Japan joins China, India and the United States in Singaporean End-of-War Ceremony

Professor Walter Woon and the Japanese Ambassdor His Excellency Mr Haruhisa Takeuchi lay a wreath to honor the war dead

On Saturday, 12 September 2015, a small but crucial step towards international reconciliation and peace was achieved at Kranji War Cemetery. Side by side, representatives from Singapore and Japan – former enemy combatants in the Second World War (WWII), now close partners – laid wreaths together at the memorial.

 

Japanese Ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi joined Guest-of-Honour Professor Walter Woon and Nexus director Colonel Joseph Tan in paying their respects.

Colonel Tan represented the Singapore Armed Forces and Chief of Defence Force Major-General Perry Lim.

 

They were joined by ambassadors and diplomatic staff of eight more countries at a remembrance ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The eight countries were China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and India - former major combatants in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. The remembrance ceremony was organised by The Changi Museum and the Singapore History Consultants - both private organisations.

 

A ceremonial first - the laying of tsurus

In keeping with the spirit of reconciliation, students of the Japanese School Singapore made 1,500 tsurus (paper cranes symbolising peace and reconciliation) which members of the Japanese community laid at the ceremony. About 20 members of the Japanese community turned up at the event - a first for remembrance ceremonies here.

 

Director of the Changi Museum, Mr Jeya Ayadurai, emphasised the importance of reconciliation amidst remembrance.

He said: "This Singaporean initiative should be a beacon for others to follow on how WWII ought to be remembered."  He also thanked the Singapore Government for making a stand for peace and reconciliation 70 years after WWII ended.

 

Quoting a 27 August speech given by Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, Mr Jeya said: "Singapore and Japan have not let any historical grievances stand in the way of our cooperation to pursue a better quality of life for the peoples of both our nations. We have put the past behind us so that future generations can have a brighter tomorrow.

 

"We have embraced reconciliation, and we hope to one day see the same healing and reconciliation throughout Asia."

 

An opportunity to honour WWII survivors

About 350 people attended the ceremony, among them local and foreign veterans, ex-POWs and civilian internees, local and international schools, school uniformed groups, SAF military units, and members of the public.

The ceremony honoured all – both military and civilian – who had sacrificed their lives in the war. It also honoured all who became prisoners and internees of the occupation forces.

 

The date 12 September is significant, because the Japanese surrender to the Allies of South East Asia Command in Singapore on that day in 1945 was the last major surrender ceremony of the war. It terminated not only Japan’s military occupation of Southeast Asia, but also the Pacific War and, as a result, the entire Second World War.

 

The ceremony featured, among other things, public readings of war poems that encouraged reflection on the matter of war and peace, on the courage of those who bear nobly the call to duty and also on those who have made the supreme sacrifice.

 

To honour the fallen from the war, wreaths were laid followed by the observance of two minutes’ of silence. A special bell was rung seven times to signify each year of the seven-year global war.

The ceremony was brought to a rousing end by the singing of Singapore’s National Anthem, Majulah Singapura, a fitting reminder that the defence of the country today lies in the hands of Singaporeans.