Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sunday morning walk at the Japanese Cemetery Park...

Despite hitting the sack at 1AM on Saturday night, I still got up at 730AM the following day and left the house at 8AM. Lol!

Here's the thing, I keep on making morning appointments even though I have no idea what time the previous night will end. The past few weekends have been packed with activities. The next few weekends (and weekdays!) are also bound to be packed with commitments. Seriously, I've been wondering if I have too much on my plate. (I think I do!) Haha!

Anyway, going back to Sunday...

The reason I had to get up early was because I agreed to go with Mr. Lim on our monthly hike/nature walk.

Luckily, the place we decided to check out over the weekend was one that didn't require hours of hiking under the scorching heat of the sun. In fact, it was more of a leisurely walk while having an informal history lesson.

During my docent training on Singapore history, I learned that there is a Japanese cemetery northeast(?) of Singapore. Call me weird but I have always wanted to visit the place because of the history behind it.

When I told Mr. Lim about the Japanese cemetery, I knew that he would be just as interested. I was happy when he told me that He has always wanted to visit the place but always kept forgetting about it.

The Japanese Cemetery, now called The Japanese Cemetery Park, is located in a residential area in Serangoon.

From the hour or so we spent walking around the park, here are some of the very interesting things that I have learned:

1. It is the largest Japanese cemetery in Southeast Asia at some 29,000 square metres. There are about 910 tombstones. It was gazetted as a memorial park by the Singapore government in 1987.

2. The first Japanese resident in Singapore is buried here. His name is Otokichi. He arrived in Singapore in 1862. He was originally laid to rest at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. The authorities were able to verify where he was buried. The remains were exhumed, he was cremated, and he is now resting in peace at the Japanese Cemtery. In 2005, a delegation of about 100 people from Otokichi's hometown came to Singapore for a religious ceremony and to bring back some of his ashes back to his hometown.

3. The land used for the cemetery was donated by a Japanese who was a brothel owner. Yup, you read that right. Brothel owner. A Japanese brothel owner, Tagajiro Fukaki, donated land from his rubber plantation to be used as a burial ground for young Japanese karayuki-san who died in Singapore.

4. Karayuki-san means "going overseas." In the Singapore context, the karayuki-san refer to the young Japanese women who came to Singapore to do the oldest profession in the world. At one point, there were about 2,000 karayuki-sans in Singapore and about 100 brothels. Like the rickshaw pullers, it was a difficult life for the karayuki-san. In the 1920s, Japan became concerned with its reputation to the world and started to recall the karayuki-sans. Some of them chose to remain in Singapore and died here. In addition to the karayuki-san, civilians, soldiers and convicted war criminals (Google Terauchi Hisaichi) were also laid to rest at the Japanese Cemetery.

Interesting Sunday morning walk, I have to say.

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