Memorial Service at Khavarovsk

On the twelfth, there was a memorial service in the city hall of Khavarovsk.  I am not sure when it was built.  It was a dinky dirty building with the capacity of 800.  The hall was almost full with more than half of them from Japan as families of the formerly interned and other interested peoplewere in attendance.  Three hundred of the Japanese came ona special chartered flight.  

It was very noisy in the hall, but as soon as I had a seat and the service was going to start, suddenly the light went off, and it became dark all over.  It was really a reflection of how things happen in Russia. 

I was watching and wondering what they would do.  Then many lit candles were broughtin.  It was different from electric lights, but the hall became dim and bright enough to distinguish the people’s faces on the stage.  It was interesting how the atmosphere ended up more appropriate for the memorial service.

It was officiated by the association of the war memorial, but the content of the program was not shared with me as the president of the formerly internedassociation.

I was not one of the speakers, either. Therefore, the way the memorial went was 

not satisfactory in my observation, but nonetheless, when Ms. Tomoko Matsushima sang a memorial song, I was truly moved and had tears in my eyes.  Her father was taken by the Soviet army, and he died in Siberia.  She herself also has thedifficult experience of fleeing from Manchuria risking her life.  The quiet hall was filled with her voicewhich was full of love and longing for herdeceased father.  It was truly great for a memorial.  

The ceremony ended in an hour. Toward the end of the ceremony, the light suddenly came back.  As I went out of the hall, I looked for the restroom.  I was so surprised to see the toiletswithout doors and without paper.  I could understand why they did not leave the paper, but could not comprehend how ladies would use such toilets.  There were some urinals, but half of them had disabled signs.  The city hall for the city of Khavarovsk should be equipped with a functionable restroom, but what I saw really made me realize the circumstance of living in Russia.  

Outside the city hall was full of bright lights.   After the memorial, I paid respect at two cemeteries.  They were rather well-taken care of among all of the cemeteries for the Japanese in Russia.  In addition, the transportation was easy to get there.  Therefore, there were flowers and incents there, showing the traces ofthe many Japanese families of the formerly interned who  cameto visit the cemetery.

In the evening, a big party was held with a live band at the hotel.  I think there was an implication of exchange of cordialities because I saw a hundred or so Russians attending.  It was not fixed seating.  Over four hundred of Japanese participants of the ceremony were there.  My wife and I were asked to be in many photographs, and Ms. Matsushima sang many songs, receiving a lot of applause.

Most of the Japanese who were attending were the families of the formerly interned who died, in addition tomen who were interned.   Those who were interned were soldiers fifty years ago, so even the youngest were older than seventy years old.  They must have thought this would be the last time to come here.  Therefore, it must have been a truly gratifying experience to know that the monument was constructed, and they were able to attend the unveiling ceremony.

Before we went into the cemetery, we went to see the Amur river as assembly member, Takami Eto, the president of the Interned in Soviet, suggested.  The river that runs between China and Russia was truly a big river, but we were told it was contaminated by vibrio cholerae now.  All of us wet our hands and felt the coldness of the water, but wiped it right away to be safe.

In the middle of the riverthat has the width of some kilometers, there is a quite large sandbank right before the border of China and Russia.  We heard there were many vacation homesthere.  Some boats that looked like sightseeing boats were heading there.  It is so different from Moscow where food is scarce.  The distance from the east to the west of this country is nine thousand kilometers.  It is not possible to generalize this country in one notion.  

I remember there was a song we were made to sing often in our dormitory during my school days in the First High School in Tokyo.  The lyrics included the line,  “Oh the area of river Amur, it is frozen all over the place and….”Talking about the Amur river, China and Russia, sandwiching this big river, constantly have conflicts in regards to their territories.  It is also true that this river is historically very famous. Therefore, I thought it is something to remember that I had an opportunity to touch the water of the river.

From Khavarovsk, I left on Japan Air Linesand felt relieved.  We got off once at Aomori airport in order to take care of entry into Japan, and headed toward Haneda.  It was a week-long trip.  It was rather short, but was a sentimental journey for me that made me feel fulfilled of what I had to accomplish.