Citizens to visit Muntinlupa, Philippines, to learn achievements of late Buddhist priest in saving lives of war criminals

by Mitsuhisa Ogawa, Staff Writer

Citizens of Ibara, Okayama Prefecture, will visit the Philippines to learn about the achievements of a late Buddhist priest from their city. During their stay in Muntinlupa, from October 27 to 31, they will visit the New Bilibid Prison, where Shunin Kagao (1901-1977), the late chief priest of Hozoin Temple in Ibara, made efforts to save the lives of Japanese war criminals held there and helped realize their release.

Among the 14 delegates are members of the local Japan-China economic exchange association and performers of kagura Shinto theatrical music and dance. They will visit the prison and the cemetery where Japanese nationals are buried. The group will also participate in a friendship festival organized by the city and perform kagura in front of Muntinlupa Mayor Jaime R. Fresnedi.

Mr. Kagao was a chaplain at the prison for four years from 1949. He sent a song written by two prisoners on death row, which expressed their desire to go home, to Japan. The song was sung by singer Hamako Watanabe and made into a record titled “Ah, Muntinlupa no yo wa fukete” (“Ah, the evening deepens in Muntinlupa”). Mr. Kagao sent a music box which played this song to then Philippine President Elpidio Quirino and he called for their release. As a result, 108 Japanese prisoners returned home in 1953.

At the request of the City of Muntinlupa, Ichiro Osawa, president of the Philippine-Japan Camaraderie Association Incorporation, based in Manila, visited Ibara and met with residents of the city. They decided to visit Muntinlupa after receiving letters of invitation from the city this past spring.

Masahiro Takahashi, president of the economic exchange association, said, “Through following the footsteps of Mr. Kagao, we hope to deepen our exchanges between the two cities during this trip.”

(Originally published on October 26, 2014)