Preserving Heritage into the Future: Grassroots Movements for the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery

Mr Toshiki Asakura-Ward1

1The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

This paper examines the history of the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery in Japan since its genesis in 1854. This resting place survived a financial crisis beginning in the 1970s despite very few descendants of the interred having an active involvement in its maintenance. This study explores the impact of grassroots movements, which led to the preservation of the cemetery. Key factors in its survival include sustained public interest in Japan’s history of international contact since the opening of Yokohama Port, the involvement of interested groups, public Open Day donations, and fundraising efforts. In particular this paper investigates how the priorities of the City of Yokohama and the Prefecture of Kanagawa for this cemetery, led to them to make major donations towards this heritage site. This paper draws on a case study of the annual ‘pilgrimage’ by Japan Rail staff to the site to highlight some of the ascribed attachments to persons buried there. This paper concentrates on the fate of Edmund Morel to illustrate how memories of persons buried there are being perpetuated. This paper also interrogates how the cemetery management selected certain tombs for inclusion in its Open Days map and the correlation between this and major donors.


Toshiki Asakura-Ward is a PhD candidate in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Adelaide. He is a recipient of 2019 Asia Study Grant of the National Library of Australia. His research interests include civil society, Japanese history and society, and heritage studies.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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