Hibiya Park’s Treasure: Philippine National Hero’s Statue

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Just a stone’s throw away from the Imperial Palace is a beautiful garden full of history — Hibiya Park! This is the place Ms. Pura Crisologo Yajima, my companion, and I decided to go after listening to the last New Year greetings of Emperor Akihito and watching the Imperial Family on January 2. As if the 4-hour plus waiting in long queues to enter the palace grounds was not enough for us. Thank God for the beautiful sunny yet cool weather that we can stroll around downtown Tokyo and make the most of the holiday season!

Going to Hibiya Park to intentionally visit Dr. Jose Rizal, our Philippine national treasure, is our simple way to acknowledge his big part of our country’s history especially it’s his 156th birthday just a few days ago. It was in 1992 when I first noticed his stone marker after visiting Japan’s famous public library in Tokyo. Just by chance that I saw the marker and I cannot believe with my eyes when I saw it — no bust nor statue then.

Whenever I give a tour to Filipinos and foreigners in Japan, I tell them about Dr. Jose Rizal’s marker near the Imperial Palace and just across the hotel that hosts State Guests and VIPs. In 2004 when I hosted ABS-CBN’s The Correspondents’ team, I told them about the marker and Abner Mercado, the director-host, made a documentary film about our hero’s stint in Japan. Last year, he visited Spain where he took pictures of Jose Rizal’s statue in Avenida de Filipinas (https://www.facebook.com/abner.p.mercado/posts/10156406876846026).

In my contributed article to the book, Scattered: Filipino Global Diaspora, I mentioned about Dr. Jose Rizal’s encounter of Filipino entertainers in Japan in 1886. That’s how long the “Filipino Japayuki” existed in this country! The stone marker in Hibiya Park states that there used to be a hotel where Rizal stayed….In my research on the first Filipino laborers in Japan, I took note of the first Filipino entertainers as most of my counsellees came from this trade. I was so amused to know that Dr. Jose Rizal once followed a familiar sound that led to the basement of his hotel. Filipino musicians were rehearsing then…

Just a sideline info that in my research for my article for the first book on Filipino Diaspora, the Filipino missionaries were the first expats to work and live in Japan — circa 1600s! One of them is recognized as the first saint and protomartyr of the Philippines, Lorenzo Ruiz.

One of our teachers at Olives Language School, Ms. Christine Villarin, has also great interest in Jose Rizal’s life. We chatted about him and his impact in the Philippine history prior to our visit in Hibiya Park. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fchristineclaire.ph%2Fposts%2F10213505658223492&width=500

It was a long day tour and the last stop was at Tokyo Station. As I want info right away how old is the Tokyo Station and Hotel, I talked to the guard. So impressed that staff knew well its history even it’s like a hijack interview. Believe it or not, like many Japanese, the edifice is now more than 100 years old; withstanding natural calamities and wars! Japan is good in keeping records, preserving their culture and taking care of their institutions!

I wonder Rizal knew that one day the streets he passed by around Tokyo will be home to European goods. Just for fun that we took pictures of European brand bags and ate Danish dishes to cap our 1-day Downtown Tokyo Tour.

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