Sengaku-ji’s history and “Chushingura”
In the year 1612, the retired shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa established the temple at Soto-Sakurada near Edo Castle, but in 1641, it burned down in The Great Fire of Kansei. Following that, his grandson, Iemitsu, moved to current-day Takanawa and rebuilt it. In the temple grounds, 7 temple buildings were completed, and numerous monks from all over Japan come to study at this distinguished temple. It is also famous for being the burial site for the 47 ronin who died during the Genroku Ako Incident. The incident moved the citizenry of Edo and has been related throughout the centuries through many renditions of the traditional Japanese play of “Chushingura”, beginning from kabuki. Even now, the story has continued to be beloved through dramatization and its conversion into movies including the recent Hollywood picture “47 Ronin”. Within the temple, there is the Ako Gishi Memorial Hall where the ronins’ precious possessions are displayed.
The 47 ronin who pledged their loyalty to their master
The Genroku Ako Incident which occurred in 1701began when Naganori Asano, the head of the Ako clan and head of carpentry at Edo Castle, tried to stab the master of protocol, Kira Yoshinaka. Asano was forced to commit ritual suicide on that day, and his house was abolished. There are various accounts for the reasons behind Asano’s attack on Yoshinaka, but the citizenry sympathized in regards to the heavy-handed punishment on the Asano family and the injustice, and with the rise in public opinion concerning their dissatisfaction with the Edo shogunate, the 47 retainers of the Asano family took their vengeance on Yoshinaka. Following their display of loyalty to their master, the 47 were ordered to kill themselves. Their graves are located alongside the grave of Asano at Sengaku-ji Temple. Plum trees in tribute to the ronin are planted at the temple and during February, they beautifully bloom. Annually on December 14th, the Ako Gishi Festival is held which attracts fans from all over Japan who celebrate through events such as a parade of the 47 warriors.