who love Japanese history because it was related to the incident of 47 Samurai. Wikipedia describes this incident in detail.  To make a long story short, it is about the revenge of 47 samrai who lost their master because of some sort of bullying occurred at Edo Castle.

Asano Naganori assaulted Kira Yoshinaka enraged by his repeated bullying but it was strictly prohibited to draw a sword inside the castle.  As a result, Asano was ordred to kill himself by seppuku.

Chushingura Matsu no Oroka.JPG
By Unknown – self-made at a display in front of the site of the Matsu no Ōrōka, Public Domain, Link

Because of this, retainers of Asano became ronin which means masterless samurai.  47 of them lead by Oishi Kuranosuke made a detailed plan to make a revenge.  Two years passed and on 14 December, 1703, 47 samurai assaulted Kira’s residence and finally took revenge.  During Edo Era of 18th Century, this incident was regarded as a symbol of loyalty to their master and it was drawn in ukiyo-e paintings.

HokusaiChushingura.jpg
By Katsushika HokusaiUnknown, Public Domain, Link

HiroshigeChushingura.jpg
By Hiroshige – The Storehouse of Loyalty – Chushingura (47 Rōnin) ukiyo-e set by Hiroshige Utagawa, Public Domain, Link

At that time, the revenge was prohibited.  However the Shogun who governed Japan received many petitions from the admiring general public to save 47 samurai.  Wikipedia explains that Shogun finally resolved the quandary by ordering them to honorably commit seppuku instead of having them executed as criminals.  It is known that each of the assailants ended his life in a ritualistic fashion.

When they succeeded the revenge, 47 samurai brought back the head of Kira to Sengaku-ji Temple where Asano was entombed and reported the success to their master.  After they killed themselves, they were also entombed by their master.

Today, every year on 14 December, to commemorate the incident, they hold Gishi-sai which means Festival of 47 Samurai.  People wear the same costumes of 47 samurai and march to the temple.  Sutra is read aloud in fromt of their tombs.

There are several small shops in front of the gate of the temple and they sell souvenirs to commemorate 47 samurai.  Usually this area is very quiet but when there is a festival, it suddenly becomes very crowded.

Sengaku-ji Temple

Souvenir shops in front of the temple

For More Information on Sengaku-ji Temple

Address: 11-1 Takanawa 2-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Opening Hours: April – September 7 am – 6 pm
October – March 7 am – 5 pm

Access: 1 min from Sengaku-ji Station of Toei Asakusa Line

Website: http://www.sengakuji.or.jp/about_sengakuji_en/

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