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The monument to dead insects at Kan'ei-ji

I'm suffering from a Calvinist guilt complex, which, I contend, is exponentially worse than a Jewish guilt complex or a Catholic guilt complex.

The cause of my religious angst is a heathen country called Japan. You see, I've been ranting a bit – about English as she is spoke and mosquitoes as they are feared on these fair safety isles – and I feel some penance is required. Or abject groveling. Or at least a post about …

Well, how about death and insects? That's cheerful enough, isn't it?, and if you think neither creepy-crawlies nor biting the dust, hopping the twig, counting worms and pushing up daisies can be cute, oh, you really don't know Japan very well, do you?

Saying bye-bye to bugs can be both charming and heart-warming.

Japanese insects don't just join the choir invisible or shuffle off the mortal coil or go gentle into that good night. Oh no. They go out in style, with their very own monument.

The monument to dead insects at Kan'ei-ji

It's called the Mushizuka, and it was erected in 1821 to console the spirits of goggas (see sidebar) that had been killed in the production of a scientific text called Chūchijō (虫豸).

Both the book and subsequent tomb were commissioned by an aristocrat known as 増山 正賢I've seen different transcriptions of his name, including Mashiyama Sessai (on the plaque next to the monument) and Mashiyama Masakata (in the Japanese Wikipedia). Shall we just refer to him as Bug Boy?

Mashiyama Sessai. Source: Wikipedia

Anyway, he was the head of the Ise Nagashima clan, and he's famous for the above-mentioned four-volume book about insects. Apparently Mashiyama was plagued by guilt because he'd caused the death of so many living creatures; hence this monument.

The Mushizuka can be seen at Tōeizan Kan'ei-ji Endon-in (東叡山寛永寺円頓院), to give it its glorious full name, in Ueno. I'm in the process of writing a complete post about this temple, one of my infamous "complete guide to" sagas, but meantime, regard this as an apology for my rants.

Kan'ei-ji seen from the monument

Kan'ei-ji seen from the othe side

This post was brought to you thanks to a collective Buddhist/Protestant guilt fest.

Finis.

Notes

The monument is so quirky that it's mentioned in Atlas Obscura, one of  my all-time favourite reference works (link).

Read more about
Chūchijō here (J).

The monument is behind that giant lantern.


This reads, from right to left, 蟲塚 or mushizuka (insect grave or insect mound).

The plaque next to the monument

Page from Mashiyama's book

Page from Mashiyama's book

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