Temples Of Japan

47 Ronins (Samurais) of Ako - Ako Gishi




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Graves of Ako Gishi
Graves of the 47 Ronins of Ako





The 47 Ronins of Ako or Ako Gishi
as it is known, is a real story of loyalty and revenge.  It is a popular tale that still touches Japanese heart even after 300 years.

The graves are located in a temple called Sengakuji, in the Tokyo Metropolis.

Sengakuji is a famous and popular Buddhist temple known throughout Japan.  There are numerous Buddhist lineages and Sengakuji belongs to the "Soto" Zen school.  Soto Zen has two large main temples, Eiheiji on the northwest coast and Sojiji near Tokyo.  Zen Master Dogen introduced the Soto lineage to Japan and founded Eiheiji.  Master Dogen's main written work, "Shobogenzo", expresses his understanding of Buddhist practice and doctrine.  Sengakuji was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of Edo era, in 1612 near Edo Castle as an establishment of Dogen's tradition.  However, after only 30 years, it was devastated by fire and this led to a reconstruction at the present site. 

Sengakuji is now regarded as a temple closely related to the Ako Gishi, but it was in fact one of the three principle temples of Edo (old Tokyo) and known in it's own right as a prestigious Buddhist institution. 

The Ako Incident:

Perhaps the most famous story of avenge in Japanese history is the Ako incident which took place between 1701-1703. 

Asano Takuminokami, Feudal Lord of Ako, was appointed by the Shogunate to entertain the imperial envoys visiting Edo from Kyoto.  He was to seek directions from his official advisor, Kira Kozukenosuke.  But Kira disliked Asano and treated him with malice and disgraced his honor as a samurai.

Unable to tolerate Kira's insult anymore, Asano drew his sword on him in the Edo Castle at what is known as "The Pine Gallery (Corridor) Incident".  Asano managed to cut Kira on his forehead and shoulder but failed to kill him.

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It was strictly forbidden to draw one's sword within the Edo castle at that time and Asano was immediately arrested.  There was also a law termed "equal punishment for quarrels" which punished both samurais involved in a fight so both Asano and Kira were expected to be punished.  However, while Kira received no punishment, Asano was sentenced to death by seppuku (hara-kiri) in a garden of another lord's residence on the very same day without proper investigation.  Seppuku outside in a garden was for a felon and inappropriate for someone of Asano's standing.  Further, the Asano estate was confiscated and his family line was dethroned from the lordship.



The loyal retainers of Lord of Ako, better known as Ako Gishi, were indignant of this judgment and pleaded for an amendment of the order and the reinstatement of the Asano house.  But their requests were dismissed.

Almost two years after the fateful incident, 47 samurais of Ako assembled under the former chief retainer, Oishi Karunosuke, to avenge their Lord's death and the injustice imposed by the shogunate.  On December 14th, 1702, they attached and killed Kira at his residence.  They thenmarched to Sengakuji to present Kira's head to Asano's grave and reported their accomplishment to their late Lord.



The Gishi turned themselves in to the shogunate right away and were sentenced to Seppuku the following year on Februaty 4th.

The avenge of the Ako Gishi has been made into various plays and is now commonly called "Chu-shin-gura" (The Story of the Loyal Retainers).  It is a popular tale and one that still touches the Japanese heart even after 300 years.  The chivalry of the loyal retainers and the themes of "Gi" (justice) and "Chu" (loyalty) are still highly esteemed by the Japanese.

The Ako Gishi Graves:


Below is the video of the Ako Gishi Graves.




The graves of Ako Gishi are located in the Sengakuji Temple.  They were buried here after their seppuku on Fetruary 4th, 1703.  47 Samurais participated in the attack, including the leader Oishi, to avenge their Lord Asano.  However, after the attack, Terasaka Kichiemon was dispatched by leader Oishi to report on the raid and was subsequently exempted from execution, 46 graves are of those sentenced to seppuku.

There are two memorial graves here: that of Terasaka and Kayano Sanpei.  Kayano strongly desired to take part in the avenge but committed seppuku before the attack due to strong opposition from his family.

This grave site is 300 years old.


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