The participants at the Armenian Genocide Monument

Commemoration of Japanese Captain, Savor of Smyrna Fire Survivors

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By A. B.

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN — An event titled “Tokei Maru: the Salvation of Armenian and Greeks in Smyrna” took place in the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Foundation conference hall on February 18. It was one of the events organized on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Smyrna fire and extermination of the Armenians and Greeks of the city in 1922. It was organized in cooperation with the “ARMENIA-NIPPON” Armenian-Japanese Scientific and Cultural Union NGO.

The event, which was dedicated to the friendship between the Armenian and Japanese peoples, was attended by Jun Yamada, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Armenia, Rika Onodera, Second Secretary of Japanese embassy in Armenia, Mnatsakan Safaryan, head of the Asia-Pacific Division of the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other guests.

Japanologist Anna Vardanyan, senior lecturer at Armenian State University of Economics, who has studied in Japan, stated that coming across a picture of “Tokei Maru” Japanese ship anchored in the port of Smyrna led her to continue her research in Japan and Greece in order to find out more information about Armenians who have been saved by Japanese ship. Vardanyan revealed particularly: a) the exact name of the captain (Ryu), b) his Japanese origin, c) an evidence proving that the Japanese captain has threw out his valuable cargo and rescued about 825 Armenians and Greeks, d) the meeting of an Armenian musician kemancha player Ruben Karakhanyan with the captain in 1930`s, e) an addition was made to the biography of Diana Abgar, Armenian writer and public figure in Japan, who met the captain.

Speakers at the event

AGMI Senior researcher Tehmine Martoyan presented a talk about the Smyrna Great Fire holocaust and a few testimonies of people who were saved by Japanese ship.

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Video messages of Australian historians Vicken Babkenian and Terry Stavridis were shown.

The researchers underlined the fact that they did not underestimate the humanitarian actions of the crews of the foreign ships anchored off the coast of Smyrna that rescued survivors, but studied the example of the Japanese ship exclusively, trying to obtain a real picture of the rescue process by combining historical facts, motives and consequences, mainly on the basis of eyewitness accounts, survivors’ memories and testimonies. During her speech Anna Vardanyan showed the audience an archival video where American-Armenian organist (now diseased) Berge Jamgotchian tells how his father was rescued by the Japanese ship.

The speakers stated that every single person who survived the genocide was very sensitive to such humanitarian steps taken and that the open sympathy and gratitude to Japan and the Japanese people was natural.

Anna Vardanyan was given the exclusive right to screen the animated film “Tokei Maru” by the Greek animator Zachos Samoladas in Armenia for the first time during the event. This animation presents the Smyrna fire and the heroic action of Japanese captain.

In his speech, Jun Yamada, the of Japan to the republic of Armenia, expressed his thanks to Anna Vardanyan for such in-depth research, and the very important discoveries made, admitting that the feat of the Japanese captain, who saved so many lives, was extremely touching. At the same time, he expressed the opinion that the Armenian and Japanese peoples have similarities in their histories.

At the end of the event participants lied flowers at the Eternal Fire of the Genocide monument, honoring the memory of the innocent victims.

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