The Foreign Section Trust

Help preserve Aoyama Cemetery's foreign section.

The Foreign Section Trust celebrates the international community's role in Japan's history and helps preserve a record of individuals' activities and achievements.

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March 02, 2005

Notes from our meeting with Stephen

The meeting with the lawyer, Stephen, in Ark Hills was very beneficial in that it highlighted some of the legal constraints we may be forced to deal with while pointing the way to the larger strategic direction we should take.

The upshot of the meeting was that we need to grow awareness and support for the cause upwards to create a group of prominent Japanese citizens whose eminence in their fields causes the city to pay attention.

Framing the cause firmly as a Japanese historical issue is essential to avoid the perception that (a) this is just about protecting foreigners' graves, and (b) that this is just a foreigners' issue. We need to ensure that we're seen as wanting to preserve an important piece of Japanese history, specifically Meiji history, when the country was first opening its doors to the West and when it borrowed heavily from foreign expertise in the development of the country.

We discussed...

possible contacts in the business, arts, and diplomatic communities who might be willing to lend their names to the cause.

The prominence of this group and the media attention it could command can then be leveraged to exert pressure on the city to bend the payment rules to allow a trust to pay the necessary fees to preserve the cemetery and, admit greater public input to the redevelopment plans.

Stephen mentioned the idea of corporate sponsorship: after all, we're not talking about a lot of money here. A corporate sponsor may well be willing to undertake the financial costs of ensuring fees are paid.

Perhaps the issue then arises of how this largesse is acknowledged. We briefly discussed the idea of cemetery redevelopment placing a series of plaques -- in English and Japanese -- throughout the cemetery to highlight historical figures and reaffirm the cemetery's importance as a 'tourist destination.'

The possibility of designating the cemetery an historical site was also raised. This is obviously a long process, and if undertaken might require an injunction be brought against the city to prevent removal of graves. We therefore need a prominent Japanese legal presence in the group to act as "litigator" should such action become necessary.

Stephen suggested the group be composed of

+ A prominent Japanese lawyer
+ Professors or academics (Aoyama and Meiji are two schools with obvious historical connections to the cemetery)
+ Diplomatic representation (embassies, foreign ministry, &c.)
+ Business people, (his apt phrase, I believe, was statesman/business man)
+ Literary/cultural representation. Considering the Aoyama milieu, someone prominent in fashion, design, architecture.

We need to assemble and meet with this group, clarify the goals of the project, and discuss ways to influence the city through collateral media attention and direct approach.

Posted by jeremy at March 2, 2005 11:34 PM

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