Postcard from... Tokyo


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The Independent Online

The “47 ronin” samurai who inspired the long-loved saga of loyalty and honour eulogised in films, books and plays are fighting a new kind of battle in urban Japan.

An apartment complex is going up next to the curved tile-roofed Sengakuji temple where the 300-year-old graves of the ronin, or masterless samurai, lie. The stone monuments, standing barely waist-high, are regarded as a humble but proud testament to sacrificing one’s life for what’s right.

The Buddhist monks who are still praying for the souls of the ronin, visitors from near and far, and the neighbourhood residents including those who run souvenir stores are all aghast. Nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition demanding a stop to the construction. Huge protest banners are up by the gate.

Plans show an eight-storey block, dwarfing the graves and placing the temple’s main wooden gate in its shadow. Building has already begun and construction is expected to be completed later this year.

“People who come and pray here can’t believe why this is being allowed,” said Kenmyo Muta, a priest at the temple. “Anyone can see what it will do to this beautiful place.” The plight of the graves highlights the recurring struggles between commercial development and the effort to preserve history.  AP