POW Memorial Service

Yuka Ibuki

The 14th Annual Memorial Service, commemorating the Allied POWs who passed away in Japan was held at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Hokogaya-ku, Yokohama on August 2.


Three Japanese men, i.e. Profs. Emeritus Tsuyoshi Amemiya of Aoyama Gakuin University, Kazuaki Saito of Int. Christian University, and Mr. Takashi Nagase, former interpreter of the Japanese Army (a graduate of Aoyama Gakuin) have organized this event on every first Saturday of August.  In 2000, Dr. Lester Tenney was invited as the speaker.

More than 100 Japanese people, with eight honored guests from embassies and so on, including two wives and 9 year-old Tim, gathered under the scorching sun. They thought of around 3,500 POWs, of their sufferings and sorrow shared by their bereaved families, and with pains in heart, prayed for peace.

Dr. Saito died on June 21, 2008 because of acute stomach cancer. Having been continuously active, since his translation of Ernest Gordon’s “Through the Valley of Kwai”, he completed the prospectus of this event in his last days. Mr. Nagase, though he achieved his annual visit of Thailand in June, called Prof. Amemiya on July 31, telling him a message to be read, as he had to cancel his trip due to heat exhaustion.

Professors Kazuaki Saito and Tsuyoshi Amemiya with
     former American POW Dr. Tenney and Betty Tenney in 2000

For rather shocked attendants, the occasion served as realization for the fresh intention of taking over the good-will of the three founders; young Rev. Takao Okutsu presided over the whole procedure, being joined by a daughter of Prof. Saito, high school students and Tim, who dedicated wreathes to the memorial of each country.

Prof. Amemiya, in fact, was attacked by brain stroke last year. But he warmly and eagerly addressed the audience with his message for human rights and peace, and Mr. Siamiasl M. Sadegh, a refugee from Iran who has been accepted by Canada, thankfully attended the ceremony as a guest of honor. The handouts included the article of Mr. Jim Nelson’s visit of Hanawa, and Mr. Osamu Komai’s interview by NHK.

Japan Times published the following article about the event.

Respects paid to Allied soldiers in Yokohama who died in Japan

Staff writer

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


With respect: People gather at Yokohama Commonwealth War Cemetery on Saturday for an annual memorial service for soldiers of the British Commonwealth and other Allied nations who died in Japan during World War II.  




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.

The Japan Times: Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008
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