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Tokyo WWII warplane factory site transformed into public park, peace symbol

Local residents look at information panels on the history of a former Nakajima Aircraft Co. warplane engine factory and the World War II bombing of the area, in a new section of Musashino Central Park built on the former plant site in Musashino, Tokyo, on June 24, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A lesson on a slice of Japan's wartime history and the country's transition to peace now awaits visitors to Musashino Central Park in the Tokyo suburb of Musashino.

There, five information panels have been installed on the former site of an electrical transformer building, part of a wartime Nakajima Aircraft Co. factory assembling engines and other components for Japanese military aircraft, including the well-known Zero fighter. The boards explain the history of the plant, and of the destruction and death visited on the area during World War II.

The company's Musashi Plant was bombed nine times by United States Army Air Force B-29 bombers during the war, and hundreds of local residents and others were killed in the raids. The reinforced concrete transformer building survived the bombing, but was eventually torn down in 2015 when the public park was expanded.

However, a local citizens' group sought to preserve some part of the building to commemorate World War II and the devastating aerial raids, and on June 24 the group held an event in the new park section attended by about 60 people to celebrate the panels' unveiling. The 80-centimeter by 120-centimeter panels relate the history of the Nakajima factory and of the bombing, with one stating, "We can say that this park is symbolic of (Japan's) transition from war to peace."

At the June 24 ceremony, after touring the park the participants listened to an Okinawan folk song. One attendee, a 91-year-old resident of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, who worked at a nearby factory during the wartime student mobilization, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I really would have liked them to have preserved the transformer building, but I hope the information panels help people remember the utter wretchedness of war."

(Japanese original by Tamami Kawakami, City News Department)

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