08 July, 2006

The Zoshigaya cemeteries / Zoshigaya area

Not so far from Ikebukuro, there are spacious cemeteries. It's a peaceful and quiet place and many people visit there for a walk.
The Zoshigaya cemeteries was established in 19 century, and a lot of famous people of Japanese history were buried there.
You can get the grave map(Japanese only) at the cemeteries office . This is a free map, but don't forget some donation into the donation box.

I'll introduce some graves.

Natsume Soseki
My favorite author. When I was a pupil of elementary school, I met "Botchan" and stucked on his world. I loved his sense of humor. Then, I found "I am a Cat" in my mother's bookshelf when I was in junior high. Since then, I've been reading his great novels, "Sanshiro", "Kokoro", "And then", "Kusamakura", et.al. If you have never been reading his novel, I strongly recommend you to visit the Soseki world. (for more infomation: Natsume Soseki)
FYI, his portrait had been used in the 1,000 yen bill until the year before last.

Soseki and his wife's gravestone was extremely big.

Nakahama John Manjiro
The first Japanese who went to the States. I loved his biography when I was in an elementary school. His adventurous life story encouraged me.
Manjiro was originally a poor fisherman who lived in Nakahama village of Tosa (Kouchi prefecture). When he was 14 years old( in 1841), his fishing boat met a typhoon and wrecked. He drifted away but finally he was rescued by the American whaling ship the John-Howland. Captain of the ship was William Henry Whitfield.
Manjiro had not had any official education but Captain Whitfield found that he was a clever boy. Captain Whitfield bring him to the States and provided him an education in Massachusetts. Manjiro studied English, math, surveying, navigation, shipbuilding, etc.
In 1851, he went back to Japan. He was employed by Tokugawa Bakufu (Japanese government in the Edo-era), and he had been playing an important role in Japanese history from the end of the Edo-era to the beginning of the Meiji-era.
The name "John" was given by the captain Whitfield from the name of his ship the John-Howland. Nowadays he is popular as "John Manjiro".

His gravestone was shining proudly with the early summer sunlight.

Oni-Azami Seikichi (Oni-Azami means thistle. Seikichi the thistle?)
Surprisingly, this cemeteries includes the grave of the master thief.
Oni-Azami Seikichi was a very famous thief and became the model of some novels, Rakugo(Japanese sit-down comedy), Kabuki and Ukiyoe(wood block prints Seikichi by Toyokuni).
He was arrested and executed in 1805(Edo-era). This gravestone was originally placed in Asakusa (downtown Tokyo), then, moved to Zohshigaya in 1913(Taisho-era).

Can you see the edge of the gravestone was scraped off? Someone collected a piece of the gravestone for a good-luck amulet. Can you imagine who did it?

In olden days, the thieves and gamblers did it. Yep, the guys in the same industry. Maybe they thought they could do a "big job" like Seikichi.
In recent years, the students taking an entrance exam did it. According to the Seikichi's legend, he could sneak into any buildings under the tightest security. If you got a piece of his gravestone, you would be able to enter any colleges where you wanted to get in.

The closest station is "Zoshigaya" of the Tram (Toei Streetcar(Toden) Arakawa line).

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