Ban Kat Japanese Soldier's Shrine (near Chiang Mai)

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by SilverhawkUSA, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Yesterday (12-12-2010), I was on my way to check out the final route to a couple schools for a Chiang Mai ToyRide event. I took the Hang Dong Rd, Hwy 108 south from Chiang Mai and at San Patong turned west on Route 1013 toward Mae Wang/Mae Win.

    At Ban Kat, I had seen a sign many times before, as I whizzed past (approximately 9km from the 108, that says in English “Shrine of Japanese Soldiers”, with the rest in Thai and Japanese. It indicated a turn to the right. This time, after again whizzing past, I did a quick U-turn. Along with my Aussie riding buddy, Tom Forde, we decided to find it and check it out.

    It wasn’t too difficult too locate, if you ignore what appeared to be an unlikely location. Later I would learn the reason.

    One kilometer down this paved side road was this sign;

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    Oddly enough it pointed to the entrance of this school.

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    Ban Kat Witthayakom School

    I followed the road into the school which turned onto a gravel path. After a short distance, low and behold, there was a bell tower. [N18 36.563 E98 48.844]

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    It was not a great day for photos, being overcast and at times drizzle. But, we could see this would be a very pretty location with some blues sky and had the trees been in bloom. Even so, it was quite tranquil and only the voices of school children could be heard in the distance.

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    Tom and I had a look around and were puzzled as to exactly what this was all about. It had many bronze plaques and inscriptions, but they were in Thai and Japanese.

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    I had to try the bell. The “gong” definitely got the attention of anyone within half a kilometer or more. The thickness of the bell, and it’s shear weight was quite impressive. We couldn’t quite figure out the thought behind some of the cords, added for support or safety, as they would never hold such weight. (I later learned the Bell Tower had been built in 2002 and the bell imported from Kyoto, Japan.)

    On the side of the bell tower is the inscription:
    How did I know that? :shh:

    We stayed awhile, each with our own questions and conjectures as to what we were actually observing. I had no idea of the significance of this location so I took only a couple of photos to get translated later, and then hit the road to continue our planned loop.

    Today, I visited with my friends, Google and Wiki, and learned much more. This is where some of you may tune out and click on the NEXT post, while others will find it as fascinating as I do. The history one runs across, in some of the most unlikely locations, when traveling in this area is amazing. Please read on.

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    I learned that his plaque says in part;
    I say in part, because my girlfriend told me it said something about 18,000 Japanese who died in India. I am sure she had no idea of where Imphal is located and neither did I. I found this is another part of history that did not reach our studies in the U.S. and may be obscure in most parts of the western world.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Imphal
    From another source;

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    This plaques says;

    So why here?

    It turns out that the village of Ban Kat was on a major supply, and later evacuation, route for Japanese troops fighting in Burma and Northern India. A large field hospital was erected at this sight and the area became a rest center for troops traveling to and from Chiang Mai.

    It appears that this is quite an important site to many Japanese. The inscriptions on the side of the bell tower are families who donated to it’s construction. In Khun Yuam there is currently, a small but interesting, Japanese war museum.

    Rather than copy any more from other websites, if you find this to be of interest, go to the website below. I found the historical information of this small town (and areas where many of us have ridden our motorcycles) very fascinating. It also has the full story of the shrine and a translation of all the plaques and inscriptions. http://lanna-ww2.com/pages/page_1.html

    Apparently there is an annual memorial service held here every year. A report was published by City Life magazine and can be read here; http://www.chiangmainews.com/indepth/details.php?id=2354
    (Note: the Lanna-WW2 sites seems to be the most informative and I presume accurate account. It points out a few errors in the City Life information).

    Now, please do me one favor. One websites I found with some of the above info also deteriorated into a rant and diatribe of who should or should not be the subject of war memorials. Let’s not do that here. History is what it is. There are many sides and versions. The bottom line is; if you lost a loved one, you would like them remembered no matter what country you are from. I post this information only as an attempt to be informative to those interested in the areas history.
     
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  3. Champasak

    Champasak Ol'Timer

    Hi Dave

    To me, its the hidden stories behind obscure items that make living here so facinating! As per the old quote;
    I got mesmerized by the KMT / Doi Mae Salong saga and spent days sifting through stories, references, hints and allegations. I then arranged what I'd found in chronological order.

    I was amazed to realise that a lot of those old guys had carried guns in conflicts for 40+ years! From the 1940's Japanese invasion of Kunming, until 1982 when the Opium Warlord era ended in the Golden Triangle, and peace was imposed. Amazing! www.doi-mae-salong.com/information/history

    Cheers

    Ben

    Anyway - WELL DONE, bloody good stuff! And you are right about there being no need for ranting or apportioning blame. It is what it is... History - we can't change it, we can only learn from it.
     
  4. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Silverhawk,
    I'm fascinated by your research, your efforts to present the most informative of reports. Keep it up.
    (2 coming for the CMTR).
     
  5. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Thanks Ben. A very nice collection of information on your Doi Mae Salong page. I also find the whole area around Thoed Thai quite interesting. As more riders travel there, it has lost some of it's wild west feel, but the history is still fascinating. :clap:
     
  6. Tom Forde

    Tom Forde Ol'Timer

    I agree with David, let us understand and enjoy this unique WW11 history.
    It could well be a good ride around all these war sites.
    I wonder how many others could be still out there, set up by families etc.
    Cheers
    Tom
     
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A few years later I've finally made it....

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    Thanks for the tip off Silverhawk, plus the info you researched - well done.
    This attraction will be on the next edition of the GTR Mae Hong Son Lop guide map.
     
  8. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Very interesting, thank you guys.
     

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