An event titled “Tokei Maru: the Salvation of Armenian and Greeks in Smyrna”
took place in the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Foundation conference hall on 18 February 2021. It was one of the events organized on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Smyrna fire and extermination of the Armenians and Greeks of the city in 1922. It was organized in cooperation with the Armenian-Japanese Armenia-Nippon Scientific-Cultural Union NGO.
The event, which was dedicated to the friendship between the Armenian and Japanese peoples, was attended by Mr. Jun Yamada, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of Armenia, Second Secretary Mrs. Rika Onodera, Mr. Mnatsakan Safaryan, head of the Asia-Pacific Division of the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Maria Lazareva, President of the Union of Greek Communities of Armenia and other guests.
Welcoming the guests, Mr. Harutyun Marutyan
, AGMI Director, stressed the importance of such events as a guarantee of a long-lasting friendship between the two peoples.
Mrs. Anna Vardanyan
, an expert in Japanese studies, stated that she accidentally made a discovery: “As a researcher of Armenian-Japanese relations, I came across a picture of a Japanese ship anchored in the port of Smyrna.”
This fact led her to continue her research in Japan and Greece. A subsequent meeting with Mrs. Tehmine Martoyan, a senior researcher in the Museum Exhibitions Department of the AGMI, became the start of their collaborative research.
The researchers underlined the fact that they did not underestimate the humanitarian actions of the crews of the foreign ships anchored off the coast of Smyrna that rescued survivors, but studied the example of the Japanese ship exclusively, trying to obtain a real picture of the rescue process by combining historical facts, motives and consequences, mainly on the basis of eyewitness accounts, survivors’ memories and testimonies.
AGMI Senior researcher Tehmine Martoyan
said: “The basis for the salvation of the Armenians and Greeks of Smyrna was the Japanese ship, often mentioned in professional literature but always omitting its name. The initial impression was that the ship did not even have a name, therefore, the phrase “Japanese ship” became equivalent to, and was identified with, the word “salvation.” The emphasis was not on the name, but on the fact that the ship represents Japan.”
The speakers stated that every single person who survived the genocide was very sensitive to such humanitarian steps taken and that the open sympathy and gratitude to Japan and the Japanese people was natural.
Mrs. Anna Vardanyan was given the exclusive right to screen the animated film “Tokei Maru” in Armenia for the first time during the event by the Greek animator Mr. Zachos Samoladas.
In his speech, Mr. Jun Yamada
, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of Armenia, expressed his thanks for such in-depth research, and the very important discoveries made, admitting that the feat of the Japanese captain, who saved hundreds of lives, was extremely touching. At the same time, he expressed the opinion that the Armenian and Japanese peoples have similarities in their histories.
AGMI Director Mr. Harutyun Marutyan presented Ambassador Yamada some AGMI English-language publications printed in 2020.
At the close of the event participants put flowers at the Eternal Fire honoring the memory of the innocent victims.