Nagoya is not on most tourists’ itineraries when visiting Japan, and usually for good reason. It lies in the middle of a flat plain, is the hub of big manufacturing in the country, and was very heavily bombed during the war, which destroyed a lot of old buildings. I’ve never had any real interest in the city itself, but despite that, I always have a great time whenever I visit.
For the taphophile, there are a number of interesting cemeteries to visit if you happen to be in the city. I only had time for one on this trip, so I started with the largest: the Heiwa Koen (Peace Park) Cemetery. The park itself was dedicated to the memory of the victims of WWII and has numerous walking trails, a 17th-century pond, and over 2500 cherry trees over its 150 hectares, making it a popular spot for hanami in the spring. The cemetery makes up a substantial part of the park. Over 190,000 graves were moved here from the centre of the city to allow for rebuilding. Of course, it’s still a working cemetery (as evidenced by the maintenance workers I saw there building a new gravesite), but I don’t know the total number of internments that are currently here.
The cemetery has a number of interesting monuments and statues. One OS a large tomb dedicated to those people who donated their bodies for medical research. It’s on top of a small hill. Bronze doors featuring children are at the entrance of the tomb, and a large, multifaceted sphere markers the top of the monument. I guess the sphere’s resemblance to a golf ball is too enticing to local golfers, as there are numerous signs at the top of the hill saying that any golf practicing is prohibited. I have to admit that’s a first for me in terms of cemetery prohibitions!
There are a number of other memorials here, including a pyramid of jizo statues meant for the memory of aborted fetuses. Although this is a distinctive monument, I couldn’t find it either on the local cemetery maps, or by wandering over most of the grounds. I’m sure with more time I would have found it, but I had to get back into the city to catch the train back to Kyoto. However, I know I’ll be back soon – there are a number of other cemeteries I would like to visit in the city, and it’s only a 30-minute ride on the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya.
Monuments: There are a few statues, towers, and other monuments scattered through the park/cemetery. They’re not concentrated in any one place, so it does encourage you to explore a bit more.
Grounds: This is a large cemetery that extends over multiple hills in the park. You can catch a bus from the major road that runs through the park. There are a lot of trees and occasionally benches to rest on. There are toilets throughout the park, but most of them are squatters – I only found one Western style toilet near a play area at the edge of the park/cemetery.
Visitors: There were a few visitors, but given how big the cemetery is, you’ll rarely run into anyone.
Notes: Give yourself at least 2-3 hours to explore the park/cemetery properly. Spring would be a great time to visit with all the cherry trees here.
Cemetery: Heiwa Koen Reien (Peace Park Cemetery)
Established: Post WWII, although many graves are much older than that
Location: Heiwa Park, Nagoya. There’s a bus from Jiyūgaoka Station (Meijo line), but it’s only a 10-minute walk to the park itself.
Hours: Open daily, no closing hours. However it doesn’t appear to be lit at night.
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