Sengakuji: The Final Resting Place of the 47 Rōnin

The story of the 47 Rōnin is a perfect example of honoring the bushidō, the way of the warrior code. It is a code of conduct that exemplifies a warrior’s moral values in mastery of martial arts, frugality, loyalty, and honor unto death.

Gravestones of the 47 Rōnin. | David Marcos Moreno

The tale of the 47 Rōnin, also historically known as “The Ako Vendetta,” and in fiction as the Chushingura, is an example of the Bushido honor code associated not just with samurai, but also with the Japanese national identity.

A rōnin was a samurai with no lord or master.  A samurai could lose his master in death or even from falling out of his master’s favor. As the story goes, a feudal lord from the 18th century, Asano Naganori was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) after he attacked a high-ranking master of ceremonies, Kira Yoshinaka.

Sengakuji Temple. | sophietica

Naganori’s death left the samurai under his patronage without a master, and left them honour-bound to take revenge.

The 47 Rōnin warriors disappeared for over a year and according to legend, they became drunkards as part of a plan. In December of 1703, the 47 Rōnin banded together to launch a surprise attack on Yoshinaka’s castle. They successfully killed Yoshinaka, finally avenging their master. True to their code, they turned themselves in to the authorities, who sentenced them to commit seppuku. One of the 47  Rōnin, Terasaka Kichiemon, was deemed too young to commit seppuku. He was pardoned by the Shogun and lived to be 87 years old.

All 47 Rōnin are now interred in front of the tomb of their master in the grounds of Sengaku-ji Temple, Tokyo. Sengakuji  (泉岳寺) is a small temple located in Shinagawa Station. Each year on the 14th of December, a festival is held to honor the 47 Rōnin’s revenge. Thousands of visitors flock to the tiny graveyard to pay tribute to the exemplary faithfulness and courage of the 47 brave souls.