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Sengakuji is a famous Buddhist temple of the Soto Zen sect of Buddhism. The original temple was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1612 near Edo castle. However, like most of old Edo, it was destroyed by fire. The temple at Sengakuji is a reconstruction of the original temple.
Zazen is practiced here in the belief that engaging in this type of meditation could form the basis of an authentic Way/Do or means of salvation/enlightenment.
To this day, the temple plays host to monks from across the country and young training monks as they deepen their practice and study of Zazen.

The Ako Incident

The story of the 47 ronin is one of justice, loyalty and avenge. It exemplifies the ideals of Bushido and still resonates deeply with the Japanese people.
The story begins with the Ako Incident (1701-1703) when Asano Takuminokami went to Edo castle to meet with his official advisor, Kira Kozukenosuke. While there, Kira insulted and disgraced Asano to such a degree that Asano attacked Kira, cutting him with his sword.
Because it was a crime to draw one's sword in Edo castle, Asano was immediately arrested and, without a proper investigation, ordered to commit seppuku that day in a manner reserved for felons. His estate was confiscated and his family line was dethroned from lordship.

The Avenge of the Ako Gishi

Asano's retainers (Ako Gishi) could not appeal the decision to dethrone the Takuminokami family and were prohibited from avenging the insult.
47 of these retainers swore a secret oath to avenge Asano's death. Because the ronin were being watched closely, for two years they lay low, pretending to be merchants, monks or even drunkards to evade suspicion.
On the morning of December 14, 1702 they attacked Kira's mansion, overcame his defenders and killed him.
They immediately carried Kira's head to Sengakuji and delivered it to the grave of Asano. They then turned themselves in to the shogunate. As expected, they were sentenced to death for avenging Asano's death. However, in respect for their honor and loyalty, they were allowed to honorably commit seppuku.

main gate

Main (or Third) Gate to Sengakuji

Rebuilt in1832 during the late Edo period.

There are supposed to be 16 statues of Arakan (buddhist saints) located on the upper floor. We didn't realize there was an upper floor and didn't see the Arakan.

In fact, there was an important ceremony being conducted in the main hall of the temple and access to many parts of the grounds were restricted while we were there.


The Hondo or Main Hall of the Temple.

It is here that the abbot and training monks regularly practice Zazen, recite sutras, and officiate ceremonies (such as the one being conducted during our visit).

zen master

Statue of the late Sawaki Kodo Roshi.

He was one of the most influential Zen masters of the 20th century who dedicated his life to the propagation and revitalization of Zazen.


Oishi Kuranosuke, the former chief retainer of Asano Takuminokami (The Lord of Ako).

He led the 47 loyal retainers of the Lord of Ako (the Ako Gishi) in avenging the injustice of their lord's death.


This is known as the chizome (blood stained) plumb tree and stone.

Supposedly, when The Lord of Ako committed seppuku, his blood gushed out staining a plum tree (not shown) and this stone.


This is the Kubi-Arai Well.

After the retainers killed Kira and lopped off his head, they carried the head to Sengakuji to present it to their lord's grave

When they arrived, they first washed Kira's head (heads ooze a bit) in this well and then laid it in front of their lord's grave as proof of their success in avenging the injustice and dishonor brought upon him and his family by Kira.

All Graves

This is the graveyard of the Ako Gishi.

They were buried here after their seppuku on February 4th, 1703.

graves close

This is a close-up of the area containing the graves.

Disclaimer: We knew about the Ako Incident and the burial of the 47 ronin at Sengakuji prior to our trip to Japan. Our visit to this shrine was made to honor the Ako Gishi for instantiating the strict ideals of bushido. However, this is the extent of our knowledge. The majority of the information presented on this page was obtained from a pamphlet provided by the temple.