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Aoyama Cemetery

I have officially survived three months at my job and am closing in on my 100th day in Japan. I haven't been in Japan for this much continuous time since my junior year in high school...

The past few days I've been on a training retreat in the mountains with the other summer hire and the incoming class of fall hires. We spent four days in a training facility, wearing business suits, and having information pounded into our brain all the while this view taunted us:

The area the facility is located in is known for its hot spring resorts. While we weren't exactly staying at a resort, per se, there was a bathing room that used natural hot springs water.

I love onsen (hot springs) so, so much so having this was a definite perk.

I was fortunate enough to have today and tomorrow off so I can fully recover and relax from training and ready myself for the next month of work. I decided to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)--it's sort of like the Japanese equivalent of the TOEIC test for English-- in December and started studying for that, today, which is clearly going to be a lot more work than I thought. So maybe I'm actually not really "relaxing" at all? Whoops...

Today was a lovely fall day. Sunny but not too warm, and even though the sun goes down super early here I walked around the Aoyama Cemetery for a good chunk of the afternoon. (Fun fact: Japan doesn't have daylight savings time so in the winter the sun both rises and sets really early compared to the US).

The Aoyama Cemetery was, quite possibly, the most relaxed and peaceful cemetery I've ever been to.

It's neatly organized into labeled sections and rows; each grave has its own number. Apparently in the spring the many cherry trees throughout the massive plot (which occupies some primo land in the centrally-located Minami Aoyama area) attract lots of visitors for hanami--flower viewing parties.

There are quite a few famous Meiji era (1868-1912) people buried here, including samurai, politicians, and generals. I went, naturally, to the most famous grave of all:

This is the grave of Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo, and his dog, Hachiko, who famously waited 9 years at Shibuya Station or his master to return from work, not knowing that Hidesaburo had suddenly passed away.

Here's the little grave for Hachiko, which people have adorned with small dog-themed trinkets, flowers, and even a packet of dog food! (On Hidesaburo's grave someone left a bottle of beer.)

Famous dogs aside, there is one more reason the Aoyama Cemetery is particularly unique: it has a dedicated section for "foreigner graves."

Here, in one little subplot of the massive cemetery, are the graves of foreigners who died in Tokyo, many of whom were instrumental in Japan's modernizing agenda during the Meiji restoration. The graves are engraved with messages in English, German, French, and likely other languages I either didn't spot or recognize.

In 2005 these graves were under threat of removal due to some unpaid fees; after a group of foreign residents in stepped in to pay the fees the section was awarded special protection in 2007.

All in all a charming and serene place to walk around.

Oh, except for the last thing I saw as I was leaving:


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