Sengaku-ji Temple, the 47 ronin graveyard

Sengaku-ji it’s a budhhist temple and pilgrimage site popular for it’s graveyard of the 47 loyal rōnin. It is a Sōtō Zen Buddhist temple located in the Takanawa neighborhood of Minato-ku, near Sengakuji Station and Shinagawa Station.

The atmosphere on the place its amazing, to be located on an urban area its amazingly quiet and you can feel the culture and profound respect towards the loyal rōnin graves.

The history of the 47 rōnin

The story of the 47 loyal rōnin its one of the most popular historical stories in Japan, and the temple has many visitors that come to pay respect to the Akoroshi by burning incense sticks (senko) and offerings (sake, flowers) on hte graves. A small museum commemorating the 47 ronin can also be found next to the Sengakuji graveyard.

The revenge of the forty-seven rōnin (四十七士 Yon-jū-shichi-shi, forty-seven samurai), also known as the Akō incident, is an 18th-century historical event in which a band of rōnin (leaderless samurai) avenged the death of their master and after confessing their crime to the Shogun who ordered to killed themselves in Seppuku. The incident has become an epic historical event that has lead to several books, theatre, kabuki plays and also movies.

Asano Naganori, the feudal lord of Ako rules his province with fairness. However Lord Kira Kozukenosuke fears that the shogunate favours Asano over him and hatches a plot agains him.

Consequently, the shogunate punished Asano with an order to kill himself by seppuku (hara-kiri) on the same day.

The revenge

Before Asano commited seppuku (hara-kiri) he ordered his loyal samurais not to perform any revenge against Kira because of his death. But his followers could not accept the judgement and 47 of them were united under the chief retainer, Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshitaka, with a mission to avenge the death of his master.

Almost a year later, on the 14th of December of 1702 they raided Kira’s Mansion in the Honjo area of Edo and made up for the humiliation suffered by their lord. They publicly reported their accomplishment to Asano’s grave by presenting Kira’s decapitated head and turned themselves in to authorities seeking justice.

On the evening of December 15, four other lords (Hosokawa, Matsudaira, Motor and Mizuno) were entrusted with the custody of the loyal retainers. After weeks of difficult deliberation, the shogunate sentenced them to seppuku (hara-kiri) on the 4th of February 1703, saving their dignity as samurai: they were spared outright execution by beheading. They were immediately buried beside the grave of their master, separated into four blocks according to the residences where they had been accommodated when they were alive.

Sengaku-ji Access