Kyoto’s Bloody Ceilings

In 1600, rebel samurai attacked Fushimi Castle, south of Kyoto, in an attempt to kill five year-old Toyotomi Hideyori, the son and heir of the general who had recently united Japan.

After a two-week siege, the rebels breached the walls, set fire to the castle and killed the garrison commander. With their leader dead, the remaining samurai defenders (approximately 400 men) committed seppuku (ritual suicide) inside the keep. The mass suicide flooded the wooden floor with blood, staining the timbers permanently.

That portion of the keep survived the fire, although the structure was subsequently dismantled by the new Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Thereafter, Ieyasu ordered the boards distributed to seven temples around Kyoto – where the monks considered the bloodstained timbers too sacred to walk upon and used them to construct ceilings within the temples.

Some of the ceiling panels still bear the bloody hand and footprints of the men who gave their lives to defend the Toyotomi heir – a moment in history preserved by respect for the dead.

Have you ever seen “the fingerprints of history” in unusual places? Would you find it strange to worship in a temple with bloodied ceilings? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

One thought on “Kyoto’s Bloody Ceilings

  • November 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Though not as dramatic as your example, Susan, here is another example of an historical fingerprint, this one belonging to a seventeenth-century printer (Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library blog):

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