Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Past and Present in Aoyama Cemetery

Last year when I was up high in Roppongi Hills I spotted this large cemetery in Tokyo. Of course it was Aoyama Cemetery and I decided when I came back I would see it from ground level.

Having nicer weather helped too in my getting there this time. I made it from Gaiemmae Station through Baiso-in to Aoyama Reien. 

I first wandered through more traditional Japanese plots. Some like where Hachiko and his owner Ueno-sensei were laid to rest had people working on cleaning up since it was right before Shunbun no Hi, Vernal Equinox. I do not know who this plot belongs to but the rusting gate was interesting

Aoyama Cemetery is a very interesting mix of different styles of grave markers, like this cairn style. It is also one of the places where non-Japanese people were laid to rest from the end of the 19th century.

A Western style marker in the gaikokujin bochi, foreign section. Aoyama Cemetery is one of the few places where non-Japanese people were laid to rest beginning at the end of the 19th century.

 Contrasted with a more traditional Japanese style including a stone lantern.

Another stone lantern. Not sure if this one could be lit like others there. Imagine what it would have looked like with the stone lanterns flickering in the night.

The Foreign Section finally gained special recognition in 2007 after years of neglect for some of the plots. Not only is it interesting for people to visit but there are a number of historically important people laid to rest here.

Still not all is kept up but it's the same in other parts of the cemetery beyond the Foreign Section.

It does make for interesting photography along with wondering who these people were. Efforts have been made to document who has been laid to rest in the Foreign Section.

Especially given how worn some are due to time. While these may look vandalized, more damage has been done by earthquakes than anything else.

I must say, Aoyama Cemetery has an interesting aura of history and more.
Which brings me to one of the reasons I was checking out the Foreign Section. Besides my curiosity about it, I found out a few days before going to Japan that it was the location for a set of photos that I had wondered about. Back in the early years of the band Malice Mizer they used Aoyama Cemetery for a photo shoot. So I'm borrowing these old photos, I hope no one minds. Knowing this I did a little internet searching and found a few of the spots.

 Wilhelm Heise's stone is one of the easier to find. I wasn't actually looking for it but there it was. German engineer and instructor, best known for designing the Double Bridge, Niju Bashi, over the moat at the Imperial Palace.

 I wish I knew something about these church styled sarcophagus.


A little bit away from those is the family plot for Robert Walker Irwin, American business man and first counsel general from Hawaii to Japan.

While it's changed since Malice Mizer took their photos here, it is still recognizable. The Celtic cross at Robert Walker Irwin's marker has fallen but is behind his marker so apparently it will be repaired.

While it was fun to experience something related to the past, and also related to one of the reasons I was in Tokyo, the present was also very much happening with blue sky and pink sakura starting to bloom overhead.

At ground level butterflies flickered and people wandered through. At one place an older Japanese woman sang a hymn along with a tape. Others cleaned graves while some just walked and looked.

 And on my way out I noticed this fertile orange tree. Very present and very alive.

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