The tale of the 47 Ronin (or 47 Loyal Retainers) as they are still known in Japan, is one of the most iconic tales in the country’s history, and their bodies are buried in tightly packed rows at the Sengaku-Ji temple.
The story of the 47 Ronin (historically known as “The Ako Incident,” and known in fiction as the “Chushingura”) is held as an exemplar of the Bushido honor code associated not just with historic samurai, but which is also part of the national identity. The story tells of Asano Naganori, a feudal lord in 18th century Japan, who was forced to commit ritual suicide (seppuku) after he attacked Kira Yoshinaka, a high-ranking master of ceremonies. Naganori’s death left the samurai under his auspice without a master, and 47 of them felt honor-bound to take revenge.
Newly ronin-ized, the 47 warriors disappeared into lives of drunkenness and vice for over a year, although according to the legend, this was all part of the plan. In December of 1703, the 47 Ronin pulled themselves out of their seeming stupor, and launched a surprise attack on Yoshinaka’s castle. They successfully killed Yoshinaka, avenging their master. However true to their code they then turned themselves into the authorities, who then asked each of them to commit seppuku. The 47 Ronin took their own lives, upholding the sacred Bushido code.
Based on actual events, the story has become so ingrained as a national legend that exact fact and fiction are not immediately easy to separate. Nonetheless, Naganori and his 47 Loyal Retainers, or the men the legend is based on, are buried at the 17th century Buddhist temple, Sengaku-Ji.
The temple is still a popular destination for visitors looking to pay tribute to real-life legends.
Know Before You Go
About 3 minutes from Sengakuji Station, but also within a walking distance from Shinagawa, which should take more or less 15 minutes.