Shocking Stories Behind the Samurai Blood Ceilings of Kyoto’s Temples

Kyoto, Japan is a city rich in history and tradition. Within its ancient borders stand seven Buddhist temples, each with a dark and violent past etched into their structures.

Oil painting of a close-up scene featuring a Japanese samurai from the year 1600, embodying the identity of Torii Mototada. The samurai's expression is stern, eyes locked onto the viewer, exuding determination and honor. Behind him, a dynamic and detailed battle unfolds with numerous samurai clashing amidst a backdrop of Kyoto's traditional castles, their silhouettes outlined against a tumultuous sky.

These seven temples are as followed:

They share a unique bond forged in blood. Their ceilings are constructed from wooden floorboards salvaged from Fushimi Castle, the site of a legendary mass suicide over 400 years ago.

The Siege of Fushimi Castle

In the year 1600, tensions were rising between two powerful warlords, Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Mitsunari challenged Ieyasu’s claim to rule, setting the stage for war.

Ieyasu left 1,800 samurai under the command of Torii Mototada to defend his Fushimi Castle while he went to quell rebels in another province. Soon after, Mitsunari arrived with an army 40,000 strong and laid siege to the castle.

The defenders were vastly outnumbered. Mototada refused demands to surrender, beginning a two-week standoff. On the final night, with defeat imminent, Mototada gave a rousing speech to raise the spirits of his remaining troops before leading them in ritual seppuku – honorable suicide by disembowelment.

One by one the samurai plunged their blades into their abdomens, staining the wooden floorboards beneath them a dark crimson. By morning, nearly 400 soldiers had taken their own lives, painting the castle floors red with blood.

Mitsunari was victorious, but the mass suicide had cost him dearly. Ieyasu would go on to defeat him in the decisive Battle of Sekigahara, paving the way for his shogunate rule.

Aftermath and the Temples’ Ceilings

Years later, the blood-soaked floorboards of Fushimi Castle were removed and repurposed for the ceilings of seven Buddhist temples in Kyoto. The reddish-brown outlines of hands, feet, knees, and bodies serve as a haunting reminder of the sacrifice made that day.

The Temples and Their Ceilings

Credit: samuelhawley

At Shodenji Temple, the footprints of fleeing samurai are frozen in time upon the ceiling boards. Jisoji Temple houses the handprint of a general who led his men in the ritual suicides. The boards at Shinnyo-ji bear the ghostly imprint of several bodies, their outlines blending together.

Credit: samuelhawley

Most chilling of all is Hosen-in Temple, where a single bloodstained board bears what may have been Mototada’s final footsteps as he approached the place of his death.

The Legacy of the Fallen Samurai

To this day, visiting these temples is like taking a step back in time. Tourists come from around the world to catch a glimpse of the eerie blood ceilings and take in the tragic history. Monks say the stains emit a strange energy, the anguish of the departed samurai eternally bound to the wood.

The Seven Temples of the Fallen Samurai stand as a testament to the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for honor and duty. As long as the temples endure, their story will be remembered and passed on to future generations. The blood soaked ceilings ensure their legend lives on, ghosts of the past haunting the living from beyond the grave.

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