If you need some time out from the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo, the serene Zoshigaya cemetery (Zoshigaya Reien) is a quiet, green space close to one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations.
Shaded by trees, the Zoshigaya Cemetery occupies over 10 hectares of land in the Toshima ward and is the final resting place of many famous Japanese writers, artists, leaders and scholars, as well as a few notable Europeans who lived and worked in Japan.
The cemetery was founded in 1874 after burials and cremations were banned in central Tokyo, and, as a non-denominational graveyard, Zoshigaya accepted people of all religions and nationalities.
A few of the famous people buried here include:
- Hachiro Sato – famous poet and songwriter
- John Manjiro (Nakahama Manjiro) – one of the first Japanese to visit the United States
- Kyoka Izumi – writer of novels, short stories and kabuki plays
- Lafcadio Hearn – International writer best known for his books about Japan
- Natsume Soseki – a writer from the Meji period
- Raphael von Koeber – German-Russian philosophy teacher at the Tokyo Imperial University
- Seiji Togo – painter and artist
If you are not familiar with any of the famous people interned within the cemetery, it is still a pleasant area to walk around and to take time out from Tokyo’s high density, fast-paced living. More organically laid out than your typical graveyard, you can wander the winding paths, enjoy the quiet and leafy surrounds, and explore contemporary and crumbling plots and gravestones.
Visiting Zoshigaya Cemetery is free, but you can purchase a detailed map (in Japanese) with the names and locations of the most visited graves from the cemetery’s administrative office for 100 yen. You’ll find the cemetery at 4-25-1 Minami Ikebukuro, just a 20-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station.