A graveyard gander

Singapore's been having a heat wave this weekend, the kind where yesterday I took three showers and Darren text-messaged me at 11 p.m. to tell me that his car was reporting an external temperature of 33º C. (Today it reported a temperature of 34º C at 7:30 p.m.) But despite the heat and the temptation to have a Sunday morning lie-in in air-conditioned comfort, I hauled myself out into the sun, in time for the Singapore Travel Meetup Group's excursion to the Japanese Cemetery.

Japanese Cemetery

You might be able to tell from the pictures that we were there at high noon. It was hot and we were the only visitors. It's been years since I'd stepped into a cemetery in Singapore --- my own forebears having been removed some years back to very modern holdings at a columbarium --- so it was pleasant to follow the marked path and peer at the gravestones from a polite distance. Most of the markers were inscribed in Japanese, with the exception of one Western-style marble one in English (dated 1950).

The main reason I'd made myself go was because after researching and writing about the karayuki-san ("the women who went overseas", as Japanese prostitutes abroad were known in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), I wanted to see their final resting places for myself. Historian James Warren has tallied 425 karayuki-san graves at this cemetery; I didn't count them today, but it felt like they filled at least a third of the modest cemetery.

The graveyard was very green and very neat. Preetam said he missed seeing children playing in it, but a little peace and quiet is nice too.



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