Syonan Jinja

Introduction

Syonan Jinja was a former Shinto shrine in the middle of the MacRitchie Reservoir forest. It was built by the Japanese Army and British prisoners-of-war  during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II. It was officially unveiled on 10 September 1942. When the British forces re-occupied Singapore in 1945, the Shrine was destroyed. Today, only remnants of the Shrine foundation and pillars remains. In 2002, the Shrine site was declared a Historic Site by the National Heritage Board.

The Shrine was built to commemorate Japanese soldiers  who died during the Malayan campaign. A large tract of forest in the north-west side of  MacRitchie Reservoir was cleared to build the Shrine. The Shrine design was based on  famed Yasukuni Shrine in Japan. The Yasukuni Shrine  has been both the commemoration memorial and resting place for more than 2 million solders who died (from Meiji era till WWII) fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan. Shinto meaning “the way of the gods” is the native faith of the Japanese and is primarily pantheistic. The Shinto followers believe that “divine spirits” or kami reside in nature and thus the location of the Syonan Shinto Shrine in the midst of the forest.

(Reference article: http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_236_2004-12-24.html)

Excursion

Our starting point of the trek to Syonan Jinja is Venus Drive Car Park located near the junction between Upper Thomson Road and Sim Ming Drive. For the first half of the trek, we followed the well marked trail towards HSBC TreeTop Walk. The other half of the trek involved bashing through relatively thick vegetation (off the well-marked trail) to reach the shrine site.

There is a small stream beside the initial stretch of Venus Link. The stream is very shallow but quite clear and abound with small fishes. The trail then goes into the forests for more than 1 km before coming out along the peripheral of the nature reserve. At this point, the trail runs parallel to Island Club Road, and Singapore Island Country Club is just on its opposite side. After 2.5 km from Venus Drive Car Park, the trail ends at the side of a bitumen road.

After about 300 m up (its a bit of up slope) the bitumen road, we reached a fenced up compound. This is the Bukit Kalang Service Reservoir. Beside the right perimeter of the service reservoir is small bitumen trail which leads to the TreeTop Walk. We followed the bitumen trail for about 200 m and reached a T-junction where the right trail (Peirce Track) leads to TreeTop Walk and the left trail (Terentang Trail) leads to Syonan Jinja (there is not a single signboard in MacRitchie that indicates the direction to Syonan Jinja).

From online sources, we know that Syonan Jinja can be reached via a deserted forest trail that splits from Terentang Trail. The entrance to this forest trail is marked by three big boulders. We managed to find the “landmark” after about 100 m along Terentang Trail. (As you walk down  Terentang Trail, look out for the “landmark” on your right side)

The forest trail is very well concealed by vegetation. From the outside, on Terentang Trail, we couldn’t tell that there is a side trail at all. Even on the forest trail, our forward view was always obstructed by the surrounding dense vegetation. Sometimes the trail splits into a few other trails. Fortunately, there are some markings – ribbons tied to the trees  by previous explorers which helped us to find our way. Frequently we had to stoop under overhanging branches or climbed over fallen logs.

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