Whispering Star / Aoyama Cemetery

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The Whispering Star @ the Watari Museum Of Contemporary Art– Famous Japanese film director, Sion Sono, is known for his precise storyboarding and interesting sets. This exhibition re-creates a hall that a character walks through. It is lined with traditional translucent rice paper and the shadowy figures lurk behind, performing typical Japanese activities. One that specifically stuck out was the a couple praying before a shrine to their ancestors in their home. The ancestral shrine in the home is a very important feature in Japan, and in many ways it acts just like a grave, but without any material remains of the deceased.

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Aoyama Cemetery: Busts are possibly my favorite headstone model. I would love to imagine a cemetery that completely consists of sculptural representations of those buried there. The reason this was never done is because a personal sculpture takes time, money, and a skilled craftsman. But  with the development of  3-D printing, digital imaging, and  other software, I think this idea has potential to become much more affordable in the future.


The Aoyama cemetery has an interesting small section labeled “foreign graves.” Here you can find mostly European people from the previous century who came to Japan as missionaries, teachers, and businessmen. Immigration witnessed through the cemetery landscape is a theme in which I have taken a huge interest. In places like Germany and Australia, you can find many different types of graves from all different cultures and religion- there is not necessarily one standard pattern. This is because these countries are very desirable places for people to come looking for a new life. However, Japan is very homogenous and it extremely difficult and only 1.5% of the population are foreigners. In the cemetery I clearly see this. The graves are all very similar in style, pattern, format, and tradition- and the foreign section is clearly labeled as “other” because it is not only separate, but the headstones are also all unique. The other place that I found something similar was in Egypt- another country where very few people choose to permanently immigrate.

DSC_0086DSC_0082DSC_0089DSC_0091DSC_0119typical Japanese grave plotDSC_0125cleaning toolsDSC_0080DSC_0054leftover incenseDSC_0135Aoyama Cemetery

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