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Respects paid to Allied soldiers in Yokohama who died in Japan

by Kazuaki Nagata

YOKOHAMA — More than 100 people gathered in Yokohama Commonwealth War Cemetery on Saturday to remember the importance of peace as they paid respects to soldiers from the British Commonwealth and other Allied nations who died in Japan.

The memorial service, which is held in the Hodogaya district around this time each year, is organized by volunteers both Japanese and foreign. It features a prayer for peace, hymns and a floral tribute to the more than 1,700 soldiers laid to rest there. Many of them died as prisoners of war.

“War has no true victors, and people on all sides experience loss,” said Col. Tim Gellel, representative of the Commonwealth and Defence Attache at the Australian Embassy, during his speech at the service.

“Most of those interred here lost their lives whilst in captivity, a time when they should have been under protection,” he said.

The service attracted a wide range of participants, including local high school students and embassy employees who came to pay their respects to POWs and face the past.

“There is a saying that goes ‘Closing eyes to the past means closing eyes to the future,” said Shigeki Chiba, a film director who has attended the service many times.

Chiba directed a film on the what was then known as the Thailand-Burma railroad, which was built by Imperial Japanese Army using captured soldiers forced to do brutal work. Some who survived the notorious ordeal lay in the cemetery.

“I think of this event as very important,” he said, adding that it was great to see young people at the service.