- 2 min read

Oishi Shrine

Home of the 47 ronin

I have to admit that the first time I heard the word ronin it was in reference to a movie set in France starring Robert De Niro in which a rag tag group of mercenaries come together in hopes of making a big score. In that film, there is a scene where De Niro’s character is recovering from a gunshot wound and his host introduces him to a model that he has been working on. Sprawled over a large table is a scene from feudal Japan, depicting the attack in which the forty-seven ronin or master-less samurai killed the man responsible for their lord’s death.

This historical episode took place in what is the modern-day city of Ako in western Hyogo Prefecture. A feudal lord was forced to commit suicide for the unsanctioned assault of a court official. In the aftermath, the lord’s forty-seven samurai were left to roam the land and for two years plotted their revenge. After much planning and perseverance they were able to succeed in avenging their master.

This story has been transformed into legend and become part of Japan’s national heritage. Oishi Shrine in Ako City is the place where the souls of the forty-seven ronin are enshrined. I went there one Saturday afternoon and was surprised by the crowd. Everyone was jostling to have a picture taken next to the statues of the loyal samurai. They are lined up in two parallel columns facing each other. Visitors walk between them, gazing at their unique features and weapons. By the time you enter the shrine itself you will have fully bought into the mood surrounding the legend. Passing through the gate, there is the haunting sound of horns and strings repeating as if a chant. To the left, a young lady dressed in red and white robes greets visitors.

Oishi Shrine is a wonderful place to start your search for the forty-seven ronin. It is the symbol of perseverance and loyalty in Japan. I’ve only been once and I really didn’t know what I was walking into. I will certainly return armed with a little more knowledge of this fabled story.

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