In May 1944, Karuizawa was designated as an evacuation area for foreign diplomats under Japanese government guidelines. Miyama-so, the biggest building in the village built in 1942, the year after the onset of the Pacific War, became the evacuation office of the Swiss Legation.
Initiated by Prof. Louis Schlapbach (Empa/ NIMS) and Prof. Hanazato (Tsukuba University), the history of the Swiss Legation during WW2 in Karuizawa was investigated and discussed by an international group of researchers during a symposium held in Karuizawa on Saturday, August 22.
The “Open House” invitation attracted several 100 visitors to the original Miyama-so, the building that hosted the Swiss Legation, headed by Minister Camille Gorgé, during the end of WW2. The foreign ministry itself opened a branch office in Karuizawa in April 1945 at the Mikasa Hotel close by to cater to the needs of these diplomatic corps. Whereas the Mikasa Hotel is now an often
frequented museum in Karuizawa, the neighboring Miyama-so has been almost abandoned and is only inhabited by bats.
During the symposium held in the afternoon of the same day, the about 150 visitors received an exciting history lesson on a specific part of Karuizawa’s history: Whereas University of Kyoto Professor Tamon Suzuki discussed “The Role of the Swiss in Japan’s Peace Negotiations at the End of the Second World War”, Professor Claude Hauser (University of Fribourg, Switzerland) read from the Diary of Minister Camille Gorgé. Prof. Uchida (Kanagawa University) and Prof. Inaba (Tsukuba University) provided the interested audience the background setting to Karuizawa and its historic houses.
Symposium Initiator Professor Louis Schlapbach (ETHZ/ Nims) closed the symposium by exploring the ways Switzerland and Japan could intensify their scientific collaborations.
The almost 200 participants – residents from Karuizawa, but also visitors from Tokyo and other places – enjoyed the time-travel to a Karuizawa of 70 years ago.