Thursday, 29 September 2011
Thursday, 15 September 2011
This article was re-introduced earlier on my website in the same day that the earthquake struck triggering a tsunami that washed over villages in the east of Japan. One thing that Japan is very good at is rising to the occasion of disasters such as these and I can only hope alongside that they resurrect the past too so they can truly honour the soldiers mentioned.
Obanagamori, in the heart of Iwate, in the North East of Japan – roughly translated means Flower Tail Forest. Bereft of public playgrounds in Ichinoseki, we bring the children here to play in the huge wooden log constructed area that offers climbing frames, a slide and a pulley to swing from. A local from my mother-in- law's kissaten (Japanese coffee shop) offers to be our guide warning us kindly of the trees that cause itching on contact. My wife helps her mother gather the last vestiges of autumn flowers that have so far avoided the seasons' changes. Fresh wood and water is provided by the stone barbecue area and in the middle of a large open area stands what appears to be the base stonework of what could have been a large tower. However, the guide informs me it is used as a campfire and closer inspection soon reveals its present day use.
After constant pleas by our children who were keen to enjoy the park we start to climb towards the play area. We work our way up some old worn steps and when we arrive at the top; three huge slabs of stones, shrine-like in stature greet us. Curious I draw closer and wipe away some of the greening mould that threatens to obscure writing. My lack of Japanese knowledge cannot read the Kanji symbols but I know enough to realise that these are names. Through my wife's native knowledge of the language she indicates my interest to the friendly local who accompanied us. He informs us that these are the names of soldiers, many from the prefecture of Iwate who died in the Second World War. I looked about the monuments which I now realised them to be and felt an emotional rush of sympathy for these soldiers who died in the interests of protecting their country. As an Englishman, my ancestors may have fought against them but regardless of who won and lost, I was deeply shocked that those who gave their lives, their memories were fading to the weather's ravaging. The campsite and park both had clear evidence of being looked after and yet those whose lives were claimed, recognition of them had been deserted.
I understand that the War that had happened about 70 years ago was cut short by an atomic bomb that had devastated a whole nation. These memories still linger strongly in some of the hearts and minds of the Japanese people, and there are others who because of these tragic consequences that may be keen to forget this. There are also political pressures that prevent the waving of national identity that may offend your foreign neighbours. However, let's put aside the quietness of a nation and visibly recognise those whose efforts may become forgotten under shrubs and plants and whose names may eventually become deleted by the passing seasons.