Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yanaka Cemetery 谷中霊園

I enjoy cemeteries, not as a morbid fascination, but for their silence, stillness, history and beauty. Humankind has lavished the dead with ornate structures and beautiful art, for instance the necropolis at the foot of Edinburgh castle in Scotland is an exceptional cemetery with lavish headstones some 30 feet tall and all excellent examples of dark and brooding baroque architecture. Yanaka Cemetery, a huge cemetery located north of Ueno in Tōkyō, is something else entirely. It is a gorgeous angular, organized, clean-lined garden populated with exquisite monuments which are, with rare exception, never more than 5 or 6 feet tall. Awe-inspiring not for their size and elaborateness, but for there tasteful simplicity and elegance. The cemetery is famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms that in April shade and blanket its 100 thousand square meters and 7 thousand graves. The cemetery has its own police station and a section dedicated to the Tokugawa clan, family of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns of Japan including the last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, also known as Keiki. It’s also home to many famous Japanese luminaries, including the painter Yokoyama Taikan and the famous writer Ichiyo Higuchi (pictured on the 5000 yen note).

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