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Ishigaki tourist site crumbling, falling

Date Posted: 2004-09-16

A Chinese graveyard on Ishigaki Island is a popular tourist attraction, but officials are labeling it a safety hazard, and have closed it off to the public.

The popular site has concrete fragments falling off, and posing a danger to visitors. Ishigaki City Office officials have placed ropes around the grave and posted “Keep Out” signs. “We are concerned,” an official said. “How do we care for this grave?”

The Chinese cemetery was built in 1971. Historically, the story goes, in 1852 Robert Pound and his English trading ship left Amon Harbor in China. A mutiny aboard the ship ended with Chinese killing the captain, and the ship putting in to Ishigaki Port.

To the Chinese surprise, British Navy frigates were waiting, and overpowered the Chinese, killing them all.
In 1971, Chinese returned to Ishigaki and built the grave to hold funerals for the spirits. From the outside, the grave site is beautiful, with idols, flowers and dragons protecting the site. The colors have faded some, and the dragon’s great mustache has broken off, and concrete pieces and roof tiles are falling.

Chinese Association Yaeyama Branch Chairman Tatsuo Kimita says “I know. I have seen the damage, and feel sorry about it. We are discussing it with Ishigaki officials on how to repair it.” Kimita says he’s meeting with the Chinese society’s directors too, because they want to get the repairs accomplished and available once more to the many tourists who want to take pictures.

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