Do you know the story of loyal retainers? It is commonly called "CHUSHINGURA" , the avenge of the Ako samurai has been made into various plays. It is a popular tale and that touched the Japanese heart even today. Sengakuji is famous for this story .
The chivalry of the loyal retainers and theme of “Gi” (justice) and “Chu” (loyalty) were highly esteemed by the Japanese 300 years ago.
In prewar Japan, loyalty had been taught to be the supreme virtue over the centuries, but now it has changed over time.
Sengakuji is famous for the graveyard where the “47 Akoroshi” (masterless samurai from Ako) are buried, but it was one of the three principle temple of Edo and known as a prestigious Buddhist institution.
The story of the 47 loyal samurai became highly popular as a kabuki play during the Edo Period. Many people visit the temple to pay respect to the Akoroshi in the graveyard. December 14 is the anniversary of the 47 Akoroshi’s avenge. Annual festival is held at Sengakuji to commemorate the event attracting many visitors.
2-11-1 Takanawa, Minato-ku Tokyo
Sengakuji Station, Toei Asakusa Line and Walking distance from JR Takanawa Gateway Station
The Story of the Loyal Retainers
In the Edo Castle’s central compound, there was the long corridor called the Matsu-no-o-roka. It had sliding doors decorated with paintings of pine trees – or matsu in Japanese – which is where it derived its name. This Matsu-no-o-roka was where one of the nation’s most famous historical incidents began.
The avenge of the Ako Gishi (an excerpt from Sengakuji brochure)
"Asano Takuminokami, Feudal Lord of Ako, was appointed by the shogunate to entertain the imperial envoys visiting Edo from Kyoto. He was to seek directions from his official advisor, Kira Kozukenosuke. But Kira disliked Asano and treated him with malice and disgraced his honor as a samurai.
Unable to tolerate Kira’s insult anymore, Asano drew his sword on him in the Edo Castle at what is known as “The Pine gallery (Corridor) Incident”. Asano managed to cut Kira on his forehead and shoulder but failed to kill him.
It was strictly forbidden to draw one’s sword within the Edo castle at that time and Asano was immediately arrested. There was also a law termed “equal punishment for quarrels” which punished both samurais involved in a fight so both Asano and Kira were expected to be punished.
However, while Kira received no punishment, asano was sentenced to death by seppuku (hara-kiri) in a garden of another lord’s residence on the very same day without proper investigation. Seppuku outside in a garden was for a felon and inappropriate for someone of Asano’s standing. Further, the Asano estate was confiscated and his family line was dethroned from the lordship.
The loyal retainers of Lord of Ako, better known as Ako Gishi, were indignant of this judgment and pleaded for an amendment of the order and the reinstatement of the Asano house. But their requests were dismissed.
Almost two years after the fateful incident, 47 samurais of Ako assembled under the former chief retainer, Oishi Kuranosuke to avenge their lord’s death and the injustice imposed by the shogunate. On December 14, 1702, they attacked and killed Kira at his residence. They then marched to Sengakuji to present Kira’s head to Asano’s grave and reported their accomplishment to their late lord. There's a pond where blood on Kira's head was washed away in the precinct.
The Gishi turned themselves in to the shogunate right away and were sentenced to seppuku the following year on February 4th."
Source: Sengakuji brochure