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Japanese Attaché lays wreath commemorating centenary

26 February 2019
The Japanese Defence attaché to the UK has laid a wreath at the grave of a Sailor from the Imperial Japanese Navy, who died in 1919 and buried at the Royal Navy Cemetery in Portland Dorset.

The grave, a thin column of stone shaped to appear as a bamboo cane, the traditional Japanese grave marker, stands out among other Royal Navy Commonwealth War Graves Commission stones, with its Japanese inscription naming Petty Officer Asayoshi Harada and the date of his death, 15 February 1919.

The stone had always intrigued Portland resident Jed Grant, who had walked along the footpaths nearby and often visited the Royal Naval Cemetery near the former Portland Naval Base with his father.

“It was maybe the Japanese inscription or the shape of the stone which stood out to me. I wanted to know more,” said Jed. “Then, years later I decided to see what I could discover, so I got in touch with the Japanese Embassy in London.”

On behalf of Japan, the Japanese Navy and the people of Japan, I would like thank everyone for their very kind thoughts to our lost serviceman.

Capt Toshihide

The Defence Attaché in London, Captain Toshihide Noma of the Japanese Maritime Defence Force, answered his enquiry and got in touch with the naval records office in Tokyo.

“I asked if any relatives could be traced of Petty Officer Harada, and to be honest I thought it would be too difficult after over 100 years.

“However, they came back with the information that his grandson was still alive. He was very pleased that Jed and the people of this country had been thinking about his grandfather and appreciated their kind thoughts, he thanked everyone.”

PO Harada’s Ship, the IJNS Idjumo was part of the 2nd Special Task Fleet deployed to the Mediterranean as part of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance fighting the German and Ottoman Navies.

They helped the British in the offensive against the U Boats and Axis warships that were attacking troopships and cargo vessels on the southern flank of Europe and the Middle East.

After the War, the Japanese Navy received seven German Submarines as spoils of War and the Idjomo was part of the fleet sent to Britain to take delivery.

It was the second time the Japanese had anchored off Portland Harbour and its believed PO Harada died of Spanish Influenza, (although records vary) which had reached epidemic proportions after WW1 across the world.

PO Harada’s body was laid to rest with full Royal Navy military honours and the people of Portland amongst other seafarers from that era.

Capt Toshihide took time to thank the dedicated efforts of Jed Grant and those from the Portland Royal Naval association who attended the small service at the graveside.

“I have been very touched by the sincere thoughts of the people of Portland, 100 years after PO Harada’s death.

“On behalf of Japan, the Japanese Navy and the people of Japan, I would like thank everyone for their very kind thoughts to our lost serviceman.”

Jed Grant added, “After my many visits to this site, I thought it would be a kind gesture to lay a small token of remembrance to this serviceman on this far distant shore.

“Therefore, I lay this tribute as a token of thanks for your service and wish you god speed.”

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