WWII Japanese Soldiers Monument: Rempang Island, North Sumatra

The monument, which lies next to a large house between the beach and the paved road, looks inconspicuous. The message it bears is of forgotten warriors from an obscure past. It was built to honor fallen Japanese soldiers in World War II, who were interned on the island of Rempang before being repatriated to Japan at the war’s end. Over 100 died, reportedly from sickness and hunger.

The 16500 square hectare island is located some 2.5 kilometers southeast of Batam, connected to the larger island by a bridge. With a population of only 1,000 people, Rempang is a quiet, desolate island as the Jakarta Post explains.

Engraved on the small monument are these lines: “112,708 repatriated and 128 dead and buried in Rempang and Galang 1945-1946. This monument was constructed by the contributors as shown here, with their best wishes for friendship between Indonesia and Japan and for world peace, August 23, 1981, Rempang Friendship Association.

The Rempang Friendship Association (RFA) comprises former Japanese soldiers who survived Rempang. It was founded in 1977 and chaired by Masao Sato, former managing director of Japan Airlines. The association’s first visit to Rempang was made in 1978. Braving difficult roads and rough seas, dozens of elderly war veterans revisited their memories of pain and suffering.

Not a single grave of a Japanese soldier is visible at first glance. Visiting kin or comrades sometimes went deep into the forest with maps in hand. The maps had been drawn by fellow soldiers tasked with burying the fallen among them, and they charted the precise location of the graves.

The monument is not included in textbooks and tourist booklets published by the Batam municipality or Riau Islands provincial administration.