Unfamiliar Land

Kan’ei-ji Temple Insect Memorial

Tokyo, Japan


Tōeizan Kan’ei-ji Endon-in is a beautiful temple filled with nearly 400 years of history. It’s where generations of shōgun rulers are buried, and where a civil war concluded at the Battle of Ueno. There’s also a curious memorial hidden here. If you look carefully, you can find a monument dedicated to insects that have died in the study of science.

Japan’s Edo period was characterized by a strict social hierarchy. Those at the top devoted their time to the advancement of art, science and culture. One of these elites, Sessai Matsuyama, commissioned an anatomical study of insects known as the Chuchi-jo. The Chuchi-jo contains hundreds of drawings of dissected insects, both scientifically accurate and beautiful. It was the first of its kind in Japan, and continues to inspire artists today.

After the Chuchi-jo was completed, Matsuyama had a monument placed at the Kan’ei-ji temple to commemorate the insects that were killed for the study. It’s designated as a historical monument by the Tokyo City government, and might just be the only memorial of its kind in the world.

# Posted on September 13, 2020 by Marc Charbonneau.