In Cowra finding Murakami’s grave

My collaborator Dr Lorna Kaino and I drove through the Blue Mountains, past Bathurst and arrived in Cowra in search for Yasukichi Murakami’s grave.

My first visit to Cowra was in 1997 when I arrived at the Japanese Gardens to install fifty photographs from my exhibition Unseen Faces of Japan which had been exhibited at the Japan Cultural Centre Sydney (Japan Foundation) six months earlier. Since then I have been here a dozen times, and as years pass and my understanding of history, war, peace, and people have deepened, so has my understanding of Cowra.

Yasukichi Murakami is buried in the Japanese War Cemetery in Cowra. All Japanese people who died in Australia during WWII are buried here. Unknown airmen, POWs and civilian internees, like Murakami.

His grave somehow feels out of place.

Lorna commented that she somehow had been expecting a monument more outstanding as he was an outstanding figure in our minds. Yet like all graves around the world associated with war, his grave looks identical to everyone else’s, all neatly in a row one after another. Even with all his achievements and leadership, friendships with people in high places along with his 47 years in this country, none of it made any difference in the end.

But then again, every single person here buried would have a story to tell, a mother and a father, people they loved and people who loved them, even the 3 day old baby and the unknown airman who air raided Darwin. When I remember this I realise that Murakami, although may have a common grave like everyone, else has earned his name. He is in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. And here we are, Lorna and I, searching and finding his grave 67 years after his death.

Yasukichi Murakami’s grave at Japanese War Cemetery, Cowra. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

– Posted by Mayu Kanamori

Advertisements

Kennedy Hill

“Mr Murakami was the second best photographer Broome has ever had,” John E deB Norman, the co-author with Verity Norman of A Pearling Master’s Journey: in the wake of the Schooner Mistsaid on the phone. In his opinion Eki, the wife of Takazo (Tomasi) Nishioka was Broome’s best photographer ever. ” But Mr Murakami was the better with indoor photography and in particular group and solo studio portraits at which he excelled.”

So provocative was this thought – a woman photographer in the early 1900’s being the best photographer the town ever had, I immediately requested audience with him at his home with his wife Verity.

When asked further, he told me that Mrs Eki Nishioka understood light and most of the outdoor photographs of the time were taken by her. He mentioned a particular photograph of the luggers taken from Kennedy Hill on the preface of his book (Broome Creek image (page xiii courtesy of the Western Australian Museum) would have been taken by her. He thought this particular photograph demonstrated a collaboration between Murakami and Eki: Murakami carried the tripod up Kennedy Hill for Eki, but it was Eki who had photographed the luggers among the mangroves, not Murakami.

Equipped with these thoughts, I later climbed up Kennedy Hill much like Eki and Murakami must have done, but I was on my own, and so to reduce the weight over my shoulders, I had left my tripod behind in my car. Even then it was difficult to climb the sand dune with my equipment to get to where I could photograph the sea scape below, carefully avoiding sea shells and broken glass, presumably left by the illegal campers evicted from Kennedy Hill about a year ago.

The blades of broken glass were glistening in the afternoon light and were no longer threateningly sharp . They had slightly weathered over the previous year, making me wonder how long it would take for the multi colored glass of green, brown, orange and crystal to lose its edges enough to look like a precious jewel.

The sun casted strange shadows along my path and I felt like my mind was in another world and that I could feel someone in the distance watching me. I reached the top of the hill, but there were no luggers below. Just overgrown mangroves, but as I began photographing, I could almost hear the shouting and jostling of sea men at shore and the laughter of women who waited for them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

– Posted by Mayu Kanamori