Monument for LARA
Two stones in Yokohama tell a big story of generosity and spirit.
In Yokohama, by the dock of the Shinko Pier on the water behind World Porters, you’ll see two modest-looking stones next to each other. The left stone appears to be an easy fit if nudged over to the other stone—two pieces of a puzzle. These stones have a story, and it starts just near the end of World War II, in early March of 1945.
Known now as The Firebombing of Tokyo, in March 1945 around 300 American airplanes flew only 200 meters above Tokyo and proceeded to drop hundreds of bombs, some carrying napalm. Over 100,000 people were killed that night, and more than a million were left wounded, homeless or starving. Two months later, Yokohama was firebombed by even more B-29’s.
By the time Gen. Douglas MacArthur arrived during the occupation, many in the Tokyo and Yokohama area had still not recovered, and for the thousands of Japanese citizens stranded, the Shinko pier was the only hope of receiving food. Starting around April of 1946, an independent coalition of religious organizations decided to reach out to a nation reeling from the horrors of war.
Photo by: Patrick Parr
The acronym is LARA, and stands for Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia.
The two stones in front of the pier stand as a message of thanks from the Japanese people. Bypassing the slow pace and regulatory red tape of the government, five religious organizations comprising the Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia (LARA) sent goats, clothing, powdered milk and other food by boat. Many of the 15 million Japanese residents who received aid, such as former prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, said that LARA saved their lives.
To Hashimoto, LARA was not a simple acronym, it “was a beautiful and sweet name that represented love and kindness.” These religious organizations did not come with an agenda. They were freely giving materials to a nation on the precipice of collapse. Between 1946 and 1952, the umbrella group of LARA donated over 400 million dollars of goods to Japanese residents.
Before you go
In case the idea of visiting two little stones on a pier doesn’t strike you as exciting, all around the LARA monument are excellent places to visit, such as the Red Brick Warehouse, Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum, the World Porters shopping mall and Cosmoworld.
Dig Japanese history? Read more on where to find historic gems.