At summer’s end in 1600, a castle fell. With his reduced garrison of three hundred samurai, Torii Mototada knew he didn’t stand a chance against the advancing wave of the Western Army, lead by Ishida Mitsunari. To the man everyone stationed at Fushimi Castle would die, but in doing so they would delay Mitsunari–just enough–so that Tokugawa Ieyasu and his Eastern Army could close the gap between them and crush this uprising once and for all. The sacrifice would be worth it.
The siege lasted twelve days. Fires broke out. The defenses fell. One by one the small garrison was cut down or committed suicide to avoid capture and dishonor. In the chaos, impressions of footprints, handprints, and faces were pressed in blood to the floorboards, memorializing the final hours of bravery of the warriors of Fushimi Castle.
Following the battle of Sekigahara which saw Mitsunari’s final defeat, Ieyasu ordered what could be salvaged from the burnt out ruins of the castle be brought to Kyoto. There, the blood stained floorboards were fixed to the ceilings of newly constructed temples to rest the spirits of the fallen samurai in peace. One such temples is Yogen-in.
Yogen-in is a tiny temple first established in 1594. It was reconstructed with the floorboards of Fushimi Castle in 1621. Sitting behind the much larger Sanjuusangen-do temple, all Tokugawa shoguns starting from Hidetada are enshrined here. The temple offers guided tours in Japanese, and aside from the chitenjou–the blood ceiling– it is most famous for its decorative cedar sliding doors with depictions of Chinese lions, elephants, and kirin painted on them. Photography is not permitted in Yogen-in, and the dark interior gives it a somber, subdued atmosphere, suitable for the memorial it is intended to be.
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