Following our visit to the Kranji War Memorial, we visited another little-known cemetery park located along Chuan Hoe Avenue, set in the midst of the landed houses in Hougang. Are you able to make a guess?
Answer: The Japanese Cemetery Park. According to Wiki, “the Japanese Cemetery Park is the largest Japanese cemetery in SEA at 29,359 square metres, consisting of 910 tombstones that contain the remains of members of the Japanese community in Singapore”, including Mr Yamamoto Otokichi who was the 1st Jap resident in Singapore. No longer a burial ground, the cemetery park is now a memorial park that is often visited by both locals and tourists.
“The cemetery was originally a rubber plantation. In 1891, the owner of the rubber plantation, Mr Tagajiro Futaki, received permission from the British colonial government to convert the plantation to a cemetery.” This burial ground was first used to bury young Japanese prostitutes who died in destitution and get this, Mr Fukaki was also a Japanese brothel owner, on top of owning a rubber plantation. Talk about the irony! Perhaps, this donation was his way of increasing good karma for himself. Through the years, the cemetery was also used to bury Japanese residents and soldiers who lost their lives during World War 2. The park also pays tribute to some remarkable Japanese citizens, such as Mr Futabatel Shimei (a famous novelist), Field Marshal Count Terauchi (the Supreme Commander for SEA troops during the Pacific War) and Mr Tani Yutaka (a secret agent for the Japanese military).
At first glance, the Japanese Cemetery Park might seem unkempt and shabby in comparison to the Kranji War Memorial which look perfectly immaculate with its manicured lawns and uniformed headstones. However, personally, it’s the rugged look of this historic cemetery park that better enable me to marvel at the eternal beauty of the old, weathered but unique tombstones. With the exception of the tombstones for the Karayuki-San (Japanese prostitutes), there was hardly any other tombstones that look alike. Unfortunately, all the inscriptions on the headstones were in Japanese and thus, I couldn’t quite figure out the messages written. This place of tranquility is also ideal for nature lovers to explore and enjoy the flora and fauna, in particular the rubber and lychee trees ( these trees have been designated as Heritage Trees as they have been here since the start of the plantation).