I have been collecting historical picure postcards of Oita for reminiscence therapy in dementia care. Having spent my youth at Motomachi in Oita City, my collection consists of many photographs of Oita City about 100 years ago, collected from local antique bookstores. Among them Ⅰhave a postcard of "Oita ordinary elementary school".
2. An picture postcards from Oita Ordinary Elementary School (Oita City Kanaike Elementary School at present) in 1916
Oita ordinary elementary school was established in 1887 and is the predecessor of Oita City Kanaike Elementary School in Oita City . About fifty years ago, I went to Kanaike Elementary school (1975-1981), it has an old auditorium which was not damaged in the 1945 air raid. Inside the auditorium, there was a big plaque, written in Japanese character "金池魂 KANAIKE DAMASHII = Soul of Kaneike: Commemorating the First Anniversary of the Great East Asia War," which made me feel as if I had gone back in time to the World War II (WWII). At present, all of the pre-war wooden buildings, including the auditorium, have been torn down to make way for the new school building and gymnasium at present.
This postcard has the words "(Oita Famous) Oita Elementary School" printed in blue characters below the picture and also inscribed in German as "DIE BERUHMTE LANDSCHAFT ZU OITA" (Famous Scenaries in Oita). Among my collections of more than 100 pre-WWII postcards of old Oita City, most of them has explanations written by Japanese and English, and German explanations are rare and I only have two post cards.
Very interestingly, this picture post card is marked with an "X" above the school building in the right.
3. A POW postcard written at Oita Ordinary Elementary School
The red stamp on the postcard's address reads " POW(Prisoners of War)," which indicates that the postcard was used at a time when Japan, fought against Germany in World War I (WWI), established as the POW camp at Oita Ordinay Elementary School for German army.
In beutiful handwriting, it reads 'Herrlichste Ostergrüße' (Congratulations on a great Easter) Thr Walter Gräf to the P. Hense family of Shanghai Jates-Road No.11. In the camp register, there is an entry "4371 Graef Walter Hafenamt", which seems to be a letter from Walter Graf, who worked at the Port and Harbor Authority (Hafenamt), to the Hense family in Shanghai, China. The date of the Oita postmark is April 10, 1916. Since Easter 1916 was April 23, 1916, this letter was postmarked in Oita two weeks before that date.
However, the postcard has no stamp that should be stamped at Shanghai in China. The fact suggests that unfortunately it never left Japan for some reason and it must be a non-delivery postcard. After the censored stamp was placed on the postcard, it may have been to inform the recipient of his whereabouts that the Oita Ordinary Elementary School building was marked with an X. Was he suspected to be like a messenger to do such things? (I don't even know now if Walter himself got an X in the first place...)
Mr. Ryuji Honmyo, the captain first class of the Maritime Self-Defense Force Staff College kindly taught me about the life of Mr. Walter Graf. Mr. Graf worked at the Port and Harbor Bureau until August 1, 1914, and was transferred to Kumamoto Camp in November, then to Oita Camp in December 1914 and then to Narashino Camp in Chiba Prefecture in August, 1919. He was released in December 1920. I was relieved to know that he went back to Germany and died there in 1960. I was also relieved to know that he sent another letter to Mr. Pence in Shanghai on November 15, 1915 which was delivered safely.
4. The Scenaries in Oita during the Taisho era one century ago.
The following a map and picuture postcards of Oita City in the Taisho era（during the reign of Emperor Taisho, 1912-1916) .
Map of Oita City in 1925 (Mainichi Shimbun) compiled to commemorate the wedding of His Imperial Highness Prince Hirohito (the future Emperor Showa). Kaneike Elementary School (Oita Ordinary Elementary School) is marked on the south side of the outer moat of Oita Castle.
This postcard, postmarked in 1921, shows a view of Oita City from near the Bungo Silk Products factory, which is now the site of Oita City Uenogaoka Junior High School. With the help of Professor Emeritus Seiji Sato of the Faculty of Engineering at Oita University, I found the location of the viewpoint of this photograph to be in the vicinity of the present-day Uenooka 1-2. In the foreground are the "Hi Byoin =Evacuated Hospital" (later renamed Oita City Ueno Hospital). In the middle of this picture, The Oita Ordinary Elementary School (Kanaiike Elementary School), where German POW camps were located, and the right, the Oita Railway Yard at Oita Station. The Oita First Girls' High School and Oita Prefectural Women Teachers' School are also seen in the distance.
This postcard shows a view from the south of what is now Uenogaoka Junior High School, and on the left you can see the Ueno Road (the new junior high school road) leading from Oita Junior High School to Oita Castle Town (today's Ote Dori Street). The red-roofed Oita Prefectural Office in Oita Castle, can be seen in the distance.
This postcard shows a view looking east across the Bungo Silk Mill, with the Oita River Railroad Bridge in the distance.
This postcard was stamped in November 1907 and the Oita Post Office can be seen on the right. To the left there is the tram rail (then a single line, later a double line) connecting Oita town and Beppu, on what is now " Chuou-Dori (the main street with Tokiwa Department Store). The postmark of Oita on the undeliverable postcard was probably stamped at this post office.
I thank Mr. Ryuji Honmyo, the captain first class of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Staff College. I heard the news that Mr. Honmyo helped Mr. Karsten Kiesewetter, a military officer at the German Embassy in Japan. He has a relative named Mr. Julius Paul Kiesewetter, who died in a POW camp in Oita in . With Mr. Honmyo's help, Mr. Karsten Kiesewetter was able to visit the grave in the army cemetery in Shite, Oita City. Owing to the news, I remembered a postcard was from Oita POW camps in my collections.
In interpreting the undelivered postcard, I am indebted to Mr. Honmyo and Prof. Miyuki Yasumatsu, Beppu University, for the paper "A POW camp in Oita" (Journal of Art Studies, Faculty of Arts and Letters, Beppu University (18), 114-130, 2009).
I also thank Professor Emeritus Seiji Sato, Faculty of Engineering at Oita University for his assistance in identifying the viewpoints and buildings on postcards of Oita City about one hundred years ago.
November 12, 2020
Takuya Morimoto MD and PhD
Lt.Colonel in reserve of Japan Ground Self Defence Force
Local historian in Oita