Sengakuji (É˛ŐxÄŤ) is a small temple near Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. The temple is famous for its graveyard where the "47 Ronin" (also known as Akoroshi, the "masterless samurai from Ako") are buried.
The story of the 47 loyal ronin (see below) became highly popular as a kabuki play during the Edo Period, and remains very popular today. Many people visit the temple in order to pay respect to the Akoroshi by burning incense sticks (senko) in the graveyard.
December 14 is the anniversary of the 47 ronin's avenge. A festival is held annually at Sengakuji to commemorate the event, attracting thousands of visitors. The small graveyard becomes very crowded and smoky during the festival, and many festival foods such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki can be enjoyed at temporarily constructed food stands.
A small memorial museum about the 47 ronin, the Akogishi Kinenkan, can also be found at Sengakuji. Inside the single-room museum, visitors can view artifacts related to the 47 samurai, such as letters and armor, and watch videos (in English, Mandarin or Japanese) explaining the history of the temple and the story of the loyal retainers. A small annex across from the museum contains wooden sculptures of all the retainers who participated in the mission.
The Story of the 47 Ronin
In March 1701, lord Asano Takuminokami of Ako (today's Hyogo Prefecture) attacked lord Kira Hozukenosuke at Edo castle. Asano lost patience after repeatedly being provoked and treated arrogantly by Kira, but failed to kill him in the attack. On the same day, Asano was sentenced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide), while Kira was not punished at all, despite the contemporary custom of punishing both parties in similar incidents. In addition, the whole Asano family was removed from power, leaving Asano's samurai without a job and a strong will to avenge their unfairly punished master.
For over one and a half years, the samurai prepared the avenge under difficult circumstances. On December 14, 1702, the remaining group of 47 ronin under their leader Oishi Kuranosuke finally succeeded to avenge their master by killing lord Kita in his mansion. Afterwards, they carried Kira's head to Sengakuji, and were later sentenced to commit seppuku.
Museum: 9:00 to 16:30 (until 16:00 from October to March)