Nakai Hiromu’s Final Resting Place

Nakai's GraveNakai Hiromu’s final resting place is in a temple called Sokushuin within the Tofukuji Temple complex in the southeast of Kyoto city. You can get there easily if you take the Keihan line to Tofukuji Station. Alternatively, it is accessible on the JR line from Kyoto Station. Tofukuji Temple is famous for its red leaves in Autumn. Sokushuin itself is normally closed to the public all year round, except in the month of November when the gardens are open to the public. The place swarms with tourists at that time of year, but the leaves are truly a sight to behold.

The picture I have included above was taken when I visited Nakai’s grave (centre) this year on the 114th anniversary of his death on October 10th. I have been to the grave a couple of times in the past, but one of the most memorable times was in 2006 when I went with one of Nakai Hiromu’s descendents, Mr. Yashiki, who is currently in the process of writing a biography about Nakai in Japanese. This was quite an emotional experience for me because at the time I had been studying about Nakai for three or four years already, but until that moment, Nakai had just been an historical figure to me. To meet one of his descendents and be able to visit Nakai’s resting place with him really gave me a sense of the reality of Nakai Hiromu’s life. He was no longer just some historical figure from books; he was real, he was a person’s relative, he was Mr. Yashiki’s relative, and I was being allowed to join him in his visit to his ancestor’s grave, a pretty personal thing from my point of view.

In the picture, to the right you can see the grave of Nakai’s wife, Takeko (竹子). There has been some confusion over Takeko, which I’ll go into some other time. Then to the left, there is the grave of Nakai’s daughter Sadako (貞子), who also deserves further explanation, but for the time being let me just say that she was the first wife of Japan’s famous first prime minister from a “common” background, Hara Takashi (1856-1921).

The grave plot includes other members of the Nakai and Yokoyama families; Nakai’s father, Yokoyama Eisuke, is also there for example. All together there are 11 graves and these are surrounded by a low cut hedge.

Lately, I have been trying to visit the graves more often. I doubt that they get many visitors since the temple is normally closed to the public. Each time I want to go, I have to call in advance and let the priest know I’m coming.

Sokushuin is recently getting a lot of attention in Japan because it is also famous as one of the hide-outs of the famous Satsuma samurai Saigo Takamori (1827-1877). Sokushuin was established by the Shimadzu family who have been the Lords of Satsuma for many generations. Recently in Japan, the NHK TV drama, “Atsuhime”, has put Sokushuin in the public eye because the Satsuma Princess Atsuhime visited the temple on her way to Edo (present-day Tokyo) when she was going to be married off to Tokugawa Iesada (1824-1858), the 13th Shogun of Japan who ruled when Japan signed the Unequal Treaties with the west thus “opening” Japan after over two hundred years of isolation.

I highly recommend a visit to Tofukuji, and if you can make it in November, I recommend you to see the gardens of Sokushuin too. If you do, please go say hello to Nakai Hiromu and his family.

There are still a couple of days left, I might try and get there again myself before the month is out.

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