"47 Ronin: Their Samarai Spirit Lives @ Segakuji" Shrines and Temples Tip by AKtravelers

Shrines and Temples, Tokyo: 19 reviews and 41 photos

  Smoke from the incense rises from the romin
by AKtravelers
  • Smoke from the incense rises from the romin - Tokyo
      Smoke from the incense rises from the romin
    by AKtravelers
  • Purchasing incense wicks at the shrine gate - Tokyo
      Purchasing incense wicks at the shrine gate
    by AKtravelers
  • All of the 47 ronin are interred in a small space - Tokyo
      All of the 47 ronin are interred in a small space
    by AKtravelers
  • The ringleader's grave, complete with booze - Tokyo
      The ringleader's grave, complete with booze
    by AKtravelers
  • Devotees leave incense at the ronins' graves - Tokyo
      Devotees leave incense at the ronins' graves
    by AKtravelers

....The famous 47 ronin are buried at Sengakuji Temple, and their graves are still visited by Japanese today, 300 years after their ritual suicides (seppaku). This shouldn't be surprising, since almost every native of Japan grows up hearing their story, idealized as the epitome of samarai ethics and honor.
....For those unfamiliar with the story, it starts when the shogun appointed Asano Takuminokami as protocol officer to handle the powerless but meddlesome emperor's delegations from Kyoto. But, apparently, Asano couldn't get along with his boss, Kira Kozukenusuke, who treated him in a way unbecoming to a samarai. This is well before EEO offices would have handled his complaints about a hostile environment, so Asano took matters into his own hands ans one day in 1701, fed up with all the insults, he drew his sword on Kira and cut him on the forehead and in the shoulder, but failed to kill him.
....According to the strict laws of the shogunate, drawing one's sword within the confines of Edo was a capital offense, but this was also mitigated by another law mandating equal punishment for quarrels. However, the latter law seemed not to be applied: while Kira received no punishment, Asano was given a humiliating death sentence usually reserved for common felons: seppaku in the garden of another lord's residence. Additionally, the Asano estate was confiscated, his family line was stripped of its noble status, and his 47 samarai retainers (ronin) essentially excommunicated, jobless, masterless and socially ostracized.
....In the Edo times, vengeance for such a perceived wrong was expected, and Kira was wary. But the 47 ronin seemed so disheartened as to be incapable of fulfilling this requirement. The 47 ronin all descended into drunken debauchery, becoming regulars at the worst bars and brothels in town. However, unbeknownst to Kira, that was part of the plan to lull him into complacency -- all the women and wine were just a clever plan by the former chief retainer, Oishi Kuranosuke, to distract Kira's attention enough to pounce (or it was a good excuse to party). On December 14, 1702, the laying low all payed off as the 47 ronin executed their plan. They avenged their lord's death by attacking and killing Kira, then marched to Sengaku, washed the blood from Kira's severed head and presented it at Asano's grave. Upon doing that, 46 committed seppaku on the spot, splattering a plum tree with their blood, while the 47th stayed alive to tell the story and accept the judicial punishment: seppaku on 4 February 1703.
This story has been made into many plays and movies and is celebrated every year on 14 December at Sengakuji Temple. Sadly, I was out of the country on 14 December 2009, but I paid my first vist on 20 December of that year.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Dec 20, 2009
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