Saturday, September 20, 2014

The PoW's of Karuizawa

Karuizawa is a quiet town some two and a half hours drive from Tokyo. However, before the highways were built it was a post town on the Nakasendo, one of the main routes from Tokyo to Kyoto where people could rest for the night. And their journey was a lot longer than two and a half hours. Before trains and reasonable roads the journey would take up to four days and part of that was scrambling over rocky hillsides.

So in 1939 when hostilities broke out between Japan and the western allies it seemed the perfect place to intern non-combatant prisoners of war. In America there were camps on the west coast where people of Japanese descent were interned. In Britain people of German ancestry were held on the Isle of Man. And in Japan they were held in Karuizawa, in the central mountains, in the middle of a forest covering half the journey back to Tokyo. And if anyone did try to escape, where were they going to go to anyway?

It's interesting that this is a little known side of Karuizawa however the father of an American friend of mine was one of those caught up in the chaos of war and spent several years in actually quite a beautiful area. Deep snow in winter and cooler than Tokyo in summer. And now, all these years later his son is building a summer retreat here. He learned of it from the stories told by his father and has decided it's somewhere he wants to spend more time. I guess it's true, every cloud does have a silver lining after all.

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