Recovering from the storm

Yokohama War Cemetery

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Did you know?

Location:
Yokohama, Japan

Altitude:
73m

Biggest Challenge:
Typhoons

Language:
Japanese

Rainfall:
1,530mm

Temperature:
-3c - 31c

A few hours after the storm passed Kengo and his team set to work. The strong winds had ripped up trees and impaled them in the cemetery’s neat lawn. Elsewhere in Japan the outcome was even worse.

Yokohama, a neighbouring city of Tokyo, like much of the region, suffered from the effects of the deadly Typhoon Hagibis in October 2019.

As well as the serious loss of life, power and property, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s only war cemetery in Japan fell victim too.

Thankfully all staff and their families were unharmed. Only hours before it struck, Kengo Kobayashi, CWGC’s Japan country manager, was in the cemetery, giving a video tour and discussing which trees might be at risk.

Kengo Kobayashi, CWGC’s Japan country manager, leads a team of five gardeners at Yokohama

The next day his team set to work quickly clearing up the aftermath.

In calmer times this space boasts an abundance of life; flowers and trees that mix native Asian species with more regional varieties that reflect the Commonwealth war dead buried below.

Created after the Second World War, Yokohama contains the remains and memorials for more than 2,000 war dead.

Most were Prisoners of War who died in captivity in grueling conditions. Their lives and deaths are now preserved in this parkland setting amid the largest urban area on the planet.

Nearby, hundreds of thousands of rugby fans have poured through the doors of the Yokohama International Stadium during the Rugby World Cup; many Brits, Australians and New Zealanders among them.

Yokohama is divided into five sections for the Commonwealth and post-war, pictured here Australia.

While their thoughts will have been on tries and tackles, our Japanese staff were watering and weeding the Commonwealth graves of those fans’ forebears – men who only a few generations ago would have been enemies.

And among those graves there is buried a true friend. In the non-war plot lies former Commission gardener, Len Harrop MBE. Ex-soldier and guardian of this cemetery from 1952 to 1986.

From the harrowing work of recovering bodies to cultivating plants, his life spanned the battlefields of Normandy to Yokohama War Cemetery. And just as he did for more than three decades, when the storm winds passed, the latest generation of CWGC staff returned to make sure that everyone buried there could continue to rest in peace.

Winds up to 160mph ripped apart trees in Yokohama during Typhoon Hagibis
CWGC staff at work on a quieter day, tending to our only Japanese war cemetery
The British section contains more than 1,000 graves. Most died in captivity as Prisoners of War.
The ashes of 335 men from the Commonwealth, USA and the Netherlands sit inside this shrine.
Yokohama is divided into five sections for the Commonwealth and post-war, pictured here Australia.
Kengo Kobayashi, CWGC's Japan country manager, leads a team of five gardeners at Yokohama
Banner illustration of the Four Corners logo