Blog

Standing guard

Phillip Zupp, Standing guard

There are only a few degrees registering on the mercury, but there isn’t the slightest puff of a breeze. The sun is beaming and the people of Tokyo are going about there business in their very orderly and very quiet manner.

I have read about this city and I have written about this city, but this is the first time that I have ever visited this city. My father visited this city in the immediate aftermath of World War Two as a young soldier, shipped out from the jungles of New Guinea to Japan.

He was primarily based at ‘Ground Zero’ – Hiroshima. Although he also served for a period in Tokyo where, among other duties, he stood guard at the Imperial Palace. Now, on this cold, sunny and still morning I stand at the palace’s gates.

The guard houses still stand. Small grey stone cylinders, topped by green-tarnished copper roofs. Within, stand uniformed Japanese servicemen in navy blue uniforms, trimmed with brilliantly white gloves. Seventy years ago, my father stood there in khaki and a slouch hat, trimmed with a brilliantly white belt and webbing.

The ancient moat surrounding the palace still remains, although now towering office blocks provide the backdrop. As my father stood guard a good deal of the surroundings had been razed by an airborne armada that had fire-bombed Tokyo almost beyond recognition.

His 20 year-old eyes would have looked upon a very different scene and he could not have imagined that his son would stand there, staring at his guard house, half a century on. Yet, here I stand.

My father could not visualise the future, but my imagination is able to overlay the past on this scene before me. I can see his khaki, I can see the brown leather chin strap and I can see that expressionless face he would wear when it was time to get down to business.

The experience moves me – as it always does. Each time I walk in his steps another small piece of the puzzle falls into place and the gaping hole left by his loss all those years ago is filled just a little more.

NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBE