Syonan Jinja

Syonan Jinja was a former Shinto shrine located in the thick jungle of the MacRitchie Reservoir area in Singapore. It was built during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II and officially unveiled on 10 September 1942. However, the Shrine was demolished immediately after the Japanese surrender with the return of the British forces in 1945. Only remnants of a font and foundation remain. There are some debates circulating that Syonan Jinja was not destroyed by the returning British but by the Japanese themselves. A conspiracy is speculated of covering up a secret treasure left over by the Japanese on the event of a hurry retreat.After the fall of Singapore, General Yamashita in the subsequent months sought to build a memorial for the Japanese troops who had died during the Malayan campaign. British prisoners-of-war interned in the Changi Gaol and troops of the Japanese Army worked together to construct the Shinto Shrine, Syonan Jinja, at MacRitchie Reservoir which stood near the centre of the heat of battle for Singapore.

Syonan Jinja, means “Shinto Shrine of Syonan” or “The Light of the South." The shrine could be said to be a replica of the now-controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Japan. The Yasukuni Shrine dates back to 1869 and has been the resting place for more than 2.466 million Japanese soldiers who died for their country, serving as a national symbol to remember those who died in both World Wars. Reflecting its design, the Shinto shrine was a 12 m-high cylindrical wooden pylon, its peak tipped with a brass cone. At the base of the pylon, in a small shed-like shrine were the remains of the fallen Japanese.

The original structure of Syonan Jinja was a temple with no walls. It was raised from the ground by a stone platform graduated with a few steps, and the sloping temple roof rested on wooden pillars that stood at regular intervals around the perimeter of the platform. Tons of smooth stone pebbles that should have been used for the reservoir filtration were taken instead for paving the garden of the shrine.

A Shinto ceremony took place here every New Year’s Day for the few years that the shrine existed. This was marked by the outstanding of the temple bell, the arrival devotees and the presence of a Shinto priest presiding over rituals. It is believed that during rituals, worshippers would drink from a huge granite ceremonial fountain located outside the shrine. Immediately after the Japanese surrender and the return of the British forces in 1945, the Shinto Shrine and the British War Memorial behind it, both located at Upper Bukit Timah Road were demolished by the British forces, leaving the whole place ground zero except for some traces of stone ruins.

As the years went by, all traces of the shrine—mainly its foundation and the 90 stone steps of access—were overwhelmed by dense jungle growth. The fountain, made from a massive granite boulder, is still intact today. However, underneath the fountain, a secret tunnel was found dug by some unknown people , with a purpose unknown too.

Recently, Singapore Paranormal Investigators probed into this mystery and discovered what may be a link to the famous legend of Yamashita Gold. According to some records, an Indonesian gardener named Sappari, who worked at the reservoir during the occupation years, suggested that something very valuable had been buried close to the Jinja. His account indicated that just before the defeat looked imminent in 1945, Japanese soldiers in trucks drove up to the reservoir and undertook what Sappari described as “a lot of activity.” Maybe the Japanese destroy the shrine to cover the secret treasure beneath it. A gruesome rumor says that a company of Japanese Imperial Guards who were absolutely loyal to the Emperor vowed to protect the secrecy of the treasure with their blood. A mass ritual suicide, which is called “Sappuku,” therefore, took place at the Jinja.

Plans to rebuild the memorials to remember both the Japanese and Allied fallen were discussed in the 1990s but were shelved in 1991 because of sensitivities toward those who had suffered under the Japanese. Today, a transmitting tower stands at the site of the original monuments. On 9 July 1995, a plaque was unveiled by MP Ong Chit Chung at the Bukit Batok Nature Park as a memorial instead.

Today, remnants of the shrine are covered by jungle vegetation. There is waist-deep water to cross and many opportunities to get disoriented and lost. The swamp is infested by various snakes, scorpions, biting spiders, and millions of mosquitoes. Superstitious trekkers who lost their directions to Syonan Jinja would blame it on the haunting of the Japanese spirits who protect the Jinja or the treasure from intruders.

Sources :
Encyclopedia of Haunted Places : “Ghostly Locales from Around the World” by Jeff Belanger;;;

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