Deadly Hotels

by Ralph Martin


What a party it was: On August 20, 1945, five days after Japan's surrender in the Second World War, 300 Japanese officers relaxed in the lobby of Singapore's Raffles Hotel (see slideshow), with its soaring ceilings and palm trees. They luxuriated in the August heat and made sake toasts before coming to the evening's climax: Each pulled his ceremonial sword from its scabbard and literally fell on it. It was an odd choice of location for a mass suicide. The Raffles, named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, was built in 1887 as the ne plus ultra of colonial chic (Somerset Maugham was a regular guest). The hotel also served as an administration center for the Japanese occupation of Singapore during the war. Perhaps accustomed to their comfy conditions, the officers decided that death was better than dishonor when word came that their emperor had officially surrendered and British troops were on the way. The reluctance of the Japanese to leave the hotel compound may also have had something to do with the hatred their occupation had instilled in Singaporeans, as expressed by the revenge killings that were happening all over the country; no matter what, the officers endowed Singapore with a legend worthy of of the Romans, with a touch of Jonestown thrown in for good measure.

Tel: 65 6337 1886

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