Walking down a picturesque pathway surrounded by beautiful sakura tress and pretty flowers, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a garden rather than a huge cemetery where some of the most famous figures in Japanese history are buried.
The Yanaka Cemetery, or Yanaka Bochi as it was called in those days, was established in 1872, after the Meiji Restoration period that shook the country like a storm. Many old traditions and customs were changed or abandoned under the nationalistic Meiji government, which separated the Buddhist and Shinto religions. Because the vast majority of cemeteries back then were part of Buddhist temples, public plots were established to accommodate the Shinto religious funerals.
The land for the cemetery was taken from the Tennoji temple and became the largest cemetery in Japan at that time, with some 7,000 graves. Many famous figures are interred in this scenic necropolis, including Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of Japan, who died in 1913, marking the end of an era. His tomb is in a gated section of the cemetery along with the graves of the other members of the Tokugawa clan.
Know Before You Go
Yanaka Cemetery lies within a 1-minute walk from Nippori Station and 5 minutes from Nishi-Nippori and Uguisudani stations. It's open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. The cemetery is also known for the beautiful cherry blossoms that create a stunning canopy over the cemetery paths in April, making it one of the best spots in Tokyo to see the flowering sakura trees.