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Sengaku-ji Temple 泉岳寺

Main Hall, Sengaku-ji Temple, Takanawa
Statue of Ōishi Kuranosuke & cherry blossoms, Sengaku-ji Temple, Takanawa

Just one stop from Shinagawa on the Toei Asakusa line, Sengakuji is one of Tokyo's most famous temple. Although it isn't big or particularly impressive, it is charged with history. This is where the 47 rōnin are buried. The tale of the 47 rōnin in one of Japan's most celebrated samurai stories. You will find a bronze statue of Ōishi Kuranosuke Yoshio (1659-1703), the leader of the 47 rōnin, near the temple's second gate.

The Forty-seven rōnin 四十七士

The events took place in 1701, in the middle of the Edo period. Shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi ordered a few of his daimyō to attend an envoy from the Imperial family. For this purpose, the master of protocol Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka (1641-1702) was designated to teach the daimyō the complex rules of Imperial etiquette.

One of the daimyō, Asano Takumi no kami Naganori (1667-1701), head of a branch of the powerful Asano family, did not go on well with Kira. As the tension rose between the two men, Kira made every effort to embarass his student in public. The conflict inflamed when Kira insulted Asano in the shōgun's palace. Asano drew his sword (act forbidden in the shōgun's palace) and struck Kira, though only injuring him. As striking someone while angry was also against the law, Asano committed a double crime. He knew this and readily admitted his misdemeanor, only regretting not to have killed Kira.

Lord Asano was forced to commit seppuku, although the decision was unpopular and seen as unjust by many. His retainers had now become rōnin and swore to avenge their master's death by killing Kira. On 14 December 1702, the 47 went to Kira's mansion in Ryōgoku and attacked it. Lots of Kira's men died in the surprise attack, but Kira had the time to commit seppuku before being caught by the rōnin. One of the ronin died in the attack, then the 46 remaining were also made to commit suicide for their killings.

The 47 rōnin, Lord Asano and Kira Yoshinaka are all buried in Sengaku-ji.

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