The Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan for close to 300 years.  It started with Ieyasu Tokugawa in 1600.  He was followed by his son Hidetada, who was in turn followed by his son Iemitsu.  Then there were twelve more.  They ruled until 1868.  For lovers of Japanese history we have a few questions for you … Who was the last shogun?  When did he die? And where is he buried?

Looking directly past the gate into the Tokugawa graves

Looking directly past the gate into the Tokugawa graves

If you said it was Yoshinobu Tokugawa, he died in 1913 and that he was buried in Yanaka cemetery, then you`d be right!  The cemetery still exists today and you can visit it in Taito ward, next to Nippori station.  And the best part is that you can also still see Yoshinobu`s grave.  To be honest, it is a great gravesite, very dignified.  But unfortunately you can only view it from behind a gate.  The plot is quite large actually, with quite a few accompanying graves – family members, including many of his children (mortality rates in those days were quite high unfortunately) and companions.  For anyone with a love of Japanese history it is a very remarkable place, the final link between medieval and the beginnings of modern Japan.

And there are a great number of other important historical figures in Yanaka cemetery.  There are actors and actresses, sumo wrestlers, prime ministers, mayors of Tokyo, poets, writers, painters, saints (yes, there is a saint there), educators and politicians.  The administration building has a map with most of the important people marked, but you will need knowledge of Japanese to read it, or at least have someone with you who can.  Yoshinobu`s grave though is easily found, as the way to it is marked in both Japanese and English.

The Matsudaira clan graves

The Matsudaira clan graves

As with Aoyama and Zoshigaya cemeteries, parts of it are in a very natural state, and you will see some neglected graves.  Yanaka is a great to visit in either spring or autumn.  Along “Sakura-dori” (or Cherry blossom road), there are many cherry blossom trees which make for an amazing sight during the hanami (or cherry blossom viewing) season.  The road is famous for it.  And there are also some magnificent ginkgo trees in there as well, which make autumn something very special. Walking through the cemetery in either season, can be very memorable.  We`ll be visiting it again in the near future, to update the pictures once we really hit autumn.

If you are looking for something to do one afternoon in Tokyo, then a stroll through Yanaka cemetery might be just what you need (especially in spring or autumn!).  You can see the cemetery`s (Japanese) website here.

How to get to Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka cemetery is very easy to get to.  It is on the west side of Nippori station, right next door actually, which is on the Yamanote line.  So just leave via the West exit and you`ll find the steps leading up to the cemetery just a few meters away.  We have a Google map here in case you have some trouble:

View Yanaka cemetery in a larger map

Opening hours

The office is open from 8:30am to 5:15pm and can be contacted on 03-3821-4456.  The cemetery itself is open 24 hours a day.

Admission costs

Absolutely free.

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