Remembering the Flight JL123 Crash (2): Irei-no-Sono

Further to my post about Osutaka-no-One, in this post I will write about Irei-no-Sono (慰霊の園), the memorial to the victims of the JL123 crash, which is located in central Ueno-mura (and not at the foot of the mountain where the plane crashed, as I have seen it described sometimes).

Let us start with how to visit Irei-no-Sono. It is in central Ueno-mura (although the nature of the village means that there is no real centre, but rather most housing is stretched along about 9km by Route 299 (which has been improved since the 1980s). The final part of the drive to Irei-no-Sono is up a very steep hill, starting with a sharp turning (depending on which direction you approach from). Irei-no-Sono is signposted from the main road, but you would never know it was connected to the JL123 crash from its name, etc.

Irei-no-Sono is towards the right-hand-side of the map. Towards the left is the post office where you turn left (on to route 124) to start the climb to Osutaka-no-One (about 20km away).

Looking at the main memorial towers, you will see there is a small building to the left. In it there is a small museum relating to JL123, which I will discuss more below. Further round to the left there is another building where one can purchase drinks and have a rest. There are also drink machines outside with another seating area and place to leave messages. Walking around the site there are a variety of monuments in addition to the main towers. Behind the towers you will find a memorial where the names of most of the victims names are written (in Japanese alphabetical order starting from the right, with the names of the foreigners in the left-hand most panel). Mid-way along the panels there is a gap, leading to a crypt within the hillside where the cremated remains which were not identified are contained. Before you leave you may also be interested to visit the small memorial on the hillside, accessed along the path between the main memorial and the museum, to those from Ueno-mura who died during the war. You can see photographs of Irei-no-Sono (which appear in my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan) here, and also images are included in a YouTube video, Remembering JL123, that I put together.

Although Irei-no-Sono has less connection for many of the bereaved than the crash site, it is the place that my research related to JL123 has been the most focussed on for the past 4 years (writing this in 2020). In 2015, the small memorial hall close to the towers was expanded and changed. It had always been a small, dark building with a collection of various things connected to the crash. However, there were few explanations and many families commented to me on how they didn’t even like to go in it. The new hall, which is a museum by any other name, is 50% bigger, brighter and contains many more explanations. What intrigued me was why this happened 30 years after the crash. The result of my investigation was the article Developing a Model to Explain Modifications to Public Transportation Accident Memorials. Rather than repeat myself, I suggest you read that post and follow the link to the article which discusses the relative importance of bereavement theory, dark tourism, having local approval, and co-ordination (of both people and funds).

See also my video about Remembering The JL123 Crash.

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