Tue, Sep 08, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Altar dedicated to veneration of Japanese soldier

By Cheng Hung-ta and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

For four decades, an altar maintained by the Chuahua Temple (勸化堂) in Miaoli County’s Nanjhuang Township (南庄) has been dedicated to the veneration of a deceased Japanese guard officer who saved more than 2,000 Taiwanese at the cost of his own life near the end of World War II.

According to the chairman of the temple’s board of trustees, Huang Chin-yuan (黃錦源), Otoemon Hiroeda was in 1975 enshrined in the temple at the behest of his now-deceased Taiwanese subordinate Liu Wei-tien (劉維添), who was saved by Hiroeda’s refusal to obey orders.

In February 1945, Hiroeda was a guard officer leading a unit of Taiwanese volunteers in the Philippines besieged by Allied forces. Before World War II, Hiroeda was a police officer stationed in Miaoli when Taiwan was under Japanese rule.

Near the end of the month-long Battle of Manila, Hiroeda received orders to arm his Taiwanese volunteers with “lunge-mines” — Japanese anti-tank grenades consisting of a large high-explosive warhead on a 1.5m stick designed to be rammed into tanks, which destroyed both the target and the wielder — and launch suicide charges against US armor.

Hiroeda refused to carry out his orders; instead, he entered secret negotiations with US officers to surrender his position peacefully in exchange for the safety of his troops.

With the bargain struck, Hiroeda gathered his men and told them: “You are Taiwanese and need not die unnecessarily for this war, but I am Japanese and must take responsibility for my disobedience.”

Hiroeda then shot himself, Huang said.

Hiroeda was 40 years old at the time of his death.

After the war, Liu returned to Nanjhuang, but did not forget his old commander, Huang said.

In 1975, Liu arranged for the temple to set up an altar and a memorial tablet to venerate Hiroeda in Fu Tian Temple, one of the subsidiary temples in the Chuahua Temple complex, Huang said.

Liu got in touch with Hiroeda’s widow and descendants in Japan, who attended more than 20 memorial ceremonies honoring Hiroeda since 1975, Huang said.

In 1985, Liu traveled to Manila and retrieved soil from the place where Hiroeda died and sent it to his family in Japan in lieu of his remains, which had been lost after the battle, Huang said.

Three years later, Hiroeda’s widow died, and she too was enshrined on her husband’s altar at the temple.

Today, Hiroeda’s altar features a memorial tablet bearing the names of the couple and commemorative Japanese lyric poetry inscribed on a plaque.

Since Liu’s death two years ago, his son-in-law Wang Ming-wen (王銘文) has continued the tradition, and is to appear at a ceremony scheduled for Sept. 26 with members of Hiroeda’s family, Huang said.

“After the war, Liu Wei-tien and his family in Taiwan remained good friends with the Hiroeda family in Japan. I think their friendship and Hiroeda saving his subordinates demonstrates the value of integrity and compassion,” Huang said, adding that “it is a story that more people should know.”

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