47 Ronin Gravesite Sengakuji Temple

The grave site of all 47 ronin is at  Sengakuji Temple in central Tokyo, located just a few blocks from Sengakuji Train Station (Toei Asakusa Line and Keikyu Main Line). The graves and their master Lord Asano are maintained in a garden on the grounds.

The revenge of the forty-seven rōnin (四十七士 Shi-jū-shichi-shi?), also known as the Akō incident (赤穂事件 Akō jiken?) is a historical event in Japan that occurred in 1702. At that time a band of rōnin (leaderless samurai) avenged the death of their master Lord Akira. 

This famous story tells of a group of 47 samurai who were left leaderless (becoming rōnin) after their Daimyo (feudal lord) Asano Naganori was ordered to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting another Diamyo named Kira Yoshinaka. As the story goes, Lord Kira regularly taunted Asano for his lower class roots. Eventually, Asano drew his katana and cut Kira’s face. Drawing a sword on imperial grounds was punishable by death.

 

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The 47 samurai – now rōnin – pretended to disband after their diamyo’s death. Lord Kira employed spies to report on their activities because revenge from these samurai was a real possibility.

There are many legends around the acts of the 47 ronin during this time period. Originally there were more than 50 plotters but several dropped out. Led by the first retainer Ôishi Kuranosuke Yoshio (photo left), the 47 disbanded. Many fell into poverty. The legends say that to deceive Kira’s spies some left their families and more fell into drunkenness – most notably Ôishi (although he had already had quite a reputation for drinking and prostitutes). In any case, they waited for about 18 months to deceive Kira’s spies. They avenged their master’s honor by killing Kira in 1702. It should be noted that they also killed Kira’s guards and household staff in the process.

The Shogun ordered the 47 ronin to commit seppuku for the crime of murder. This true story was popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should preserve in their daily lives. The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era; a time when Japan underwent rapid modernization and wide scale exposure to foreign values. The story became entrenched within discourses of national heritage and identity.

The photo on the left shows the well where the 47 samurai washed the severed head of their enemy Lord Kira before presenting it at the grave of their fallen master Lord Asano (right photo).

The Sengakuji Temple has an event every December 14th to commerate the 47 rōnin. It is open everyday and free to visit. Place incense sticks – 100¥(about 85 cents US) for a large pack, sold on site – to honour the dead. For a martial artist this is a moving experience not to be missed. Japan #martialart #budo  #katana

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