Sengaku-Ji is Buddhist temple located in the Takanawa neighborhood of Minato-ku in Tokyo, Japan. This temple is not always on people’s list of things to see in Tokyo, but we think it really should be. And here is why.
First, a little background as to why this temple is so important. Let me tell you a brief story about Samurai.
The Ako Incident
So back in the 18th century, a daimyo named Asano, along with another daimyo, was to receive Kira, a powerful official in the shogunate. Kira was somehow offended by Asano’s failure to show proper “deference,” and repeatedly treated him poorly. Finally, Asano could not take any more insults and attacked Kira with a dagger, wounding Kira’s face. Though the wound was not serious, Asano was ordered to commit seppuku.
With Asano’s death, the samurai that protected him were left as masterless Ronin. And so, forty-seven of these Ronin decided to take revenge for the death of their master. For two years, the Ronin acted as if they had forgotten about revenge, getting normal jobs and living their daily lives. The leader of the Ronin, Oishi acted like a drunk, divorced his wife, and became a bum, just to trick everyone into letting their guard down. And then, once everyone’s guard was down, they attacked and killed Kira, cutting off his head.
The ronin brought Kira’s head to Sengaku-Ji Temple, which is where Asano’s tomb was located. They washed Kira’s head in a well, and then laid it in front of Asano’s tomb. Then they turned themselves in. Their punishment was death, but they were allowed to commit seppuku and died an honorable death. The ronin were buried at Sengaku-Ji, which is where they remain today.
The act of revenge by the Forty-Seven Ronin is seen as an example of true loyalty to their master, and so they continue to be honored.
Graves of the Forty-Seven Ronin
And so, when you visit Sengaku-Ji you can see the graves of the Forty-Seven Ronin. Many visitors will lay incense and flowers at the graves, in honor of the fallen warriors.
In fact, on December 14th, a festival is held at Sengaku-Ji to commemorate their death, and thousands attend the event.
To get to the temple you simply have to take the Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Sengakuji Station, or you can walk 15-20 minutes from Shinagawa Station on the JR Yamanote Line. Admission to the temple is free, so there is no excuse to not see it.
This is not the most popular temple in Tokyo, but it is definitely one worth visiting.