Foreign Section Trust

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bochi.jpgThe foreigner's section of Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo is under threat of being bulldozed. Why? The old dead foreigners aren't paying their cemetery fees. Bad gaijin!

According to the cemetery's rules, if a plot's 590 yen/sq meter annual fee isn't paid for five years, a notice goes up and the plot will be razed at the end of a year. 78 plots in Aoyama Reien were flagged in October and many of them are in the foreign section.

These are the graves of expatriates from the Meiji era, men and women who promoted Western ideas and practices in Japan--doctors, educators, missionaries, and artists. Although many of their contributions live on, it seems a pity to remove their memorials.

There is some hope; according to an article in the Daily Yomiuri on Friday the city government is reconsidering for some of the "important" graves--those foreigners the city employed way back when. They will make a final decision in April.

Not everyone is convinced the government will do the right thing. From the Yomiuri article:

Yuzo Takahashi, a Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology professor specializing in the history of science and technology, is calling for the preservation of foreigners' graves.

"It's unthinkable that those who contributed to the modernization of the country are being forgotten. I'd like to see their graves preserved. In the case of foreign nationals, it can't be helped that fees aren't paid, but I hope the government will preserve as many graves as possible," he said.

Which still leaves the problem of the "unimportant" foreign graves.

The Foreign Section Trust is forming now to take action. We hope to first pay off the debt on the delinquent tombs and then build a trust fund to take care of them in the future. And just imagine the fun and good feelings at the FST hanami party (currently slated for April 2).

If you're interested in joining the society--whether to donate money, sponsor a plot, or offer your help with administration--visit the fledgling FST site and send an e-mail.

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How much is owed? Are they western style graves or Japanese style cremation plaques?

The graves are a mix of styles and sizes. We are talking to the Tokyo Parks Cemetery people this week to find out exactly how much is owed. We expect to have more details posted to the GBPS site this week.

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  • Kristen: The graves are a mix of styles and sizes. We read more
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