For many people, the Musashi Imperial Graveyard could hardly be called a tourist spot, but it is one of those little-known places in Tokyo that is very special to those who have an interest in Japan’s Imperial history. It is located in the hills of Hachioji city, on the outskirts of Tokyo, and contains the remains of two Japanese emperors (Shōwa and Taishō) and their wives (Kojun and Teimei). If you are interested in Japan's Imperial Family and/or Japanese history, I highly recommend it.
It is a very simple cemetery. The entrance is very large and spacious with a small garden and pond on the right and an administration building on the left. Behind the administration building is a small house used by official visitors. From there a path leads up to the tombs through deep forest. The trees block out the sights and sounds of the surrounding city which gives some privacy and solitude to those inside. It clearly is a special place. There is absolutely nothing touristy or tacky here - no souvenir shops or drink machines. It is everything an Imperial cemetery should be.
The tombs are very simple, very elegant. Each has a courtyard with a torii (the gate you see at Shinto shrines) with a staircase leading up to a fenced off area. Inside are the tombs themselves, huge stone mounds (or domes if you prefer) that are made of countless little stones, that are probably about as big as a large man's fist, all locking into each other. The Taisho Emperor's tomb is my favourite. It is situated at the top of a rather steep and long stone staircase, that is clearly higher than the other three. The dome also seems to be taller than the others.
Near each emperor, you'll find his wife. And while the Emperors' are the most impressive the women’s tombs are prettiest. Especially the Empress Kojun’s. Hers seems to be a little lower in height than the others and with the trees a little further away, and the stones being lighter in colour, I think it is very beautiful.
A new section has also been added near the Taisho Emperor's tomb, this one which is still under construction, which will eventually be for the current Emperor. The Emperor and his wife, the Empress Michiko, have commented on how they would like to be buried, so it remains to be seen what the site will eventually look like.
If you have an interest in the Japanese Imperial Family, the Musashi Imperial Graveyard is a great place to visit. You can see the Imperial Household Agency’s (Japanese) website for the graveyard here.
How to get to Musashi Imperial Graveyard
It is quite easy to get to. You can use either the Keio or Chuo lines from Shinjuku station. Both trains stop at Takao station, with their respective platforms only a few tens of meters apart. The trip by either train takes roughly one hour if you can get an express. If you get the Keio line, just be aware that the line splits in two. You need to change trains at Kitano station and use the Keio Takao line else you'll end up in Hachioji. Just remember to check train schedules before you go. From the Takao station is it about a twenty (hilly) walk from the station. Here is a Google Map to give you some help:
There are also ample car parking facilities for those who wish to travel there by car.
The Musashi Imperial Graveyard is open from 9am to 4pm, with last entry at 3:30pm.
If you enjoyed these articles, you might also enjoy reading about:
Aoyama Cemetery - Tokyo's first public cemetery. It is beautiful and filled with history
Gotokuji - the temple that is home to Japan's beckoning cats
History Garage – located in Odaiba, this museum is all about cars
Imperial Palace - home to Japan's emperor. A great place for photos!
Tower Hall Funabori – a small observatory, but a great one.