Saturday 3rd June
Meeting in the hotel foyer we had breakfast then went to the waiting press cars that were to take us to the old Hakodate camp site. On arrival I was introduced to the man who had bought the site on which the old prison camp had stood, he was now in the process of using the old huts to build a restaurant which would include rooms for paying guests. It was not yet completed, the decorating was still to be done. It had splendid views of the sea and bay which had been obscured from P.O.W.’s view by a high wooden fence that surrounded the camp site, today it was a splendid summers day.
The next surprise was that a local historian named Mr Asari, who I now met, was to plant a rose and black pine tree with me in the grounds overlooking the sea. My daughter Angela was asked to throw some earth then water them in, Bari was kept busy taking photo’s alongside the press men present. A wooden board was put in place with the date and my name on, which was to be replaced at a later date with a granite stone engraved to commemorate my visit.
This task completed, I was then shown round inside the building, it was constructed of old aged timber, a quarantine sign was screwed to an internal wall, a relic from one of the camp huts. We then went to the site of the old crematorium, a little way up the hill, it had been demolished long ago and replaced with a very modern building with a glass door frontage that could have been anywhere.
Further down the hill was a small café overlooking the bay, we sat in the garden and had lunch, surprisingly, Russian food, Borsch and a Cornish pasty type pastry with a herb filling.
After lunch our next call was to a Buddhist Temple built in 1643, this was where the ashes of the P.O.W.’s who died in Hakodate were kept until the end of the war. Why I was given Bill’s ashes to safeguard, I don’t know, was it because I helped carry him up the hill to the old brick crematorium or because I washed and fed him? I will never know the answer.
The docks were the next stop, it was still the old dry dock that had been there for 106 years, I was told. I remembered this place very well with the winter winds and snow coming in off the sea. A large modern ferry boat was now in dock being renovated, looking very smart with its finishing coats of paint. I could still feel that cold wind there even on this glorious sunny summers day, so felt the need to don the zip-up jacket I had taken along, it had not changed and I had no wish to linger there.
The two reporters from the Hakodate newspaper were taking us to the cable car station, on our way we drove through the old quarters of Hakodate close to the old camp and saw the old British Embassy, the Chinese Centre and the Russian Church, throwbacks of the fish industries of the 1800’s. The press left us when we reached the station to return to their newspaper offices to write their reports. We then rode the cable car to the top of Hakodate mountain and had stunning views of the town, harbour and the twin coastline of the peninsular.
Another busy day out over, we returned to our hotel, then told that we would be dining out at a French restaurant where we were welcomed by an elderly lady, her Buddhist Monk son was to join us later. The restaurant had been closed to other diners and a grand piano installed with pianist playing western music. Several courses of food were served, excellent roast been being the main course, champagne and the finest wines made it a superb meal.
Well sated and expecting to say our thank you and goodbye to our hosts we were surprised to be told that the evening was not over yet, two cars waited outside to take us to the top of Mount Hakodate once again so that we could see the city lights on this clear night. It was a stunning view and an apt finale to an outstanding evening as the cars returned us to our hotel.