Wednesday, 2 February 2011


When visiting Japan, one of my favourite walks from my daughter's mansion on Tanimachi Sugi, is to Osaka's largest temple Shitennoji, especially of course on the 21st of the month when they hold the temple market. But on the way is another favorite, Kisshoji Temple, with huge red wooden doors, large Mon known to most Westerners and black and white zigzag pattern, painted walls, it stands out as a memorial to Lord Asano and the 47 Ronin (Chushingura Tale). In fact, as the doors are usually ajar, one can see the kneeling stone statue of Lord Asano with tanto, preparing to commit 'seppuku'.

The temple walls are lined, on the inside, with large cherry trees which makes cherry blossom season the perfect time to visit this memorial. There are 47 stone statues each representing one of the 47 Ronin and Oishi Yuranosuke can be easily recognised beating his drum thus starting the attack on Kira's castle. The original statues were carved from wood but these were destroyed during WW11 In 2002 it was decided to rebuild the statues in stone and on 14th December there is a celebration at the temple and 47 small boys dress-up as the famous 47. 

The graves of Lord Asano and his loyal Ronin lie in Sengaku-ji temple in Tokyo (Edo) but it is thought that the hair and nails were buried here. The reason, Lord Asano was the friend of the Head Buddhist Monk of Kisshoji temple and he often visited on his way home from the court at Edo. After the revenge attack by the 47 on Lord Kira and his castle, these loyal samurai were ordered by the emperor to commit 'seppuku' and afterwards the Monk asked if some part of the bodies could be buried at his temple as a memorial, it is thought his wish was granted. 

There have been many Kabuki plays, Japanese films and TV productions about the  tale of the 47 Ronin known in Japan as Chushingura each with it's own version of events and with such an interest from the West, Hollywood has turned it's attention to the tale. The 47 Ronin (in 3D) is being filmed at the moment, due for release in November 2012 and starring Keanu Reeves. I'm sure it will have it's own slant on the famous story with some fantasy elements.


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