The Tale of the 47 Rōnin

Today started off with some free time, and we all went went different ways to have different adventures; the Tokyo Sea Life Park, Akihabara, Shibuya, and some stayed at the hotel to catch up on readings or homework. After returning to the hotel, we made our way to the Sengakuji temple. There, we had a lecture about Dōgen thought and the Doctrine of Japanese Sōtō School. The lecture was given by Kiyozumi Ishii, a professor at Komazawa University. In the lecture, we learned about the basic principles of Zen Buddhism. One thing that really stuck out to me was “one’s original Buddha-nature is immaculate (or completely clear and pure).” What is meant by this is that the heart and mind of a person are pure, therefore, the heart and mind are already the Buddha.

After the lecture and a short break, we were taken into the museum of the temple. In the museum, we first watched a short film about the origins of the temple and the story of the 47 Rōnin. After the film, we walked through the small exhibit of the different artifacts left behind. There were different parts of the armor including helmets, facemasks, and shin guards. There were also 46 hanging scrolls, which are illustrations of each of the warriors. The most notable thing to me was the receipt for Lord Kira’s head. Outside the museum was where the graves of the 47 loyal samurai and their leader could be found.

Following the short walk through the museum and the graves, we were invited into the main hall of the temple, where the practicing Zen Buddhist monks meditate and have ceremonies in front of the founder Buddhism -- Buddha Shakyamuni. We were then shown another room that was full of memorial plaques for the families of the community. As we finished looking around the back room, we were led back into the great hall to pay respects to Buddha Shakyamuni. We all lined up, and as we came up to the statue, we bowed, put incense to our forehead, placed it into a small fire, and bowed again. It was quite a spiritual experience for me. I felt very connected to the temple and to the history of it.

Today was a great experience for all of us; we learned a lot and had an experience that I don’t believe many have had. Tomorrow, we meet with Toyo University students and go to different kinds of businesses to learn and experience much more!

Author Jaden Leliefeld poses in front of the Tokyo Sea Life Park sign during her free time this morning.