Cherry blossoms at Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo

What kind of flowers can be found in a Japanese cemetery? When we hear the phrase ‘flowers in a cemetery’, we usually see pots of autumn chrysanthemums in front of our eyes. With the Japanese, this is somewhat different. Firstly, the golden chrysanthemum is a symbol of the imperial family, used as the national emblem. Secondly, the Japanese associate the Day of the Dead not with flowers, but with dancing. Thirdly, it should not be forgotten that the Japanese love to gamble at online casinos, and casitabi casino Japan I can recommend.

What I do not associate with a cemetery at all is a picnic. And here again the cultural differences come to light – the Japanese do not see anything strange in it.

Hanami with ancestors

I remember going to the Aoyama (青山霊園) cemetery near the university when the sakura was in bloom. This Tokyo cemetery belongs to the canon of places to visit during April hanami. I expected to see trees drowning in flowers, growing between old tombstones. However, what I saw under them surprised me a bit. On the grass, between the tombs, Japanese people were carelessly sitting and feasting. Casual conversations, laughter, snacks and alcohol; in a word – hanami in full swing. Only that among their dead ancestors.

As you can see, in Japan eating and drinking at a cemetery is not perceived in a bad light (in our country cemeteries are usually considered impure places, although the Orthodox have a different attitude to it), just as loud conversations or loud laughter. However, having remembered that I am in a foreign culture and the rules I have learned at home often have no place here, I moved on to looking at the cherry blossoms. And they were phenomenal as usual.

Aoyama Cemetery

Aoyama Cemetery is the first municipal cemetery in Tokyo. It was established during the Meiji period, in 1872. Tokyo Aoyama can be the famous general Maresuke Nogi, whose temple rises on nearby Nogizaka (hence the name of the station) and Shigeru Yoshida, two-time prime minister of post-war Japan.

Also buried at Aoyama are prominent Western advisers to Emperor Meiji, who helped him in the process of modernising Japan in the second half of the 19th century. One of them is the Canadian missionary Alexander Croft Shaw, who helped to discover the charms and popularise Karuizawa – a fashionable summer resort for wealthy Tokyoites.

There are also tombstones of Tokyo University professor Hidesaburō Ueno and his famous dog Hachiko, whose statue stands in front of one of the entrances to Shibuya Station. Although the remains of the faithful dog Hachiko are housed in the National Science Museum in Ueno, a tombstone has been erected next to his beloved master to commemorate him

The actual Aoyama district extends east from Shibuya, reaching the intersection of the famous Omotesando-dori and Aoyama-dori. The district takes its name from the Edo period general Tadanori Aoyama, who had his residence here. But do you know what aoyama (青山) means in Japanese? Aoyama means “blue hill”. Perhaps it’s pure coincidence, but to me “blue hill” seems quite a poetic term for a cemetery.

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