My 5: Aoyama Cemetery & Hachiko’s Grave, Tokyo.

Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.

Reading from China? This My 5 contains a YouTube video, which can only be viewed with a VPN!

1. February 2019. Regular LL readers will know that wherever I am in the world I do love a good cemetery! But with all the things to see and do in Tokyo I very nearly didn’t make it to Aoyama Cemetery, the Japanese capital’s sprawling graveyard with a history dating back to the 1870s. In the end it was the prospect of finding Hachiko the dog’s burial spot that drove me to squeeze Aoyama in before I headed back to China. I’d been utterly charmed by the whole Hachiko story and had already seen the little dog’s statue outside Shibuya Station, so this seemed like an essential side dish.

Visit Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

February 2019. I’m usually really organized when it comes to my exploring. More often than not I have shit planned out in my iPhone notes itinerary. This saves me time, avoids setbacks like long queues, stuff not being open and the million and one other things that can screw up a day plan. But alas with Aoyama Cemetery I figured I’d just show up and figure out where Hachiko’s grave is. I mean how hard could it be?

Map of Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

2. February 2019. Pretty hard as it turns out! Firstly I’d massively underestimated the size of Aoyama Cemetery, it’s ****ing huge! Secondly, the cemetery map I consulted was Japanese only and shed no light whatsoever on the different sections, or indeed where Japan’s most famous dog is resting. Hmmm.

Foreign section Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
Foreign section – Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

I wandered around Aoyama Cemetery for about an hour before I finally realized I wasn’t going to find Hachiko on my own. Still it was a delightful experience discovering Aoyama’s many charms. The cemetery is incredibly well-kept and super organized, with sections on the military, children, famous Japanese people and notable foreigners who lived and died in Tokyo.

In Memoriam Charles Dickinson West Aoyama Cemetery.
Foreign section – Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

As always it was fascinating to inspect the gravestones and try to piece together what kind of lives these people had so far from home back in olden times. A large chunk of the memorials in Aoyama Cemetery’s foreign section is for Christian missionaries, artists and professors. Charles Dickson West was an Irishman from Dublin who, among many other achievements, worked as a foreign advisor to Meiji Japan. The dude even has his own Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickinson_West

Looking for Hachiko's grave Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
Searching for Hachiko – Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

3. It was harder than I thought to find someone who could help me. There were very few people in Aoyama Cemetery that afternoon and the few folk I did bump into couldn’t speak English. So I prepared a little spiel with the help of Google Translate and approached this guy, who went to great lengths in trying to help me find Hachiko. He consulted the map, searched on his phone and called a friend, but all to no avail. In the end he found out there was a visitor centre and set me off in its rough direction! Finally… I was getting warmer.

Visitors Centre Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
The Visitors Centre – Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

It was quite a walk but at long last I arrived at Aoyama Cemetery Visitor Center where literally all I had to do was say “Hachiko” and the lady behind the desk responded with a warm smile and a knowing “aaaah”.

Searching for Hachiko's grave Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
Searching for Hachiko – Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

Opening a clunky wooden drawer, she fished out a foolproof map with specific instructions (including pictures) on how to locate Hachiko’s grave. And it turned out I wasn’t far (!), just a 10-minute walk with a whole lotta straight and a couple of lefts.

4. Finally I was closing in on one of Aoyama Cemetery’s most famous residents, the much-loved Hachiko the dog, laid to rest next to his beloved master Professor Ueno Hidesaburo.

Professor Ueno and Hachiko graves Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
The graves of Professor Ueno and Hachiko – Aoyama Cemetery.
Hachiko grave Aoyama Cemetery Tokyo.
Hachiko shrine – Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo.

5. It’s a sweet, understated spot and one that clearly means a lot to Aoyama Cemetery visitors. Make sure you kneel down and check out all the little offerings people have left, such as candy, flowers, coins, banknotes, dog statues and cards with personalized messages. Rest In Peace dear Hachiko said one of the notes.

To read more about Hachiko and his amazing backstory, have a read of my article: My 5: Hachiko Statue & Mural, Tokyo.

Like this? Check out my extensive library of location reports from across the city, with articles on What To See and do In Tokyo, Tokyo’s Amazing Themed Cafes, Bars & Restaurants, Other Cool Places To Eat & Drink In Tokyo, The Tokyo Subway, Trains & Electric Lines and Where To Stay In Tokyo.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001, so why not check out my huge library of My 5s from over 30 countries.

Leighton Literature Travel blogger Travel reports short stories

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Freelance travel writer, voice over and English teacher from London. Former music and film journalist, interviewer of the stars. Passionate about travel, film, music, football, Indian food.

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