22 FALLEN SAMURAI, TOKYO

Another temple near us, hidden up a long road – Kensoji temple (which has zero internet footprint and no information).

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Surrounded by a beautiful cemetery, the history makes an interesting story. Hidden in the back corner is the cemetery of the fallen 22, who attempted an uprising in 1936 and are often celebrated by the anti-foreigner, nationalistic Japan parties.

The February 26 Incident (二・二六事件 Niniroku Jiken?) (also known as the 2-26 Incident) was an attempted coup d’état in Japan on 26 February 1936. It was organized by a group of young Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) officers with the goal of purging the government and military leadership of their factional rivals and ideological opponents.

Although the rebels succeeded in assassinating several leading officials and in occupying the government center of Tokyo, they failed to assassinate Prime Minister Keisuke Okada or secure control of the Imperial Palace. Their supporters in the army made attempts to capitalize on their actions, but divisions within the military, combined with Imperial anger at the coup, meant they were unable to achieve a change of government. Facing overwhelming opposition as the army moved against them, the rebels surrendered on 29 February.[3]

Unlike earlier examples of political violence by young officers, the coup attempt had severe consequences. After a series of closed trials, 19 of the uprising’s leaders were executed for mutiny and another 40 imprisoned. The radical Kōdō-ha faction lost its influence within the army, the period of “government by assassination” came to a close, and the military increased its control over the civilian government.

If you read the entire background, it is the classic story of the under-privileged rising up against ruling class, in this case coloured by a nationalistic zeal, an Emperor, westerners and socialism. I cannot help but sympathize with the meritocracy elements of their campaign even if it is at odds with their allegiance to the Emperor.

Their well tended grave. Luckily, there were not ultra-nationalists at the site to protest our being there.

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The grave across from this one, with beautiful blooming Azaleas.

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The other interesting thing about the site is the state of the original cemetery. Fenced off and difficult to see, the original cemetery is surrounded by monuments to the elements and the (rich) family entombed. However, the site has fallen into disrepair which seems at odds with the Japanese respect for ancestors.

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Of note, the monuments are all individual pieces of stone, balanced on top of each other. Only a few have fallen over during the various earthquakes. A testament to 1,000 year old craftsmanship.

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An interesting hidden find.

3 thoughts on “22 FALLEN SAMURAI, TOKYO

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