Ogose town is full of surprises. This year we have visited the town several times and unearthed lots of hidden treasures. Such as the purple mountain, the crying dam, Cafe St Gallen (Kuroyama Kosenkan) to name but a few. Last year, when visiting Godaison, one of Ogose’s better known attractions, I was intrigued by a sign in the azalea garden. It indicated the start of a hiking route to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the World. Sekai Munei Senshi no Haka in Japanese.
I had forgotten all about that sign, until we visited Sakuranoyama ealier this year on one of those Ogose adventures. There another sign post for the elusive unknown soldier’s tomb piqued my interest. It indicated that the tomb was only 700 meters away at the top of Mt Taikan. I decided then and there that we would climb to the top and unbury, if you’ll pardon the pun, the mystery of Saitama’s commemoration to the unknown soldiers of the world.
War Dead Memorials Japan
I never knew that we had such a memorial to war dead in Saitama. I also didn’t know that in total there are four such memorials to unknown soldiers in Japan. The only one I knew of is the one in Tokyo. The four war dead memorials in Japan are:
- Tokyo: The Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery. A national Japanese cemetery and a memorial for 352,297 unidentified war dead of the second World War
- Kyoto: Ryozen Kannon in Kyoto – a war memorial commemorating the War Dead of the Pacific War
- Osaka: The Great Peace Prayer Tower. “The official name of the cenotaph tower is literally “non-denominational war victims great cenotaph tower to pray peace”. Source: Wikipedia“
- Saitama: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the World…
Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the World
The tomb in Saitama is part of the larger world project. Usually in English the memorials or monuments are called “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”. However, the official English for the memorial erected in Ogose is actually “World Unknown Soldiers Tomb”. But other sources around the world refer to it as the former – the term used by other such memorials around the world.
The World Unknown Soldiers Tomb was built to inter the ashes of over 200 unidentified soldiers. The ashes include unknown soldiers from the Burmese War, Philippine war and war dead of Saitama, Kanagawa, Ishikawa and Tokyo. As they were unable to identify the soldiers they could not pass the ashes on to bereaved families. Before the tomb was built the ashes were just kept in a room in the Saitama Prefectural Office.
The tomb is nondenominational, but there is a small Buddhist temple within the building. And every year on the second Saturday of May there is a memorial service with some Buddhist practices. The memorial is part of a larger festival held around the tomb. The festival climaxes with a fireworks display. For the longest time they were the earliest fireworks annually in the Kanto plain. But nowadays there are at least two earlier ones: Yamada and Ranzan.
Apart from the main tomb there are four monuments at the site. Including a monument and commemoration to war horses, pictured above.
The tomb is on top of Mt Taikan (Taikanzan), about 200 meters above sea level. You can actually see the tomb from miles away. To be honest I’d always assumed it was a dam. It looks like a dam from a distance. You can climb onto the roof of the temple for an unadulterated view of Ogose. The panoramic view affords views further afield in Saitama Prefecture and Tokyo too. You can even see the Tokyo Skytree. Furthermore, this location is supposedly a very popular place for watching the sunrise, particularly the very first sunrise of the year.
There are dozens of steps for the final mount to the tomb. There is a slope beside it too, but it would be hard going in a wheelchair. The area is particularly picturesque in spring. At the end of March and early April the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Around mid April white azalea flank the staircase. It is probably the most beautiful time to visit.
Taikanzan Park Sakuranoyama Park
There is a small car park right by the stairs, with a toilet, vending machine, picnic table and a slide. But if you park at the foot of the mountain, as we did, it is a gorgeous walk up to the mount through two parks. The Sakura no Yama Park and the Taikanzan park. Both are actually very small and from the car park to the monument it is only 700 metres. All uphill though and in parts very steep.
To the left of the stairs up to the tomb there is the entrance to the Sazanka Pass Leads to the larger Mt Otakatori. To the right the mountain pass to the gorgeous Godaison. It is a beautiful area to hike. Please note it is a wildlife protection area too.
|Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the World|
|Address:||Ogose, Iruma District, Saitama 350-0416|
|Hours:||8.30 am to 5.15 pm|
World List: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monuments
The nearest train station is the Ogose station on both the JR Hachiko line and the Tobu Ogose line. It is actually close enough to walk from the station. Or you can get any bus to the Ogose town office will bring you within walking distance.
Parking for 15 cars at the bottom of the stairs of the tomb. And further parking at the base of the mountain in the town hall / Sakuranoyama parking lot.