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japan / australia



During The Last Post’s visit to Japan as part of the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme, TLP Editor Greg T Ross caught up with Australia’s military attache in Japan, Colonel Simon Monterola. In it we discuss the importance of the Japanese, Australian relationship and it’s relevance in 2019. security circumstances, and so you will often find our governments sort of speaking out on key important and key issues as one. In the security space, our relationship with the United States, of course, is also important, but Japan and Australia are allies with the United States, so not only do we have a strong bilateral defence and security relationship with Japan, but also a strong trilateral relationship, but I think it’s probably that trilateral relationship that has brought us closer to Japan just the last five or 10 years in a bilateral sense. With Japan working closely for decades with the U.S., Australia working close with the U.S. in the defence and security space, it’s probably what brought us together and sort of brought us to the realization that we are natural security partners, and we should be doing more together. And, I’m probably sort of jumping ahead here and talking about the defence relationship, but I guess in terms of that, our objective is to get to know each other, to be able to work with each other, to get to understand how each other works, so that we can partner together to do pretty much anything in the region, be it disaster relief, search and rescue, enhancing maritime security, or even in the event of a major conflict somewhere in the region, being able to work together in an actual war fighting sort of scenario. TLP: The military connection of which you speak, they are tied in together culturally and socially which leads me to ... I remember being told years ago that I should go to Japan and now that I have, I can confirm that it is an enchanting, beautiful place. How have you found your time there? CSM: I’ve really enjoyed my time here. In this current job, I’ve only been here since July, 2018. I first visited Japan as a very young lieutenant, literally 25 years ago, in the mid ‘90s, and really enjoyed travelling in Japan. You’re right, it’s a beautiful place. People are very friendly. There is a great balance, great mix of history and sort of modern and all mixed in, somehow they just seem to do it well, mixing it all into one. But, it’s a great place to live and to travel, as I’m sure you experienced when you were up here. TLP: Yes, well, I didn’t want to leave. That’s how much I enjoyed it. A faster week I’ve never had in my life. CSM: It’s very, very orderly. Very easy to find your way around, so, yes, great place to travel.

TLP: Well, we both spoke of a likeness for walking, and I think that was one of the great things that I did in Japan, and you do that too. Tell us how this fondness for walking helps you with Japan? CSM: I think any new city I go to when I travel, not just here, but anywhere, I do like to get out and go for a good walk every morning, and I think it’s just a great way of discovering a new city and getting off the beaten tourist track and just sort of going down back streets and just finding those places that your average tourist doesn’t typically go to. I think, in fact, I do recall you and I speaking about this, so I think that’s just a great way of really getting to understand what makes a country and its people tick sort of thing. TLP: Yes, we did. CSM: So, I really do enjoy that whenever I travel around Japan or even here around Tokyo. TLP: It was wonderful. On one occasion I discovered a Japanese garden in the back streets of Tokyo and bumped into an 81-year old chap there who said, he’d lived in Tokyo all his life but that this was the first time he’d seen this Japanese garden. Right there, there’s an example of that. Now, our trip to Yokohama was very important. The Commonwealth War Cemetery, can you tell us a bit about the history of that? CSM: Yeah, sure. So, the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Yamate, Naka-ku on the outskirts of Yokohama, was established, in fact, and is cared for by the Commonwealth War Commission. Straight after World War II, about 1946 I think, and it was basically any Australian prisoners of war held here in Japan, and in fact some came from Hannan in southern China, were basically reinterred in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in the years after World War II. So, there’s four main sections: Australian section, a British section, New Zealand/Canada section, and then an India section. In fact, a fifth section is the post-war section for service personnel who died during the occupation, and even in more recent times, some are buried down there, but so there are about 300 Australians who ... Most of them died whilst interred here as POWs in Japan. As with pretty much any Commonwealth War Cemetery around the world, it’s just impeccably maintained, just a beautiful place as you saw. Probably Kengo Kobayashi, who’s been working there at the cemetery as the groundskeeper for the past 20 years has just done a magnificent

job of just impeccably maintaining the garden. TLP: I met Kengo at dinner and at the cemetery. He lives in a house alongside the cemetery. I met his dog. CSM: Yes. It’s just such a delight every time we go down to meet with him. He’s someone who just puts ... There’s so much pride in everything that he does, and he has so much pride in maintaining these graves of fallen Commonwealth soldiers buried here in Japan, I think it’s just very touching and very moving actually to sort of look at it from his perspective. TLP: I was lucky to meet him, as I was lucky to meet you and the others while on my trip, and I was taken by his approach to his job. We had dinner together, and quite wonderful. CSM: Yes, he does a magnificent job every year. He supports our Anzac Day Ceremony that we host down there at the cemetery every year. He supports the Remembrance Day Ceremony which rotates around different Commonwealth countries. TLP: What are you doing Anzac Day? CSM: Anzac Day, we co-host a ceremony down at the Commonwealth War Cemetery with New Zealand. This year is Australia’s turn to host, and look, it’s a fairly standard sort of an Anzac Day Ceremony format, and we invite a number of dignitaries from the Japanese government, Defence Force, and a number of other ambassadors and defence attachés to come and participate, plus, of course, a number of Australian and New Zealand expats come down and participate. So, this year we’ll be holding the service right here at the Australian Cross of Remembrance where we visited when you were up here. TLP: Most important and I was honoured to have laid a wreath there too Simon, and it’s a perfect spot for Anzac Day. I think that is something that I would look forward to being part of in the future if I can get up there for Anzac Day, not this year of course, but in the future. Simon, you’re a military attaché. Can you explain exactly what that means and what your day-to-day roles include? CSM: I guess what the focus of our day-to-day responsibilities really are maintaining the working level relationship with the Japanese Ministry of Defence and the Self-Defence Force, so day-to-day we’re maintaining a strong relationship with policy staff in the Ministry of Defence, with the maritime, ground, air Defence


Profile for The Last Post Magazine

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...