News Column

New Japanese WWII artifacts go on show at Imperial War Museum

July 23, 2014

A new display of items related to Japan's role in World War II has just opened at the Imperial War Museum in London following a major redevelopment of the building.

The display, which focuses on the end of the war has, as its centerpiece, a Japanese Zero fighter which was discovered in a jungle on Taroa Island in the Pacific Ocean 50 years after the conflict.

Historian Ian Kikuchi, who helped to curate the objects, told Kyodo News the aircraft was pushed off the runway in 1943 when the Japanese realized they did not have the necessary resources and parts to keep it flying.

The aircraft's aluminum shell is in a poor state and is marked by bullet holes. It has also deteriorated due to conditions in the jungle.

Kikuchi said the museum decided to display the aircraft for the first time because its skeletal appearance vividly symbolizes the crumbling of the Japanese empire toward the end of the war.

He said, "The Zero stands for early Japanese victories and also later defeats. This example of the Zero is visually arresting and intriguing." The plane was acquired by the museum about 14 years ago and was stored outside London.

Other items on display for the first time include the British flag that was flown over the municipal buildings in Singapore when Japan surrendered in September 1945. This was the same flag hidden by British forces when Singapore was captured by the Japanese in 1942.

Kikuchi said this is one of his favorite items as it "encapsulates a great reversal of fortunes."

The display, which is part of the museum's exhibition covering key snapshots from World War II, also includes a selection of swords surrendered by Japanese officers to the British. The display has a deflated dinghy and leather face mask which belonged to a kamikaze pilot whose plane was downed by a British carrier in the Pacific.

The exhibition also includes a bed sheet embroidered by a prisoner of war during captivity, propaganda leaflets dropped on Japan and aerial photos of Tokyo used for U.S. bombing raids.

The Imperial War Museum in London has just undergone a 40 million pound ($68 million) transformation which took one and a half years. The museum tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

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Source: Japan Economic Newswire

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