Location: Minami Aoyama 2 chome 33, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0062
Aoyama Cemetery is located in the south of Tokyo, close to Shibuya, and is a metropolitan cemetery. It opened in 1872 as a Shinto-only burial ground, but in 1874 it was opened to the public in general. It takes up about 260 000 square metres and houses over 100 000 gravesites. It’s well known for being the final resting grounds of many famous people over the years. You can find tombs for such figures as Okubo Toshimichi, a samurai of Satsuma and considered one of the founders of modern Japan; Komura Jutaro, a diplomat from the Meiji period; Nogi Maresuke, a general in the Imperial Japanese Army; several famous Kabuki actors who took the stage name of Ichikawa Danjuro over the years; and you can also find the tomb of the infamous Hachiko, the dog who waited in the same spot for his master to return day after day until he died. Hachiko’s owner, Ueno Hidesaburo is also buried in Aoyama Cemetery, so Hachiko was also buried next to him when he passed away nine years later. But you won’t just find the graves in this cemetery; it’s also one of the most famous ghost spots in Japan.
It’s perhaps unavoidable for cemeteries to find themselves the subject of ghost stories, but Aoyama Cemetery in particular is especially famous for it. Although it’s full of life during the day, the moment the sun sets and things get dark, the atmosphere changes completely. Perhaps due to its reputation as a ghost spot, it’s rare to find people in or around the cemetery come nightfall. People new to the area often comment that they receive warnings not to hang around after dark, superstition or not, and many continue to heed that advice today.
You’ve probably heard of the urban legend where a taxi driver picks up a young woman from a cemetery late one night, but when he looks in the rearview mirror a short while later there is no-one in the back seat. Not only is the woman gone, the back seat is completely drenched. There are other versions where the cemetery is the destination rather than the pickup, but in either case, the original cemetery in this legend is Aoyama. There are rumours that many taxis refuse to pick passengers up from Aoyama Cemetery at night even today, and very few pass by in the first place. It’s not just taxis, either. Bus drivers have reported the “STOP” light inside their buses going off as they approach the stop near Aoyama Cemetery even though no-one is on-board…
Another famous story tells of a group of youths who visited the cemetery late at night for a test of courage, but were then dragged into another world. There are supposedly several locations around the cemetery that link to a different world, but no-one knows for sure where they are exactly. If you’re going to the cemetery at night, be careful! You might not return…
Other visitors to the cemetery have remarked seeing signs with “!” on them. In general, a sign with “!” on it is usually followed by a set of rules or warnings that people need to heed, such as ‘Don’t walk on the grass’ or ‘Be careful of traffic.’ Yet this particular sign has no warnings, simply a large “!” on it. So what does it mean? If you see one of these signs, chances are it’s warning you that there are ghosts about. The signs pop up all over the park, and according to the rumours, when they do, you best get out of there quick-smart. Ghosts are on the prowl, and you don’t want to be around for them to find you.
But that’s still not all for one of the most haunted cemeteries in Japan. There are also stories of two shadows that can be seen floating in the area during the night. What they do exactly depends on the people who witness them; some have claimed they get sucked into thin air, while others have seen them appear suddenly out of nowhere whilst driving. The two shadows are different sizes, one small, one large, leading many to believe they are the shadows of a mother and child not quite laid to rest just yet. They’ve been known to cause accidents by appearing suddenly in front of cars and haunting people within the park.
If you ever find your way to Aoyama Cemetery, particularly during spring, it’s a popular area to walk around due to the beautiful cherry blossoms. Just be mindful of the time. You really don’t want to get caught there at night. No need to add yet another story to the already long list.