A Victorian Sailor's Grave in the Seto Inland Sea: The life and death of Frank Toovey Lake
Graham Thomas, 2018/09/12 - 274 ページ
In 1868, Frank Toovey Lake, a young British Midshipman, died while serving with the Royal Navy and was interred on the island of Hiroshima in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan.
Up until recently Lake’s grave on Hiroshima had been identified only by his family name ‘Lake,’ and he was described as an English officer who died while serving on the Royal Navy survey ship, HMS Sylvia. However no further information on Lake could be found until new research showed that in one important detail these facts were wrong: namely that the ship had been incorrectly identified as HMS Sylvia when in fact he died on HMS Manilla. From knowing this, it has now been possible to give the young officer his full name, Frank Toovey Lake, and to build an understanding of his life.
Since the burial the islanders have both maintained and improved the grave until the present day. This led to admiration among the late-19th century British community in Japan (including prominent members such as Sir Ernest Satow and Thomas Glover), and a flurry of newspaper articles appeared around the world in 1899 recounting the story and praising the conscientiousness of the local people. Since then the grave’s story has made only sporadic appearances in the media but continues to be celebrated locally.
This grave is far from unique: the graves of many foreigners can be found in Japan, most within the foreign cemeteries in cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe and Nagasaki and to whose numbers we can add those of souls buried at sea within Japan’s waters. But there are at least two good reasons to celebrate its continued existence. First, in the mid-19th century as Japan became more accessible to the outside world this created, at least initially, mutual distrust between foreigners and Japanese; these newcomers were viewed as barbarians and intruders (albeit at times justifiably), and this was a period when some were slain and their vessels fired upon. So without suggesting that widespread conflict existed - because it didn’t - nonetheless it is notable that during this period a group of villagers decided to care for and not destroy the grave, and that today this grave is as well tended as ever. Second, at one time Lake’s death was commemorated on a monument in the churchyard of the village where he was born. A few years ago that monument - along with other Toovey graves - was swept away, the graveyard cleared for ease of maintenance, and all trace of Frank Toovey Lake has now gone.
This story also touches on other aspects of Japan and Britain’s 19th century history not least the display of typical contradictory characteristics of Pax Britannica in the Inland Sea: the rapid deployment of the Royal Navy into Japan’s territorial waters yet undertaking surveying and other benign operations; the threat and occasional use of gunboat diplomacy, and at times an arrogance towards the country yet countered by great affection for the place and its people by some - or many -individuals. The story also involves personalities such as Richard Henry Brunton, T B Glover and the British diplomat Ernest Satow who took important roles in helping Japan develop. In short, the story of Lake and his grave is more than the story of an individual and a granite monument.