The original temple was built in 1612 but burned down in 1641; It was rebuilt but destroyed again during World War II. The current building was constructed in 1953 in Tokyo. This site is most famous for the graveyard holding the tightly packed bodies of the 47 Ronin. These were the masterless samurai from Ako.
On the morning of March 14, 1701, Lord Asano Takuminokimi drew his sword against Lord Kira Hozukenosuke, a master of ceremonies, in the Corridor of the Pines at the Edo Castle. Kira’s forehead and shoulder were slashed but escaped. This attack occurred after Kira had repeatedly provoked and treated Asano badly.
It was strictly forbidden to draw a weapon within the castle walls and for that reason, he was sentenced to commit suicide (seppuku) while Kira was never punished for his wrongdoing because he had not drawn his sword in response. Asano’s passing made his samurai ronin-sized (without a leader). The entire Asano family was removed from power leaving Asano’s samurai with a job and angry to avenge their victimized master.
On December 14, 1702, the remaining group of 47 Ronin set out to avenge their master and killed Lord Kira, and his guards, at his home. They then beheaded him and carried his head over six miles to Sengakuji Temple to lay Kira’s severed head on their master’s grave. The Ronin turned themselves into the authorities and were later sentenced to seppuku and buried at the temple.
Their burial place is very humble with incense always burning. You can feel the reverence of the men who knew that they own life would be taken away no matter how their mission ended. They felt that by avenging their master’s death they regained his honor. They are buried beside their master and his wife.
A festival is held every December 14 to commemorate the Ronins’ sacrifice.
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