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Allied POW war dead honored in Yokohama

by Kazuaki Nagata

YOKOHAMA — About 100 people participated in the 15th annual memorial service at the British Commonwealth War Cemetery on Saturday to pay their respects to soldiers and others from Allied nations who died in Japan as prisoners of war during World War II.

Gertie Mulder, minister plenipotentiary political affairs at the Netherlands Embassy in Tokyo, said the annual service “is a token of respects to these prisoners of war who faced unimaginable hardships, and a simple but fitting gesture to honor their memory.”

“By honoring those who perished more than 60 years ago, we are also voicing our dedication to the men and women who have risked life and limb since then to promote international peace,” she told the participants at the cemetery in Yokohama’s Hodogaya district.

About 1,800 soldiers from the Commonwealth and other nations, including New Zealand, India and Pakistan, are buried here. Most died as POWs in Japan.

Those attending the event, which was organized by Japanese and foreign volunteers, ranged from local high school students to a lawmaker and various diplomats.

Speeches and hymns were offered at the ceremony, and participants then placed flowers in areas where gravestones were placed by nationality.

Baking in the hot weather, participants, some with parasols, stood before gravestones buried in fresh grass and prayed for the soldiers while remembering the importance of peace.

“We must not forget that so many people regardless of their nationalities died during the war,” said Michiyo Arakawa, 35, of Tokyo. Arakawa belongs to a group studying POWs and was attending the event for the first time.

Arakawa said she felt it is important that the event continue to preserve the message from the soldiers and their families.

Tsuyoshi Amemiya, professor emeritus at Aoyama Gakuin University and a founding member of the event, said that since the service has become firmly rooted in tradition, it will continue on to the next generation.