Not far from the one-legged torii that stands near Sano Shrine is Nagasaki’s most well-known cemetery, the Sakamoto International Cemetery. It’s claim to fame lies mostly in the fact that is the final resting place for Thomas B. Glover, a Scottish industrialist who had a large impact not only in Nagasaki, but also in other parts of Japan. Of course, there are many other people buried there, from all around the world – Sweden, Vietnam, France, Scotland, etc.
The cemetery is split into two parts – the larger south section is on a slightly more rolling hillside, while the newer north section is on a much more gentle slope. When I was visiting I happened to notice a groundskeeper there, who alternated being sweeping leaves and texting on his phone. Many of the graves have crosses and simple inscriptions, but there were a few with statues or more elaborate carvings. A busy road runs to the left side of the cemetery, but there’s a large wall with a number of crosses in it to help keep that distraction to a minimum. While there were some steps to get up to the higher sections of the graveyard, the inclines were not that steep and it was easy to walk around the shaded grounds. The graves and the site in general are really well maintained.
There are a few notable sections in the graveyard. One, uniformly laid section, is for French soldiers who fought in the Boxer Rebellion (China, 1900). A smaller section for Vietnamese soldiers who also died in that war lies nearby. There’s also a separate Jewish cemetery with a short wall and an arch leading into the section. This cemetery is the only real reminder of the Jewish presence that once existed in Nagasaki. Across from the Jewish cemetery is the grave of Dr. Takashi Nagai, an atomic bomb survivor, who is known for his research on the medical effects of the bombings, as well as his peace activities.
The last graves, at the end of the northern section, are that of Glover, his son Kuraba Tomisaburō, and Kuraba’s wife. Kuraba had a hard time being a dual-national in Japan during the war – being accused of being a spy at one point. Shortly after the atomic bombings, but before the arrival of the American occupational forces, he committed suicide on August 26, 1945. It is thought that he did not want to have to take sides between the victors and vanquished. His (also mixed-race) wife, Waka, was dead, they had no children. So he strangled his dogs and then took his own life. I didn’t know his story before coming here, and I find it both sad and moving that he couldn’t find a path for himself in post-war Japan.
Monuments: There are a few statues and other reliefs, but most of the headstones are of crosses or stone slabs.
Grounds: Slightly hilly, but very shaded with all of the trees that lie within the grounds.
Visitors: None while I was there.
Photographer notes: With the trees and strong sunlight, it can get quite contrasty, especially if you want to take photos of the inscriptions. Bright overcast days would work better for that.
Name: Sakamoto International Cemetery (坂本国際墓地 Sakamoto Kokusai Bochi))
Established: 1888 (the second section was added in 1903)
Internments: Thomas B. Glover, Dr. Takashi Nagai
Location: Urakami area of Nagasaki, get off at Morimachi or Urakami Ekimae tram stations and walk north. It’s well sign-posted.
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