Went along today to the Yokohama War Cemetery in Hodogaya to photograph the Remembrance Sunday ceremony there.
I and only recently found out that such an event was held in Japan. The wearing of a poppy at this time of year in the UK is something we, to a certain extent, take for granted. Though recently the meaning and justification behind the poppy has been twisted and questioned by those with their own agendas.
I used to be a member of the Air Training Corp, a kind of boy scouts connected to the Royal Air Force, and we definately felt something of the importance of this day when we paraded to the local war memorial. We were all quite hung-ho and borrowed selfishly from the high regard given to our professional ambitions in the real RAF. We also took kudos off those we wanted to follow who had never come back.
I still honour the men and women who went to war and paid with their lives. I don’t think I could have done what they did and I now dislike the idea of war. I respect them unquestionably for their bravery; for I understand their sacrifice meant I never have to test my own courage in such a way. I may count myself as less deluded by patriotism, but I wonder if they too, soon realised how the war was using the youngest and best of it population to to move along the senile wishes of its worst. I worry now, as memory fades, that those who have again a similar desire to advances their own causes, inch by bloody inch, have forgotten the poppy’s message is one of hope our children will never have to fight another war.
There is one grave from a WW1 serviceman in the cemetery. But most of the war graves there date from the Second World War and the occupation that followed.
It was good to go there with my wife and family, to try to explain how fundamental this is to a British and European Identity that is now often judge as indifferently violent as our unbloodied ally across the Atlantic. I think Japanese people can understand the horror of war better than most, a horror so large that you wish, forever, to avert its return. It was harder perhaps to explain that honouring soldiers is not to glorify war because the jingoistic politicians and idiot rightists in Japan and the UK do just that and damage their memory and our freedom to give our gratitude. Looking along the names of the men and women buried there and the lack of years each shared before they found rest here in Japan it was easier to feel that waste of life.
We might have lived a nominally peaceful existence since the end of World War 2. But the First World War was meant to be the war to end all wars and now people talk in a detached way about the brutality of combat; coming as it does for many through a redacted report or the electronic eye of a Predator Drone and I wanted to show my sons, my wife that though it is often done in our name, and was done before, it is not who we are, just as most Japanese are not Yasukuni crazies.
Anyway a moving and memory-filled day in a beautiful place.
Will certainly go again, and as this was a much bigger event than I had imagines with some very important people in attendance, I will dress better for the occasion next time.
More images of the Remembrance Day ceremony in Yokohama, Japan at my archive site here: