Yougenin temple / Why blood of Harakiri in a temple?


Have you seen the remaining trace of Samurai's Seppuku(Harakiri)?

You can see the Samurai's body shapes formed by the blood stains who conducted "SEPPUKU" here in Yougenin temple.

But why does it remain in the temple?

Just knowing a few stories (history, culture, food, souvenirs, etc...) will make your visit completely different! Please check the articles!

Read in Japanese(はじめに)





Entrance of Yougenin Temple kyoto japan

Entrance of Yougenin temple


The road to the main hall of Yougenin temple kyoto japan

The road to the main hall of Yougenin temple


Historical stories to enjoy the trip

1. Blood Ceiling / The awesome loyalty and noble death of the Samurais!

What are the blood stains on the ceiling of Yougenin temple?

The ceiling of Yougenin temple was the floorboard of a destroyed castle which absorbed the blood of the samurais who died by Seppuku(Harakiri).

You can see the blood ceiling in several temples in Kyoto. Yougenin temple is one of it and the most accessible one.

To mourn the souls of the samurais, the blooded floorboard was put on the ceiling of some temples. You can see some shapes of the body from the stain of the blood.

This is a place which you can see and feel the Japanese unique and scary practice and history.

Blood Ceiling of Genkouan Temple kyoto japan trip

Blood Ceiling of Genkouan Temple(源光庵の血天井)
Note: The picture from an another temple's blood ceiling because inside the Yougenin temple is prohibited from taking pictures.


Please tell me why the Samurais had to conduct Seppuku(Harakiri) at the castle?

The Seppuku(Harakiri) was conducted related to the fateful battle of Sekigahara which occurred in 1600.

In Japanese history, we have had several big civil wars which was a struggle for supremacy of the island. AC1600...the biggest and the most famous one occurred. It is the Battle of Sekigahara.

The battle occurred between the West Army and the East Army, which was to decide who would rule Japan next.

The battle of Sekigahara Yougenin Kyoto Japan

The battle of Sekigahara
Collection of The City of Gifu Museum of History [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The West Army was the army which took side of the Toyotomi clan. The Toyotomis were the winners of the age of the civil war era(1493−1590).

This era was a lawless time of civil war, which the feudal lords of Japan fought one another in an endless struggle for land and power. Hence, the clan Toyotomis which won the victory of the civil war era were the current rulers of the country.

Hideyoshi Toyotomi Yougenin temple kyoto japan

Hideyoshi Toyotomi (The boss of Toyotomis)
狩野光信 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


On the other hand, the East Army was the army which took the side of the Tokugawa clan. The boss Ieyasu Tokugawa(1543-1616) once followed the Toyotomis as a retainer. Though after the death of Hideyoshi Toyotomi(1536-1598) the charismatic leader of the Toyotomis, his ambition grew to become the ruler of the country.

I really recommend to remember these 2 charismatic samurai. It would make you easy to understand the most sensational and popular period of Japan. Even a Japanese student who hates to learn history knows it.

Anyway, to make true his ambition, Ieyasu convinced many feudal lords for about 3 years to follow him. And finally he built up an army which could fight with the Toyotomi army on an equal basis.

Ieyasu Tokugawa Yougenin temple kyoto japan

Ieyasu Tokugawa (Boss of Tokugawas)
Kanō Tan'yū [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The West(Toyotomis) base was Osaka and the East(Tokugawas) was Edo(current Tokyo). But the East(Tokugawas) was holding the Fushimi Castle at Fushimi(Kyoto), very near to Osaka.

Where would you attack first if you are the West army(Toyotomis)?

Yes, of course the West army(Toyotomis) attacked Fushimi castle soon after the conflict between Tokugawa occurred.

Map of how the West and East Army moved The battle of Sekigahara

Map of how the West and East Army moved

What happened at the battle of Fushimi castle?

Fushimi castle endured for 10 days even the fight was against overwhelming odds.

Mototada Torii(1539-1600) the retainer of Ieyasu Tokugawa(East) was protecting Fushimi castle with his 2000 soldiers.
Though… the military force of the West(Toyotomis) were 40000. It was 20 times the size...

Fushimijo Castle Yougenin temple kyoto japan

Photo : Imitation of Fushimi Castle tower(伏見城の模擬天守閣)
By Thomas vanierschot (Own work (own production)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To escape was the only way, wasn’t it??

However, Torii was ready for this serious situation. He and his subordinates have accepted the thought of his boss Ieyasu Tokugawa that he asked them to get ready for death and fight with the enemy to unify the whole country.

What awesome loyalty...could you do the same?

Mototada Torii Yougenin temple Kyoto Japan

Mototada Torii [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the difference in the military force, it is said that Torii endured for 10 days.
What a man “Torii” was!!

And this endurance led to the victory of the East Army(Tokugawas) and the unification of Japan by Ieyasu Tokugawa.
After this victory, Ieyasu Tokugawa established Tokugawa Shogunate. The era governed by Tokugawa Shogunate is called Edo era(1603-1868) which is known as the last age governed by the Samurais.

After the victory of Ieyasu Tokugawa the peaceful days lasted for almost 300 years. The administration of the Shogunate was awesome!

