Japan's Sengakuji and the 47 Famous Samurai (Part 2)
The Joy and Pride in the Legacy: Everyone Remembering Together
December 14 marks the day 46 Samurai (not 47 and I will explain why later) brought the head of Kira and submitted themselves to justice at Sengakuji Temple.
This is a video showing a re-enactment of the Samurai leaving Ako (performed in Ako City in Hyogo Prefecture) for Edo.
Although visitors are welcome at the temple year-round, this day is when the moment feels heavy with pride and the air is tense with distant memories of the foundations of Samurai spirit you can see in modern Japan, here and now.
It is a complicated story with many details debated by historians, but the report recorded by A.B. Mitford in “Tales of Old Japan” is considered reliable and is based on an outsider’s tedious review of evidence. His account (written in 1871) and based on many first hand accounts is enough for me to believe that the remains and artifacts found here among one of the world’s most bustling cities, are true symbols of an approach to life and honor I actually experience on a daily basis as I interact with Japan.
On December 14, there are re-enactments of the story in various ways but since we wanted to avoid crowds and my daughter was not feeling that well, we arrived at around 4 p.m. My daughter’s Japanese History teacher felt this event so dire to his students’ understanding of Japan, he offered a 1 percent grade hike for showing up to study the site first hand. We were lucky enough to bump into him at the Sengakuji station ticket gate and he burst with excitement over how deeply this 47 Ronin story affects the psyche of most Japanese. He chuckled when I noted “This is a really big deal!” and simply pushed us on and recommended we not miss the museum within the temple grounds.
We walked towards the Temple and I could see the red lanterns (Akachouchin) marking the many kiosk food stalls leading up to the actual temple. Okay, well not just food stalls. Leaving my description at that wouldn't do a full on Japanese temple celebration any merit at all. I’ve grown accustomed to the yakisoba noodles and hastily concocted okonomiyaki seaweed-filled pizza/pancake from the one or two stalls set up around my area in Yokohama during the Summertime grave-visiting o-bon season, but the variety of offerings and sheer delight in every type of Japanese kiosk treat you can imagine, was my first present for the season and another clear reason I would recommend visiting Sengakuji in December. O-den (hot, boiled eggs, kamaboko, radish in a lovely soup with tangy yellow mustard), teppan-yaki ginger chicken, Japanese ramen, takoyaki octopus breaded balls, yakitori skewered meet with either salty or tangy sauce……MMMMMMM!
The list goes ON! I mean, the food laid out before us and the very attractive pricing was literally good enough to make us forget why we were there! We bought a bit of ginger chicken and munched it down before heading towards the museum where a shocking reality of honor and devotion waited to play with and inspire my soul.
Former Deep Japan Writer