Visiting Akira Kurosawa’s Grave in An’yō-in Temple, Kamakura

First published in my personal WordPress blog sheilaoftheworld.com  I’m putting this here in celebration of Kurosawa’s 108th birthday today, March 23.

It was not a touristy place but worth a visit for someone who has admired the genius of master filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa. Known for such great classics like The Seven Samurai (1954), Rashomon (1950), Yojimbo (1961), Ikiru (1952), Ran (1985), and many more, Kurosawa is one of the few filmmakers whose entire filmography I have watched. My fascination with him started when as a sophomore in college, I was assigned to research on his life to report for a Film 100 class. I read his book, Something Like an Autobiography and the experience transformed me into a Kurosawa fan almost instantaneously. When a chance to visit Japan came, I just had to include visiting his grave into my itinerary.

Akira Kurosawa’s grave is located in the cemetery of An’yō-in Temple, in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. Kamakura is most popular for the Daibutsu (The Great Buddha), which is a top choice for any tourist visiting Kamakura. You can reach Kamakura about an hour from Tokyo’s Shimbashi Station. An’yō-in is about 10 minutes walk from JR Kamakura Station. Although, I swear we walked for more than 10 minutes because the ground was still very wet from the previous night’s snow storm. It was February and although it was very rare to snow the way it did in Tokyo during that time;  it’s also about half an hour before the sun sets, when we find ourselves heading to An’yō-in.

This is me in front of the An'yō-in Temple Entrance
This is me in front of the An’yō-in Temple Entrance

With Google maps and the app’s walking directions, it was easy to get to An’yō-in. The real challenge when we’ve finally reached An’yō-in, was finding out that the temple was already closed. I just know how to get to the temple but getting to the cemetery was another story. In fact, it was pure guess work when not knowing where to go and no one to ask, we just decided to take a path, which was on the right of the main temple entrance. After 10 paces, I realized it was the correct way because I started to see a few graves.

An’yoin cemetery itself is small and easy to navigate. But with the presence of fresh but wet snow, it was a different matter. I went straight ahead, tracing the footsteps of a few others who came before me.

Footprints left by other visitors
Footprints left by other visitors

Kurosawa’s grave is in an elevated area right by the steps in front of a hill. In this picture, you’ll see a house next to the cemetery. We actually used this house to help us determine the location of the grave.

The characters read, "Kurosawa Family"
The characters read, “Kurosawa Family”

When we spotted the grave, it was filled with thick snow that Kurosawa Family name engraved in the gravestone was not visible. As my own little tribute, I decided to clean up the grave and remove the snow. My hands were chilly but looking back at it now, I realized what a wonderful thing it is to be of service to one of the few icons I truly admire. I know that this experience is something that I will never forget. He is someone who continue to inspire not only me but countless of people touched by his life’s works.

The 10-peso coin that I left by the grave
The 10-peso coin that I left by the grave

As a parting note, I’d like to share a quote from him, delivered in 1990 when he received an honorary Oscar presented by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, he said,

“I am very deeply honoured to receive such a wonderful price. But I have to ask whether I really deserve it and I’m a little worried. Because I don’t feel that I understand cinema yet. I really don’t feel that I have yet grasped the essence of cinema. Cinema is a marvellous thing but to grasp its true essence is very very difficult. So what I promise you is that from now on, I will work as hard as I can at making movies. And maybe by following this path, I will achieve an understanding of the true essence of cinema and deserve this award.”

A true master indeed. Akira Kurosawa. 1910 – 1998

The master filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa's grave
The master filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa’s grave

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Address of An’yō-in: 3 Chome-1-22 Omachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0007, Japan

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