As Sengakuji Temple prepares to mark on Sunday the legendary revenge taken by the Ako Roshi (47 ronin), priests are up in arms over the construction of an imposing eight-story apartment block next to its entrance.
The building will damage the historic Tokyo site’s appearance, they argue. It is where the ronin, who famously avenged their unfairly punished master, are buried. Lord Asano Takuminokami, the master, is also buried there.
A Tokyo-based real estate agency unveiled plans to construct the building in July. The condominium will occupy a 400-sq.-meter plot and will stand 24 meters tall. If completed, it will overshadow the renowned graves.
The temple quickly organized a defense group comprising local residents. A petition signed by about 10,000 people underscored the strength of opposition.
The Minato Ward Assembly accepted the petition and unanimously upheld it in October. But construction does not legally require prior consent between the constructor and the ward office, thus leaving the ward unable to demand changes or to halt construction. The groundwork started in October.
The temple filed its objection with the Minato Ward’s architectural review board saying that the building permit review process was inadequate.
The company behind for the project said the building was designed in compliance with new height restrictions the ward plans to enact next year. It also said residents in the area have been provided full information on the project.
The priests are defiant. They believe construction is ill-advised and will do lasting damage.
“The graves have historical value, putting the site on the World Heritage list; and the site enjoys popularity among foreign tourists who pay special visits during their trips to Japan,” said priest Kenmyo Muta.
“We hope that through commemorative ceremonies and other efforts to protect the site and the surrounding landscape, we will manage to get a nationwide support for this.”