The Travelling Trooper Pays His Respects To The 47 Ronin Warriors

Those familiar with this image will know the heart-wrenching story of Seymour from Futurama.

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In that episode, Fry makes a friend for life after feeding a starving dog on the streets. Fry had the subject of yet another prank call and was sent to deliver a pizza to “Seymour Asses.” So upon giving the pizza to the dog, he says, “If anybody asks, your name is Seymour Asses.” From there, the pair become inseperable.

When Fry gets frozen for 1000 years and doesn’t return, though, Seymour waits for him at their regular spot outside of the pizzeria. He waited there for his friend to return until he eventually died 12 years later. It hits you right in the feels artery.

Now, I’d like you to meet Hachiko.

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This little guy is the real-life Seymour Asses. In Japan, he is referred to as “Faitful Dog Hachiko” and is a symbol of loyalty and fidelity.

His owner was a professor at the University of Tokyo in the 1920’s. Everyday, Hachiko would leave the house in the afternoon and wait for his owner at Shibuya Station. The pair would then walk the rest of the way home.

Then in 1924, his owner suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage during a lecture.

For the next nine years, nine months, and fifteen days, Hachiko waited at the station at the time that his owner’s train was scheduled to arrive.

On our first full day in Tokyo, the first thing I had to do was go pay my respects to this incredible dog at the National Museum of Nature and Science.

While there, I figured I might as well take in some of the othe sights.

Like this badass creature. It’s a Plesiosaur.

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There was also a series of meteor rocks that had landed in Japan over the years.

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Sadly, their English translation for the meteor rock display was somewhat lacking.

Before leaving, I wanted to see the whale they supposedly had on display. It didn’t seem to be where the brochure claimed it was, so I gave up and headed outside to explore a bit of Ueno Park.

Then I found it.

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On to Ueno Park.

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In 1857, this handsome moustachioed gentleman established the Hakuai-Sha to help wounded soldiers from the Seinan War. That organization would later go on to become the Japan Red Cross Society, and he would become its president.

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I was heading towards the Toshogu Shrine when I got sidetracked by pretty things. There was a special flower exhibit going on, and I figured, well, if it’s a special thing that’s on for a limited time, I might as well check it out. So here are the pretty things. THEY WERE SO SOFT!

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Then on to the shrine.

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This tree is over 600 years old. It pre-dates the shrine itself and is now cared for by the “Shrine guardians.”

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“During the Edo period, it was believed that the presence of a Tanuki (racoon dog) brought with it disaster. However, during the Taisho period, whenever a Tanuki was present, it prevented disaster from occurring. “As a result of diminishing disasters, local Japanese changed the name of Tanuku to the usage of te Japanese honorific O-Tanuki-Sama. This was based on the beliefe at the time tat the Tanuki is actually a God representing success in exams and a victorious life.” People now write well wishes for family, friends, or themselves on the back of these tags and hang them here in hopes that the universe listens to their wishes.

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I honestly could’ve spent an entire day exploring the park–I didn’t even get a chance to explore much of the lake–but I had places to go and things to see. Liiiike….

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THIS GUY!

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I also wanted to visit Sengakuji Temple to pay my respects to the 47 Ronin Warriors.

However, on the way to the temple, I came across these guys.

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Apparently you can cruise around Tokyo like this for about $50.

Anywho, the story of the 47 Ronin Warriors is pretty amazing.

At the start of the 18th century, there was a daimyo (lord) named Asano Naganori. He was forced to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a corrupt, money-hungry, and overall douchey court official by the name of Kira Yoshinika.

Naganori refused to kiss the official’s ass or bribe him, and so he was treated with complete and utter disrespect. Eventually, Naganori was pushed to the brink by the prick, and the daimyo pulled his blade on him. This was a serious enough offense that Naganori was forced to commit seppuku.

When samurai warriors lose their leader, they become ronin warriors. One warrior was so infuriated that he organized a group of 47 loyal warriors who loved their leader enough that they would do anything to avenge the man–even at the cost of their own lives.

They waited and plotted for a year and a half before finally executing their plan and killing Yoshinika. The consequence for their actions, of course, was that they, too, had to commit seppuku. Their story has since become legendary in Japan.

Their grave site is located outside Sengakuji Temple. The temple itself was nice enough, but nothing spectacular

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Statue of the late Sawaki Kodo Roshi, “one of the leading and most influential Zen masters of the 20th century. He dedicated his life to the propagation and revitalization of Zazen as an authentc and fundamental Buddhist practice.”

Then there was the museum. Again, nothing special.

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You think this is something epic, cool, and important..but it’s actually just a sign for a dentist’s office…
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Warrior’s helmet
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Flutes

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I wanted to buy a huge $500 war drum outside at the souvenir shop sooo badly, but I figured it probably wouldn’t fit in my luggage. This one is the real deal though.
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“This memorandum is the letter of acknowledgement for the receipt of the head that had belonged toKira Kozukenosuke. Ako gishi, or the loyal samurai retainers of Ako, presented the decapitated head of Kira to their late lord’s grave. “On December 16, 1702, two Sengakuji Temple priests brought the head back to Kira’s side at its behest. A that time, a retainer of the Kira clan wrote this letter of acknowledgement for the receipt of the head.”

Then there was the hall containing wooden statues of the 47 Ronin Warriors.