Can you see Torii's blood stain at Yougenin temple?

Yes, one of the stain in Yougenin-temple is said to be Torii’s.

You can see the shape of his body and the sword.

Torii and the 380 soldiers which survived until the last moment, committed SEPPUKU when they gave up to protect the castle.

The dead bodies were left for about 2 months in Fushimi-castle. So the blood got stained into the floorboard. And as I wrote above, the floor boards were put on the ceiling of some temples.

Unfortunately the guidance is conducted only in Japanese and is difficult for foreign travelers to distinguish it on your own. So please make reference to the illustration we attached and try to find out!

Please feel the awesome loyalty and the noble death of the Samurais.

Blood Ceiling Map Yougenin temple kyoto japan

How to see the Blood Ceiling(血天井の見方)


Read in Japanese (1.血天井 / 侍たちの忠誠心と壮絶な死!)

質問: 養源院の天井にある血痕は何ですか?





質問: なぜ侍たちはお城で切腹をしなければならなかったのですか?











質問: 伏見城の戦いはどうなったのですか?









質問: 鳥居元忠の血痕も見ることができるのですか?




2. Picture of “Sotatsu Tawaraya”
/Revolutionary trend of Japanese art style!

Who is Sotatsu Tawaraya?

Sotatsu Tawaraya is a genius painter who appeared between 17-18th century in Kyoto.

He played an super active part in Japanese art, and is one of the most famous artist in Japanese history.

Though, strangely, no detailed record about Sotatsu Tawaraya is left, even the years of his birth and death are unknown. 

As if he intentionally erased the traces of his life and saying to us
“Don't need to know about me but just see and feel my Arts! Hahaha!”.

It’s cooool, isn’t it?

Sotatsu Tawaraya was first an “ougi (folding fan)” painter. But a fateful encounter with Hon-ami Koetsu(1558-1637), an awesome producer of the art, greatly changed his life to become a super painter.

Sotatsu Tawaraya caused a revolution for Japanese traditional painting, adding a sense of fun and high quality of decorativeness. The most famous picture is the "Images of the Wind Thunder god(Fujin Raijin)" displayed in Kenninji temple. Have you seen it?

Fujin Raijin painting Sotatsu Tawaraya Kenninji Kyoto trip history Japan

Images of the Wind Thunder god(Fujin Raijin)
Displayed in Kenninji temple

To our pleasure we can see his works at Yogenin temple. Please enjoy the paintings which the painted creatures seems to jump out from the boards.

Please give me information about the picture of White Elephants.

White elephants is the most famous one among his sliding door painting.

Sotatsu painted various kinds of creatures on cedar-board sliding doors in Yogenin.

He, for sure, never had seen the animal called elephant. There are some records about elephants that came to Japan in 15th century, but his time was much later than that. He must have painted the mysterious animal of rumor with exciting imagination. 

It is surprising that it was painted more than 500 years ago! We feel that they start crying “Paooon!” at any moment. (How do you express Elephants voice in your language? )

White elephants sotatsu tawaraya yougenin temple japan

White elephants
※Photo of the picture postcard

Tell me about the picture of Wave and Ki-Rin.

Ki-Rin is Chinese fictional creature with deer bodies, cow tails and a horn on heads.

They are said to appear while good politics are carried out. A male “Ki” and a female “Rin” jumping with the waves are painted on the cedar-board doors. Do you know KIRIN BEER, a Japanese brand? It is said that the label of the brand is based on male “Ki”. But we don’t think they are alike to each other. Odd…

Wave and Ki-Rin Sotatsu Tawaraya Yougenin temple kyoto Japan

Wave and Ki-Rin
※Photo of the picture postcard

Tell me about the picture of Chinese lions.

It is also a Chinese fictional creature.

The gold and white lions painted on the sliding cedar-board doors welcomed the guests at the entrance hall of the temple.

When a lion door was opened, elephant doors at the end of the corridor appeared saying “Hello”.
It was a small joyful trick for the guests. Unfortunately the door is not opened these days. And these Chinese lions also seem to begin roaring “Gaooo!” They are so powerful and lively!!

Chinese lions Sotatsu Tawaraya Yougenin Kyoto trip history Japan

Chinese lions
※Photo of the picture postcard

I hope you are interested in Sotatsu and his paintings. Please visit Yogenin-temple just across from Sanjusangendo temple. It is worth seeing his works if you like art !

Read in Japanese(2. 俵屋宗達の絵/日本美術の革命的変化!)

質問: 俵屋宗達って何者ですか?









質問: 「白像図」(杉戸絵)について教えてください。



象は、15世紀に日本にやって来たとの記録はあるものの、宗達自身は実際にみたことがなかったのではないかと言われています。 うわさに聞いた象なる不可思議な動物を、心躍らせて描いたのでしょう。今にも「パオ~ン!」と声を出しそうです。これが500年も前の作品であるとは驚いてしまいます。

質問: 「波と麒麟図」(杉戸絵)について教えてください。


オスの「麒」がKIRIN BEERのラベルのモデルになったとも言われています。見比べると・・・ずいぶん違うのですが(笑)

質問: 「唐獅子」(杉戸絵)について教えてください。







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