I visited Sengakuji after a late night and too many bottles of Shochu in Nishiogikubo. I went drinking with a Japanese friend and it was a great experience although I do not remember much of it. He was dressed in traditional Japanese clothing and the street he took me to was lined with small, seemingly Edo-era restaurants. Each one only seated between 8 – 15 people and we started drinking early. He always added a drink called “Hoppy” to his Shochu and I was confused at first when he told me it didn’t contain any alcohol. He let me know that after World War II the capacity to produce beer was much reduced yet people still wanted that beer taste. Hoppy could be easily produced and when added to Shochu it gave a beer flavor.
I awoke a bit dazed the following morning and had the option of going directly back to the in-laws which is what I had intended to do. On the Chuo line on my way to Shinjuku the thought occurred that if I wanted to visit the 47 Ronin I better do it now since another opportunity might not arise for a couple of years.
I also made a great discovery at this time. Understanding the Tokyo metro is very difficult since lines are run by different companies and most apps only give you the main metro or Japan Railway but do not interconnect. I downloaded many apps which never resolved this problem and found myself wishing for my old Palm Pilot software which was actually useful. I then tried simple Google Maps then hit the “train” button with minimal expectations. To my amazement it gave me the most beautiful, clear and concise route with alternates! No other app is needed to navigate the metro except for Google Maps. Well done Google.
I arrive at Sengakuji and immediately seek out the graves. I tried to put myself into a deeply reflective state and to feel the history surrounding me; unfortunately the aftermath of massive quantities of Shochu greatly impeded the mental state I was seeking. While I was there an elderly Japanese gentleman was laying incense at each of the graves and a western couple were being guided by a young Japanese man.
To be among those 47 was profound. Forty-seven men each plunged a dagger in their stomach and proceeded to make a horizontal cut until their bowels spilled out. Forty-seven! The mindset of a Samurai must be one of the most disciplined since the human race began to form coherent thoughts.