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www.youtube.comGraves of the 47 Ronin at Sengakuji Temple (泉岳寺) | Tokyo, Japan - YouTube
Ako (Ako Oishi Shrine (Hyogo Pref.) 赤穂大石神社)
Asano Naganori was a feudal lord (daimyo, 大名) over the Ako domain in today’s Ako City, Hyogo Prefecture. (south of the city of Kobe) In order to keep feudal lords from rebellion the shogun established a system of ‘alternate attendance’ (sankin-kōtai, 参勤交代). The policy, started by Hideyoshi Toyotomi in Osaka and continued by the Tokugawa shoguns in Edo (Tokyo, 江戸), required wives and heirs of powerful feudal lords to stay in the capital. Maintaining expensive residences in the capital also kept the lords from amassing wealth that could be used to pay for a large army. They were required to appear at the shogun’s castle (Edo Castle, 江戸城) once a year and usually stayed for long periods, thus alternating between their residence in Tokyo and their domain. The constant travel led to economic activity, the development of infrastructure, and the birth of new towns and cities along Japan’s eastern seaboard. The Tokai Road (Tokaido, 東海道) was born from this.
Lord Asano was called to the shogun’s castle.
Sengakuji - Resting Place of the Fabled 47 Ronin
In Japan, on December 14, 1703, forty-seven loyal samurai, demoted to the dishonourable status of ronin - masterless samurai - avenged the death of their leader and were later condemned to commit ritual suicide. This is the dramatic tale of the 47 Ronin.
On December 14, 1703, forty-seven loyal samurai, demoted to the dishonourable status of ronin - masterless samurai - avenged the death of their leader and were later condemned to commit ritual suicide. Almost immediately they became known as the 47 Ronin (Shi-jūshichi-
shi, 四十七士), though in the Meiji Period the story became widespread in popular culture. (it is important to note that strict censorship existed in Japan and stories, plays, poems, etc, about current events were forbidden). Sengakuji is a temple nestled in the urban landscape of Kanagawa’s Shinagawa Ward. Small and seemingly non-descript, Sengakuji is renowned as the place of the 47 ronin of the Ako domain, loyal to their feudal lord (daimyo 大名) Asano Naganori, Lord of Ako. The story epitomizes the legend of the samurai and the code of the bushido (武士道) - the way of the warrior - extreme loyalty to one’s master, fearlessness in battle, and fearlessness in the face of death. It’s known in Japanese as Akō jiken (赤穂事件), or Ako Vendetta.
Tokyo - Edo Castle (Tokyo) 江戸城 (the Fushimi-yagura Keep)
The story truly begins when feudal lords Asano Naganori of Ako and Kamei Sama of Tsumano presenting gifts to Kira Yoshinaka (吉良 義央), a high shogunate official in Edo (today’s Tokyo) in 1701. They were in the domain of the all-powerful shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, and it was Kira’s task to teach them etiquette while in Edo. He thought the rural daimyo to be lower in status and essentially considered them to be ‘country bumpkins’, and that the gifts brought to him to be inadequate. It is also possible that they refused to pay him a bribe. Asano tolerated mistreatment at the hands of Kira until the moment that he lost his patience and swung a dagger at Kira, cutting him on the face. For drawing a weapon in the Shogun’s castle he was sentenced to death by seppuku - the Japanese word for ritual suicide. He was 34 years old.
Asano’s lands were confiscated and his 300 or so samurai rendered masterless - ronin. His family was left impoverished. Forty-seven of them vowed revenge and for two years stealthily plotted their master’s vengeance. To ward off suspicion from Kira’s spies, the ronin’s leader, Oishi Yoshio, divorced his family and led a life of drunkenness and debauchery. (this was to protect his family, knowing they would also be sentenced to die following the revenge)
Kyoto - Gion District 祇園
As Asano's loyal ronin waited for Kira to drop his guard they lived the lives of commoners, deprived of their samurai status. (many had pretended to be labourers, farmers or businessmen - even monks) Those that had the means are purported to have stay in Kyoto, frequenting the Gion District of Kyoto, mingling with geisha, living a life of drunkenness. It was all a facade. Two years later, in 1703, thinking Kira had dropped his guard, the plotting ronin made their way, from different directions and by carrying means, to the capital of Edo.
Tokyo - Ruins of Kira Yoshinaka’s Residence (Tokyo) 吉良邸跡
Two years later, in 1703, thinking Kira had dropped his guard, the plotting ronin made their way, from different directions and by carrying means, to the capital of Edo. (many had pretended to be labourers, farmers or businessmen - even monks) On the eve of December 14th they hatched their plan. They quietly killed the guards at Kira’s mansion in Edo, scaled the walls with battering rams and ladders, and proceeded to seek out Kira, all the while killing any who attempted to halt their attack. (some accounts suggest Kira was hiding in a storage shed or an outhouse) They cut off Kira’s head and washed it in a nearby canal (or river), bringing it to Lord Asano’s temple grave, offering prayers to prove to his spirit that they had succeeded in exacting their revenge and demonstrate their undying loyalty. They then sat stoically and awaited their fate.
Sengakuji Temple (泉岳寺)
Some accounts claim that Asano’s son was spared, and the remaining forty-six were sentenced to commit seppuku. The Shogun, Tsunayoshi, wanted to spare them for their honourable actions, but his advisors reminded him of the gravity of their actions - breaking the law in the Shogun’s domain. They followed the samurai code and were thus granted the opportunity to die an honourable death. They did and were interred near Lord Asano’s tomb, at Sengakuji. The temple became a place of pilgrimage almost immediately, though the shogunate attempted to limit popular support of the ronin and their actions.
Although the historical accuracy of the story is debated it is undeniably part of Japanese lore and remains one of the most dramatic episodes in Japanese history.
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