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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Minato-ku, Tokyo – In response to plans, brought about by the metropolitan government, to remove the graves of those , which have no one to look after them, a group of Japan-based foreign residents has started a webpage searching for relatives and organizations connected to those buried in the foreign section of Aoyama Cemetery. Among the foreigners interred in the cemetery who contributed to the modernization of Japan, over half the graves are considered delinquent. They are aiming for the preservation of the foreigner’s section permanently and transmitting the accomplishments in the modernization of Japan by their predecessors.
In aiming to preserve the foreign section, the Foreign Legacy Society, which consists of foreigners living in Japan, such as employees of foreign companies and university professors, set up a web site in September. The website lists the names, dates of birth/death, and other information about the deceased in English. Additionally, they have sent letters to foreign embassies. The cemetery was established in 1874 (Meiji 7), and many foreigners, mainly from the Meiji period, are buried there. In October of last year, as the city’s redevelopment plans for the cemetery progressed, announcements placed in front of the graves stated that “if the cemetery fees that had not been paid in the past five years were not paid in the next year, the graves would be considered delinquent and would face reburial.” If the graves became delinquent, then reburial of the deceased and removal of the gravestone were possible.
Of the 129 plots in the foreign section, 78 are the subject of possible reburial. These include the plots of Duane Simmons, an American who helped prevent the spread of a contagious disease; Carl Flaig, the German manager of the Imperial Hotel during its early days; and Arthur Lloyd from England, who taught at Keio University and Rikkyo University.
The FLS is calling for the graves of those that contributed to Japan’s modernization to remain as they are and be preserved. In July of this year, the city stated, “In principle, the foreign section will remain in its present state as a historical area.”However, by including the matter of the maintenance fees, a concrete way of preserving the area is still undecided. Anthony Millington, representative of the FLS, said, “We worry that even if the city government says that the area will be maintained now, if relations cannot be found and the rights of the cemetery shift to the city, removal will still remain a possibility.”
If the relatives or organizations related to the deceased lend their name and support, then this will help to solve the problem, but until now there have been only 10 instances out of the 78 plots of organizations such as schools approaching the city. “It is our hope that the homepage catches the attention of family related to the deceased that are overseas. This will help to allow the historical legacy of the area to be preserved permanently,” Millington said. He also stated, “Our predecessors came to Japan over a hundred years ago and contributed to Japan’s modernization. It would be useful to be able to relay this to their descendants”
Web address: www.foreignsection.org
Posted by Andy at November 1, 2005 01:20 PM
Translation by Andrew Edsall