Visit Japan #4: Gishi-sai (THE EAST Campaign in Association with Japan National Tourist Organization London Office)

Dates: December 13th & 14th
Places: Sengakuji Temple City:2-11-1, Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo

The Gishi-sai is a festival held at Sengakuji Temple, honoring the forty-seven loyal retainers in Akoh. It is also known as Akoh Gishi-sai.

“The Forty-Seven Loyal Retainers in Akoh” is a drama based on an incident which actually took place in 1703 when 47 vassals avenged their Master’s death by killing his enemy. Ever since then, it has been performed or shown over and over again in the form of Joruri (a narrative ballad), in Kabuki as well as in movie and TV dramas until today.

This is one of the best-loved tales in Japan. Plays and novels of the tale are more commonly known under the titles of Chushingura (“The Loyal Retainers”) and Akoh Roshi (“Akoh’s Masterless Samurai”).

At Sengaku-ji Temple in Minato-ku, Tokyo where this festival is held, you will find the graves of the Lord who was forced to take his own life by harakiri and of his 47 vassals who committed suicide after having taken their revenge by defeating their Lord’s enemy. The Akoh Gishi Memorial Museum which is completed in 2001, exactly 300 years after the death of their Master, standing in the temple precincts, exhibits mementoes of the vassals as well as various articles associated with the incident. Every year on December 14th, which corresponds to the anniversary of the uchiiri (raid), large numbers of people respecting the masterless vassals of Akoh visit the temple to pay homage to them at their burial site, and watch the Gishi Gyoretsu which is a procession of volunteers dressed as the 47 masterless vassals parading through the streets. The entire neighborhood becomes packed with crowds of visitors.


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