After my stroll through Akasaka in the morning, I decided to continue on to Aoyama – which is very close by.
I passed the Takahashi Korekiyo Memorial Park, which is a small park next to a residential area. I would not have stopped, if I had not seen these little stone fellows standing there – I do not know if they are guardians or not, but they seem to be protecting or guiding something.
In the middle of the park is this statue:
But what I found most interesting where all the ‘no-smoking’ signs dotted throughout the park, on park benches and bins. There was an actual designated smoking area just at one of the corners of the park!
I continued on towards Aoyama, which (during the Edo Period) used to be home to various temples, shrines and samurai residences. Some of these are still visible today. The name Aoyama derived from a samurai named Aoyama Tadanari who served the Tokugawa Shogunate and held his mansion in this area. Today, along with Shibuya and Harajuku, it is one of the most popular entertainment and shopping areas for young people in Tokyo. It is well known for its fashion houses, restaurants, and shopping areas – but it has many quiet corners to explore.
One of them is the Aoyama Cemetery (Aoyama Reien) which dates back to 1872. It was Japan’s first public cemetery. Its landscaping is subtle, with a hint left of the wild, and there is a huge variety of different styles of graves – most of them are in the Japanese-style, but with a sprinkling of Westerners’ graves, too.
One unusual, but famous grave, is that of the dog Hachiko, whose statue adorns an entrance of Shibuya station a little further east down Aoyama-dori. I didn’t visit the grave, because the cemetery is very big, but I saw many several stray cats!
You can already see the Mori Tower in the background, but I decided to explore this on another day:
For today, I continued my walk to The National Arts Center (NACT), which is housed in a beautiful building designed by Kisho Kurokawa (one of the founders of the Metabolist Movement in architecture) and Nihon Sekkei. Since its opening in 2007, it is the largest exhibition space of any museum in Japan and probably also one of the largest exhibition sites in Asia.
It really is spacious, with a big airy lobby – and lots of glass everywhere. Its front is a unique shape, it looks like a curtain made out of glass, don’t you think?
NACT is an ’empty museum’, without a collection, permanent display and curators. It accommodates temporary exhibitions sponsored and curated by other organisations – and so far I have been lucky to visit a Manga/Anime show, a magnificent Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition and just recently wonderful works by Renoir. The center is open from 10am to 6pm, except on Tuesdays.