Ryogoku is a district of Tokyo known for being the heart of Japanese sumo wrestling. In this area, if you are lucky you can spot sumo wrestlers walking on the streets going about their regular day. Another famous place in this district is the great Edo-Tokyo Museum, a huge building that takes the visitor step by step through the construction of the Tokyo we know today. But there is also a sacred and important place called ‘Yokoamicho Koen’. This is a park located a few meters from the Ryogoku station and it was founded in 1930 then rebuilt after the war in 1951.
In the park enclosure, there is a large, semicircular sculpture with a work of art made with flowers forming pigeons of La Paz. In this sculpture, there is a small room where the names of more than 100,000 victims of the bombing of Tokyo by the US forces are written. The sculpture was created in 2001 by sculptor Kimio Tsuchiya as a peace monument commemorating the victims of Tokyo of the Pacific war.
In the center of this spacious park is the stunningly beautiful Tokyo-to Ireido, the Tokyo Metropolitan Area Rest Center. It is a very particular enclosure since the back of the enclosure has a three-story Buddhist-style pagoda that measures 41 meters in height. The front is very similar to the entrance of a Shinto shrine. The interior of the enclosure looks like a Christian church.
Tokyo-to Ireido has a history that dates back to 1922 when the Tokyo government bought the land to make the park, but due to the great Tokyo earthquake in 1923, thousands of people died here. They ran desperately for this new place but in the afternoon a giant tornado of fire formed that incinerated the 30,000 people who were there. In 1930 the Rest Center for earthquake victims was opened. Then in 1945, the United States carried out the bombing of Tokyo, which became the most destructive non-atomic bombing in the history of mankind. This is a little known fact since people mainly refer to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
41 km2 of the center of Tokyo was destroyed, without discriminating between a sanctuary, historical sites, hospitals or houses. The bombing left approximately 105,000 civilians dead (more than the first figure of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki) and 1,000,000 homeless. Between 1948 and 1951, the ashes of 105,400 people killed in Tokyo were buried in the Yokoamicho Koen park.
Inside the Tokyo-to Ireido, there are paintings on both sides of the building reflecting what happened both in the great earthquake and in the great bombing of Tokyo. In the center, there is a place to put incense and pray for the peace of the victims. There is also a small room with a movie explaining the history of the park.
Just behind the La Paz monument, there is a small but very beautiful Japanese garden, ideal for those who want to seek the tranquility that characterizes these gardens. The site, despite having a difficult history that can be defined as tragic, is a serene place of peace where you can see firsthand how Japan has become one of the most peaceful countries in the world. The park and its buildings are really impressive. A commemoration of the victims of the Tokyo bombing is made every March 10.
A visit to this park would be a very touching and very important visit that is recommended for those who want to learn a bit more about what has happened in the history of Tokyo.