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stone and dust

travel, photography and musings on cemeteries, memorials, and other dark sites

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Japan

Site 87: Random burial places, Kyoto

I was on my way to work when I decided to do a little detour to visit a couple of sites in the local area that I always meant to visit, but never did. Even though it’s been quite a cold winter here in Kyoto (in fact, the morning started with a blanket of snow, but was gone by the time I Continue reading “Site 87: Random burial places, Kyoto”

Site 86: Kyoto’s Nison-in Temple Cemetery

The Arashiyama district in Kyoto is one of the most popular, and therefore crowded, areas of the city. During the fall foliage season, the number of visitors to this area seem to increase tenfold, making it a crush of humanity no matter where you go. As such, this is usually a place I avoid. Continue reading “Site 86: Kyoto’s Nison-in Temple Cemetery”

Site 83: Kyoto’s Kurodani Temple Cemetery

I like going for walks and exploring different neighbourhoods, but I often return to the same places time and again. Which often leads me to explore lesser known areas, which is how I stumbled across Kurodani Temple, just north of Heian Shrine and a bit west Continue reading “Site 83: Kyoto’s Kurodani Temple Cemetery”

Site 79: Kyoto’s Tenji Mausoleum

I like going for walks, especially at night when it’s quite and there are fewer people about. I’ve been slowly exploring the outer reaches of my neighbourhood/district, and as such, have come to realise that I have easy access to the Biwa Canal route. This is a canal that for years brought water (and Continue reading “Site 79: Kyoto’s Tenji Mausoleum”

Site 76: Hagi’s Tenjuin Mausoleum

This is a small cemetery that I stumbled across while visiting Hagi. I had gone up to the castle grounds and had planned to buy some hagi yaki (pottery from Hagi – it’s quite well-known and has a distinctive look). However, when I went to pay for my purchases I realised that I had left my Continue reading “Site 76: Hagi’s Tenjuin Mausoleum”

Site 75: Hagi’s Daishōin Cemetery

…or the twin cemetery to Tōkōji, or perhaps I should say its elder sibling, as it was established several decades earlier, in 1656. The first, and even-numbered Mori lords are buried here (the odd-numbered ones, minus the first, are at Tōkōji). It definitely takes a little more Continue reading “Site 75: Hagi’s Daishōin Cemetery”

Site 74: Hagi’s Tōkōji Cemetery

Ah, the dilemma. Should I write about Tōkōji and Daishoin together, or separately? They are virtually twin temples/cemeteries here in Hagi, but they were built at opposite ends of the city. There are some slight differences though, and to help me keep them Continue reading “Site 74: Hagi’s Tōkōji Cemetery”

Site 72: Nagasaki’s Sakamoto Int’l Cemetery

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 Continue reading “Site 72: Nagasaki’s Sakamoto Int’l Cemetery”

Site 70: Nagasaki’s Sōfuku-ji Temple Cemetery

Sōfuku-ji is an old Chinese temple not far from Nagasaki’s Chinatown. It was established in 1629 by a Chinese monk name Chaonian and is actually one of the best examples of a Ming dynasty temple not only in Japan, but in China as well. Most of the structures were Continue reading “Site 70: Nagasaki’s Sōfuku-ji Temple Cemetery”

Site 71: Nagasaki’s Oura Cemetery

Nagasaki is well-known for the number of foreign nationals that traded, worked, and lived there over the centuries. In the Meiji era especially, a large foreign population lived in the Dejima and Oura neighbourhoods. The Oura Catholic Church is the oldest church Continue reading “Site 71: Nagasaki’s Oura Cemetery”

Site 69: Nagasaki’s Inasa Cemetery

Nagasaki is known for its openness and interactions with foreign merchants, traders, and missionaries, even when all of Japan was shut to the rest of the world. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there is not one, but three cemeteries where foreign nationals Continue reading “Site 69: Nagasaki’s Inasa Cemetery”

Site 68: Nagasaki’s Peace Park

Three days after the horrific events of August 6, 1945, Japan was devastated once again when the Fat Man bomb was dropped over Nagasaki. Even though this was a bigger bomb than the one dropped on Hiroshima, its damage was limited due to the geography Continue reading “Site 68: Nagasaki’s Peace Park”

Site 67: Hiroshima’s Peace Park

The first time I visited the Peace Park and Memorial in Hiroshima was in 2000, the year I got transferred to work in the city. It was the first place I visited after I got settled in here. I remember that as I walked through the park, I was very conscious of being from the “side” that dropped the bomb on the city and felt like I owed an apology to every Japanese I saw. That feeling was only magnified after visiting the museum, where all the horrors of that fateful day were on display. 

