Sayonara Chidorigafuchi

I attended the annual August 15 Nichiren Shu sponsored memorial ceremony honoring all victims of the Pacific War and prayer for world peace at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery for 15 years. The first few years I also joined the Nichiren Shu related world peace march to Ikegami Honmonji temple that took place after the ceremony. We’d drum and chant Odaimoku through the scorchingly hot streets past the Diet, Tokyo Tower, Akasaka, Gotanda with the Japanese police escorting and protecting us from traffic, young people and foreigners staring at our small noisy group like we were mad. Only the older folks in quieter areas would put their hands together and bow respectfully in gratitude to our efforts, an old and quickly fading cultural memory.

But over the years my doubts about the whole end of the war business: the memorial ceremonies, the activists, the bad history dramas on TV, all of it no matter what color of the political spectrum, began to grow. The actual people who lived through that horrific time always have my sympathy and respect, but as those people became fewer and fewer, too old to even attend ceremonies, it became more and more younger people without any connection to the war using it for what ever political reason, many of them not ever Japanese. They became the only ones lining the sidewalks from Kudanshita metro station to Yasukuni Shrine while the ever dwindling number of faux right wing sound trucks whizzed by. Dwindling because whoever bought the gas, the food, paid the salaries and the after event parties wasn’t paying as much as they used to. Those sound truck guys are only hired hands. Actually everybody who engages in any kind of end of the war activism are hired pretend volunteers. The only ones doing it for free were family members actually paying respects, and they always keep their heads down going about their own business.

I always walked on the quiet Chidorigafuchi side of the street avoiding the brouhaha. When COVID hit most normal people stopped coming. Nichiren Shu priests still went through the motions, and getting paid for their efforts, but the real audience and reason had moved on. They won’t be back, like of a lot of other post war cultural institutions. My last tour of duty, if you can even call it that as it was more out of curiosity, was August 15, 2022. As always I went early to avoid the heat and noise. The cherry tree lined sidewalk going toward the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery was empty and quiet. The only people were a few little old rich ladies out walking their dogs, talking about weather and mundane things. The war dead are dead and buried. There are some people making money off of it in various capacities. It had nothing to do with the ladies walking their dogs. At that moment, I decided it had nothing to do with me.