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Yoshida Sawaemon, 28. Position: Dependent/unpaid.
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Mase Kyudayu, 63. Position: Upper Superintendent Officer.
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Okajima Yasoemon, 38. Position: ACCOUNTANT(?!?!) This dude must have seriously loved Naganori!
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Yokogawa Kanbei, 37. Position: Commissioner in charge of powder magazines.
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Muramatsu Sandayu, 27. Position: Dependent/unpaid.
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Horibe Yasubee, 34. Position: Mounted guard.
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“The face of Kayano Sanpei’s statue is colored blue to distinguish it from the others. The reason was that he ardently desired to take part in the raid, but he was led to commit seppuk before the attack as his next of kin opposed his plan. “A cenotaph in his name was subsequently erected at Ako Gihi’s burial place in September 1767, although he was not among the 47 samurai.”

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Once I left this hall, all that remained was the grave site itself. I went up the slight incline towards the site, only to be told by an elderly Japanese caretaker that they had just closed for the day.

It was still the afternoon! It was around 3:45 pm! I kept a smile on, though, and worked my charm on the guy.

He eventually gave in and said I could go have a look while he and his friend got their cleaning supplies ready.

And so, I quickly went up, snapped a few shots, and spent a few minutes just taking everything in. I honestly felt a chill in the air being in the presence of such brave men.

Sure, one could argue that I’m heaping praise on a bunch of dudes who killed a money-hungry and power-hungry bully and that maybe murder wasn’t the right course of action to take. One could also argue that loving and believing in something/somebody so much that you’re willing to kill/die for them/it is the very problem with extreme religious fanatics.

BUT I DON’T CARE! THEY WERE FREAKING COOOOOOL! And I’m glad I got to meet them.

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Trevor and I left the samurai warriors and went to check out some ninjas!

Well, not real ninjas, of course. We had reservations at Ninja Akasaka. It’s a ninja-themed restaurant. I’d been to one before with my sister, Doris, called Ninja New York. It was loads of fun. You walk in, take the elevator down, and then get surprise attacked by ninjas that jump out of the shadows! Then a ninja takes you to your booth, where you get surprise attacked during your delicious meal! And they were super into character. We both absolutely loved it! I was ready for more of that.

That was sadly not what I got, though.

For one thing, the ninjas aren’t very ninja-y. Maybe part of it is a language thing. Maybe if they could perform in Japanese, they’d be more into their characters instead of having to start the evening with “Sorry that my English is not so good.”

Part of it was also that they just weren’t dressed badass enough. I’ve seen kids in more believable ninja costumes for Halloween. They just wore black pants and a black sleeveless top.

The main thing, though, was that they just didn’t play up the ninja thing enough. Sure, when you’re walked to your table, you have to walk up and down these stairs in what’s meant to feel like dimly lit caves, and that was kinda cool.

But they just played up the magic angle way too much. At one point in the caves, the ninja server has to say some magic words (because apparently ninjas have magic words) in order to make a bridge come down. And on your way out, you have to say more magic words to make a fire that’s burning in front of the exit door disappear. But ninjas don’t do magic! I literally had a ninja come up to my table and perform a series of magic tricks involving a cup and ball and a deck of cards! C’mon, man!

Having said that, the food was delicious! Apologies for the poor lighting.

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Shuriken star-blades grissini. (Read: Two ninja-shaped crackers with a hummus-like spread.)

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Chicken fritter ninja style
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Amaaaaazing stone-boiled soup (Japanese bouillabaisse). The server made this at the table. She cut up a bunch of large green veggies in the large covered container, then poured some sort of soy milk into it. She then put a steaming hot rock on top, covered the lid, and left for several minutes. This dish was possibly my favourite.
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The finished product!
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Capellini with Japanese tomato flavor
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You know you’re at a fancy restaurant when the ratio of food to plate size is borderline criminal. Nonetheless, I haven’t had salmon that good in ages.
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Sushiiiiii!
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The flash messed up this picture. It’s actually blood red. Delicious ice cream in a watermelon flavoured sauce.

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I will admit that the final magic trick genuinely did leave me baffled. The dude put a card in my right hand. He SHOWED it to me as clear as day. It was the ace of clubs. I then covered my right hand with my left. When I lifted my hand and flipped the card over, it was the 9 of hearts, which he had used in the previous magic trick. He signed it and dated it and gave it to me as a souvenir.
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My server bidding me a goodnight.

All in all, a fun experience, but not worth the $100 price tag. (Two beers bumped the bill up by $20.)

Trevor and I hoped to finish the night at an Alice in Wonderland-themed cafe. It was supposed to be the best of the five Alice-themed cafes in Tokyo. However when we got there, they said they were fully booked for the night. Instead, we settled for a vampire-themed cafe nearby. It was hilarious.

First off, you’re greeted by this guy when you step out of the elevator.

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And then there was the staff…

All of the staff look like grown-up versions of the goth kids in South Park. I wanted to laugh, but I figured it’d be rude.

I was only there for a quick bite–more for the experience, really–but many of these themed cafes in Tokyo require that you pay an entrance fee and purchase at least one dish and one drink.

And so…

Meet Harold.

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This lizard thing came as a free appetizer. It was a cracker with some sort of cheese spread.

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A loyal dog, a dinosaur, a whale, pretty flowers, samurai soldiers, fake ninjas, and lame vampires…all in one day…only in Japan.

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