70th Anniversary of breakout

Article image - 70th Anniversary of breakout The Japanese War Cemetery in Cowra.

The Australian premiere of a renowned Japanese play has been a highlight of this year’s 70th anniversary commemorations for the Japanese Prisoner of War Breakout at Cowra.

The five-days of events included a visit from one of the last surviving Japanese prisoners of war, photographic exhibitions, historical displays, commemorative dinners, and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Australian and Japanese War cemeteries by Australian representatives and the Japanese ambassador,
Mr Yoshitaka Akimoto.

“This was one of the greatest events we’ve had in Cowra for a number of years and our congratulations go out to everyone that helped make it a success; as evidenced by the fantastic media coverage the historic occasion garnered,” Cowra Mayor, Councillor Bill West said.

“These commemorations formed the last major event where survivors and witnesses of the Breakout will have gathered in Cowra.”

A visit by one of Australia’s greatest writers, Tom Keneally was another feature of the celebrations.

As well as being a guest speaker at the keynote luncheon that culminated the Anniversary; Mr Keneally visited local schools with Breakout survivors to discuss the social, cultural, and human aspects of the greatest military breakout of the Second World War.

The Breakout made such an impression on the world-renowned author of such works as Schindler’s Ark, that last year he launched his latest work, Shame and the Captives.

The novel is a dramatised account of a Breakout of Japanese Prisoners of War in the fictional town of Gawell and is based on the events at Cowra 70-years ago.

Mr Keneally launched the work at the former Cowra POW Camp last year with the author afterwards signing hundreds of copies for local book fans.

Another highlight of the commemorations was the Australian theatrical premiere of the renowned Japanese play; Cowra No Honcho Kaigi (Honchos Meeting in Cowra).

Presented by Rinkogun Theater Company, Tokyo, this production premiered at Cowra Civic Centre with a full house for both productions.

The 70th Anniversary Commemorations for the breakout of Japanese soldiers from Cowra Prisoner of War Camp on August 5, 1944 extended over five-days.

“This included a number of unique events aimed at engaging not just a large cross-section of the Cowra community but also attracting regional, national, and international visitors,” Cr West said.

One of the enduring legacies of the Anniversary was a series of interpretive signs examining the cultural, social, and historical factors that contributed to this event that saw the death of more than 200 Japanese POWs and four Australian servicemen.

These 34 interpretive signs, displayed at strategic points around the Breakout site, were funded by a Federal Government ‘Your Community Heritage’ grant, matching Cowra Council funding, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sydney Inc, the Japan Club of Sydney Inc, and the Japanese Society of Sydney.