Deep in the bowels of Tokyo, buried below the main stadium where the world will be watching some of the biggest events at the 2020 Olympic Games, the remains of almost 200 human bodies have been found.
Japanese media this week reported that archaeologists had made this macabre discovery during the planning stages of the cutting-edge National Stadium, which is expected to be completed by the end of next month.
The bones of 187 bodies are believed to be the remains of an ancient cemetery housed within the grounds of a Buddhist temple demolished a century ago.
The old National Stadium was built for the 1964 Olympics on top of the site of that cemetery. This old stadium was bulldozed to make way for the new National Stadium, a huge complex that can accommodate nearly 70,000 spectators and will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2020 Olympics.
Some of the bones found on the site of this stadium could date back as far as the 1700s, Tokyo media were told by Ken-ichi Shindoda, an anthropologist at the city’s National Museum of Nature and Science. The cemetery on this location was believed to have been established in the 1730s. The human remains had been transferred to Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science.
He said the grisly find was just the latest incident where human remains had been dug up as part of constructing facilities for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Inhabited for more than 1000 years, Tokyo is renowned for its deep history. These incidents highlight how some of this history has been buried just beneath its surface as the city has been modernised at a swift pace over the past century.
A sprawling metropolitan area home to more than 30 million people, Tokyo is considered the world’s largest city. It has become so densely populated that land is scarce and extremely valuable. Even burial plots are now too expensive for some Tokyo residents, who instead pay to have their loved ones cremated and their ashes placed in an urn kept in giant storage facilities.
Aoyama Cemetery, one of the largest graveyards in downtown Tokyo, is one of a string of tourist attractions located around Tokyo’s new National Stadium. This area, in the city’s Shinjuku Ward, will be inundated with tourists before, during and after next year’s Olympics, and these visitors will have a range of unusual sites to inspect.
Popular with locals and tourists due to its lush and beautiful grounds, Aoyama Cemetery houses the graves of many notable Japanese people, including Samurai warriors, political leaders and celebrities. It is one of the best sites in Tokyo to witness the natural spectacles of the cherry blossom (March/April) and autumnal bloom (November).
This cemetery also acts as an offbeat tourist attraction due to being the resting place of Hachiko, the most celebrated dog in Japanese history and the subject of books and movies. Hachiko became famous in the 1930s when, after his owner died, he continued for nine years to go every day to their meeting place at Tokyo’s Shibuya station, inspiring people with his loyalty.
Very close to Aoyama Cemetery in the new Olympic precinct is among the most beautiful green spaces in the city, Yoyogi Park, which is on the site of the 1964 Olympic Village. This huge park, which boasts a sequence of beautiful ponds, groves and lawns, is next to one of Tokyo’s premier tourist attractions, Meiji Shrine.
As Olympics fever grips Tokyo next year, heaving crowds will explore the massive grounds of this gorgeous Shinto shrine, which was built a century ago to honour Japanese Emperor Meiji.
Visitors interested to learn about the tumultuous relationship between Japan and the Summer Olympics can take a short walk from Meiji Shrine to the Japan Olympic Museum. Located alongside the new National Stadium, this comprehensive facility explains how the 1940 Olympics were scheduled to be held in Tokyo but were cancelled due to the outbreak of WWII.
The museum also tells the tale of how the 1964 Olympics changed the face of Japan. Desperate to rebuild the nation’s reputation after that war, Japan used the Olympics to show that it was a modern and peaceful nation that was open to foreign tourism.
Next year’s tourism influx won’t just be concentrated on this area around the new National Stadium but also on the second Olympic precinct in the futuristic Tokyo Bay area. In organising its venue for this Olympics, Tokyo has created two precincts.
The Heritage Zone, in the city’s inner west, which was the hub of the 1964 Olympics, is home to major facilities like the new National Stadium, the Yoyogi National Gymnasium and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The Tokyo Bay Zone, meanwhile, boasts the likes of the Ariake Tennis Park, Odaiba Marine Park, Ariake Urban Sports Park, and Kasai Canoe Centre.
Tourists heading to this Olympic zone will be able to include visits to the beautiful waterfront Daiba Park, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, and Tokyo Disneyland.