Recovering from the storm
Yokohama War CemeteryREAD STORY
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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.
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.
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.