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Kan’ei-ji Temple Insect Memorial

Tokyo, Japan


Tōeizan Kan’ei-ji Endon-in is a beautiful temple filled with nearly 400 years of rich 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 died in the pursuit 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 final work contained hundreds of drawings of dissected insects, both scientifically accurate and beautiful. The Chuchi-jo was the first of its kind in Japan, and the drawing style continues to serve as an inspiration for 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 in the process. 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.