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Japanese Jail

“A building shrouded in mystery”

N15 ̊11’58.759” E145 ̊43’9.304

The Japanese Jail was built between 1929 and 1930 at the order of the Japanese administration. Previously, prisoners were held in a small detention facility that had been built during the German administration. By the late 1920s, however, it was no longer adequate to accommodate the needs of a rapidly growing population. The walls of the two cell blocks and the adjacent administration building were of concrete construction with wood and tin roofs. In the early days, the jail was surrounded by a security fence made of wood and tin. Sometime later, possibly after the start of the war, a portion of the security fence was replaced by a concrete wall. Immediately to the south of the jail was the Hongan-ji (Hongan Buddhist Temple) which had an associated crematorium and graveyard. One concrete gatepost of the temple is still present. During World War II, two U.S. pilots were held in the jail. Both died during the pre-invasion bombardment and were temporarily buried in the Hongan-ji cemetery. Popular lore has it that the famous American flyer, Amelia Earhart, was held at this jail after she disappeared on her 1937 round-the-world flight although there is no conclusive evidence to support this story.