However, it didn’t take long for that feeling to disappear, as the reality of living in Hiroshima began to take hold. I found it to be a greener city than most I had experienced at that point. And the Peace Park, at the centre of the city, is a living, breathing park, used by locals in their everyday activities – cycling, jogging, singing, and just hanging out. It became a favourite place for many of the teachers I worked with to have lunch, or to meet up after work and have a few drinks by the river (often sitting right at the dome to do so). Life goes on.

Of course, I’ve been to the memorial ceremony that happens every year on the anniversary of the day that the Ebola Gay dropped the atomic bomb just over the city on August 6, 1945. When that terrible event happened, those who were not immediately killed in the blast were suffering from severe burns, and thousands of people jumped into the many rivers that cross the city in order to find some relief. But so many jumped in that they completely clogged the rivers. Eventually, the bodies were removed and cremated, and those ashes (along with many others) were put together into a memorial mound just west of the epicentre, across the river. The mound is in a quitter part of the park, and I always find it to be a moving place. While I was visiting, numerous people came to pay their respects, light incense, and say a prayer. Many people left flowers, or more poignantly, bottles of water, for the victims of that day.

In the original neighbourhoods that made up what is now the Peace park, there was an old temple called Jisenji temple, and it had the graves of various people within its compound. But on the day the bomb was dropped, everything was obliterated, save for one tomb, that of Kuwait Okamoto, a councillor to the Asano house. The capstone was toppled in the blast, but the grave remains. Nearby lies the monument to the 20,000 Korean victims of the blast. 

On the morning of August 6th, there is always a ceremony involving a lot of speeches by various dignitaries, followed by the release of doves. I went to the ceremony back in 2001, but was not able to see it today, as I could not get a hotel room in the city the night before. But I was there in the afternoon when there were multiple performances happening throughout the park by various choral groups. Of cours, the real draw is in the evening, when people place lanterns on the river I rememberance of all the lost souls from that day. Even though I’ve been to ceremony many times, I had only done the lantern once, the first time. But I decided to brave the long lines this time, wrote a message of peace on my green lantern, and finally placed it on the river. Unfortunately the wind kept blowing out my candle, but at least my lantern didn’t topple over like so many of the others. The wind and the choppiness of the river did not help much. Of course, if you wait until later in the evening when the river changes course, you may find that more of the lanterns stay afloat.

As I write this, a typhoon is starting to hit Japan, which will mean a lot of rain in the next day or two, and certainly this afternoon was a bit cloudy and gloomy as a result. But the clouds broke at sunset, and we had a lovely sunset behind the A-bomb dome, made even more magical by all the candles that surrounded the fence. Most of the candles had designs and messages on them that were drawn on by children. Photographing those little beacons of light was a lovely way to end my visit to the Peace Park.

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Site 66: Kyoto’s Honen-in Temple Cemetery

I like to go for walks at night. It’s quieter, cooler, and there are fewer people out and about. It gives me a chance to de-stress and get a little exercise while I’m at it. However, I’ve gotten quite bored with my little neighbourhood, so I’ve been jumping on Continue reading “Site 66: Kyoto’s Honen-in Temple Cemetery”

Site 54: Kyoto’s Jizoyama Cemetery

Not far from the mound of ears is a large temple complex that most tourists to the city give a miss. Chishaku-in is a Buddhist temple that features some nice small gardens, but I have yet to find a single reference to the large cemetery that lies at the very back of the complex. Of course, Continue reading “Site 54: Kyoto’s Jizoyama Cemetery”

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