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.
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
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
this has not hindered the continued organisation of the pilgrimages.
1996, the organisation run by Keiko Holmes was renamed Agape
and the importance of her work in fostering Anglo-Japanese reconciliation was
recognised in 1998 when she received the OBE from the Queen.
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
Marjorie Garner Ω