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The Work of Keiko Holmes

 

Keiko Holmes was born in Kiwa-cho, in Mi Prefecture, Japan. She married an Englishman and while living in Japan during the 1970s, they became aware of a simple memorial set up to 16 POWs who died during World War II. The memorial had been set up and cared for by local Japanese people in Kiwa-cho - a surprise to ex POWs who later visited it.

After moving to London in 1979, her husband was killed in a 1983 air accident. She subsequently visited the site again finding a much finer memorial had replaced the original.

From then on she made great efforts to try and inform the POWs who had worked in Itaya (Iruka) of the memorial to their dead comrades. Eventually a sufficient number of ex POWs “The Iruka Boys” had been found to organise the first Pilgrimage to Japan in 1992. The clear objective of the pilgrimage was to start the process of reconciliation between the two people and many POWs returned to the UK with a sense of peace and acceptance of the Japanese people; many ghosts were laid. Since then approximately two trips an year have been organised, primarily funded by Japanese companies and the Japanese people. This has enabled some 400 ex POWs and their families from the UK, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada to visit Japan as part of the Agape Programme.

However the process of reconciliation has not been universally welcomed as the following newspaper report indicates

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20020220b2.htm

but this has not hindered the continued organisation of the pilgrimages.

In 1996, the organisation run by Keiko Holmes was renamed Agape http://www.agape-reconciliation.org/  and the importance of her work in fostering Anglo-Japanese reconciliation was recognised in 1998 when she received the OBE from the Queen.

During the interviews that were conducted for the section on The Experiences of the POWs and Internees, some unprompted tributes to the work of Keiko Holmes were recorded

Mrs Marjorie Garner                   Click to listen to recording

Mr Norman Wright