I am confused by this new 6 story tower at the corner of a cemetery in Nichome. There are few windows, except for this giant floor to ceiling view of the graves on the first floor. Will this become 6 stories of micro-bars? Or is it a new vertical space to perform funerals and ceremonies for the dead?
The road through Aoyama Cemetery is lined with gorgeous old cherry trees. I went there for AQ‘s office hanami party, and on the way home I took this photo at twilight.
Tokyo is always under construction. Yet it is uncanny to see the building cranes echoing the hundreds of grave stones and wooden memorials below. The site is the former Harajuku Danchi public housing, which is being replaced by luxury apartments, directly above from Myoenji temple and graveyard. The temple has some very lovely, old trees. I wonder what type of landscape the new building will offer its neighbors.
In urban settings, shrines and the entrances to cemeteries are open all day and night. Especially at night, they provide equal doses of nature and mystery that is both within and separate from normal urban life. These long exposure photos capture some of the magical beauty of nighttime trees, plants, shadows and stones.
This experience in a nighttime cemetery reminds me of a term I recently learned from a Tokyo University professor who works at Hakuhodo: harappa (原っぱ). Harappa is an in-between urban and wild place that traditionally allowed children a space to play and explore. It could be a meadow, a grove of trees, or an abandoned building. With ever increasing construction and denser urban lives, these liminal spaces are harder to find. Shrines function as one of the most solid barriers against total urbanization.
A small tip: I recently learned how to take crisp nighttime photos with an inexpensive digital camera. To avoid shaking and blurring from long exposures, use the timer and set the camera on a hard surface.
Braving the summer heat, I walked through the huge green space of Aoyama Cemetery in Minato. Despite the approach of the obon holiday, there were few people inside the park, including a solitary runner and a few cars passing through. The cicadas were incredibly loud, and large crows perched in the trees.
Aoyama Cemetery is Tokyo’s largest (26,000 square meters), with hills, valleys, many trees, and a central lane with 200 cherry trees. The 100,000 graves include Hachiko, famous Japanese politicians and artists, as well as a foreigner section (gaijin bochi).
The cemetery is incredibly central, and provides a mix of natural views and tombs juxtaposed with the sights of new skyscrapers on the periphery. There is an odd resonance between the tombs and the tall buildings in the distance.
Along with temple and shrines, small cemeteries provide open space in Tokyo. Some are very well maintained, others less so. I am very fond of peonies.