When I planned my trip to Japan in 2006 I wanted to visit Kyoto and Tokyo. In the minds of the Japanese, Kyoto is Japan’s past and Tokyo is Japan’s present. Although it wasn’t my first time in Kyoto it was the first time I got to choose where we stopped. On the way to a temple I happened upon a large graveyard by a river. I wish I would have spent more time trying to learn the name of the place. The photos here don’t give a very good sense of how immense the place was. I’ve visited a number of graveyards in Japan during my past trips but I don’t remember seeing one this big.
It was a sunny and peaceful day and the graveyard added to the calm I felt as I walked about Kyoto. There were other people there enjoying the site as I was but not very many. I can see now why graveyard scenes appear in anime and manga so often. Off the top of my head I can remember scenes from Maison Ikkoku, the first episode of Gigantic Formula and the Nadesico movie but graveyards appear frequently in anime. They are tranquil and scenic places where you not only pay your respects to loved ones but also pause to reflect. This graveyard in Kyoto had the same effect on the people traveling with me that day and I thought nothing short of a natural catastrophe could make them pause!
According to Japanese Buddhist tradition, when a person dies their birthday is no longer celebrated. The day they died becomes their deathday and that is instead remembered by loved ones. An honorary death name is bestowed upon them in a ceremony performed by a Buddhist priest and that name is carved into their grave marker. The grave markers are quite attractive and tastefully done. The mix of old and new added depth to the site.