Pai Bridge

The Pai River bridge is often cited as the most visible evidence of the presence of Japan's Army in Northern Thailand during WWII.
But the bridge was actually built after the war. This website attempts to correct that misconception and others about the period.


Japan in Northwest Thailand during World War II

N18°46.63 E98°59.10 Wat Muen San (Th: วัด หี่มนสาร / Jp: ワトムンサーン )
page 2 of 2

Route 0108a
Station 000.5


Text Notes

Japanese War Memorial Hall

A Japanese War Memorial Hall commemorating fallen IJA veterans lies within the wat compound; Built in 1981,[13] it serves as an exhibit hall for both those remembering WWII and for those interested in the history of the wat.[14]

Japanese War Memorial Hall

Ceremonial front of Japanese War Memorial Hall with memorial stele[15]

Dedication stele in front of hall

The stele records twodates when veterans visited the area and conducted commemorative services: 1970 and 1980.

Top plaque on stele:[16]

Top plaque on stele

A somewhat more legible view of the plaque is available here.


To our veterans: please rest in peace

On 02 February 1970, we veterans visited this field hospital site in Chiang Mai, held a memorial service for our veterans, and donated this monument.

[Contributors' names]

Veterans' Federation in Japan / Burma-Thailand Battlefield Site Memorial Group[16a]

Lower plaque on stele:[17]

Lower plaque on stele


To our veterans, please rest in peace
1980 - Group memorializing the Japanese who fought in India-Burma[17a]

[Contributors' names]

A newer column adjacent to the stele looks to the future, multilingually hoping:[18]



          May Peace Prevail on Earth

Peace column



There is little information about Wat Muen San in literature thus far searched.

Two primary sources in this general (website) effort have been:

戦没者遺骨収集の記録   ピルマ・インド・タイ (東京: 全ビルマ戦友団体連絡協議会, 1980) [Journal on Collection of Japanese War Dead: Burma, India, Thailand (Tokyo: All Burma Comrades Organization, 1980)]

戦史叢書  (東京: 防衛庁防衛研修所戦史室 (編集), 1966-1979年) [Senshi Sosho, (Tokyo: Defense Agency, National Defense College Military History Room, 1966‑1979)]

Neither makes any reference to Wat Muen San.[18a]

Exhibits about the IJA at the Memorial Hall are interesting, but offer nothing about the part played by the wat during the war.

Ongoing activities at the Japanese War Memorial Hall

Services at the Memorial Hall in Wat Muen San have been conducted annually on 15 August since 1995.

Here, in 2012, attendees listen as a brief memorial observance from Tokyo is broadcast via the Internet at noon, Tokyo time (1000 hours in Chiang Mai):[18b]


They commemorate not only the end of a calamitous World War II, but also the beginning of a concerted positive effort towards cultivating world peace. Those services are sponsored by Dr Masanao Umebayashi, a retired soil scientist, and they are an integral part of his own personal effort to make a meaningful contribution to world peace: applying his agricultural knowledge, he has implemented and maintained a program for cultivating fruit trees amongst Thai hilltribe peoples since 1995.[19]

Dr Manao

  A dynamic Dr Umebayashi, orchestrating the
15 August 2010 ceremony at Wat Muen San

Until this year (2012), his chosen tree was the manao,[20] whose fruit, a type of lemon (or lime), has proven very marketable. Incidentally, and with some humor, to avoid possible difficulties with his Japanese name in a Thai environment, he shortened his first name, Masanao, to Manao, and locally adopted the name, Dr Manao --- a modern day Johnny Appleseed.[21]

This year, he changed his chosen tree to a dwarf coconut palm.[22] On 08 July 2012, he oversaw Lions' Club contributors, local and Japanese, planting young trees at Ban Khuean Phak School:[23]

Tree planting

A group shot of participants:[24]

Lions Club gathering at school

The tree-planting effort continued under his aegis on some steep slopes in the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden in the afternoon.[24a]

Getting there

Driving southwest on Wua Lai Road from Chiang Mai's South Khlong Road opposite Chiang Mai Gate, one will see this structure with "cattle statues" on the left at an intersection:[25]

Intersection cow

Turning half-left here in front of the structure will lead directly to Wat Muen San.



To Do List

1 Get better photo of Chao 56 (10 Aug 2005) article on Wat Muen San (20090921/IJA hall text 01 CIMG4919.jpg) and Done: now translate.
2 Google: ムーンサーン寺, ワツムンサーン (チェンマイ). Done: nothing substantive found.
3 Translate Thai articles
20090921/IJA hall text 02a CIMG4928.jpg; & 02b
20090921/IJA hall text 02c CIMG4930.jpg
ตำนาน "เสือเยน" (Legendary "Tiger Yen") 20090921/IJA hall text 04 CIMG4938.jpg
4 Add Wat Si Suphan info. Done: separate webpage added.
5 Was the "silver wat" in WMS possibly funded by a Japanese group? Another source mentions a 'Thai-German' couple
6 Locate info plaque no 34 (fn 4)
7 Photograph info plaque at cattle statuary shelter and add info to webpage. Done
8 Continue interview with Sing Khom Chai Boonlong at WMS; query others at silver shops around wat for potential interviewees.
9 Identify contributors' organizations listed on 1970 plaque.
10 Update outlined objects and labels in markup image. Done
11 Field verify location of Ban Khuean Phak School.




13.^ Source required. This date may be related only to the memorial stele in front of the Memorial Building (actually the stele is dated 1980, not 1981) rather than the building itself.

e-Citylife Chiang Mai, 14:10, Oct 2005 recalled in "10 Years Ago This Month" (but actually 12 years before, in 1993):

"In Wat [Muen San] on Wua Lai Road, (half way down on the left) there is a small shrine left behind by Japanese who were billeted at the temple (used as hospital), [the] shrine probably in memory of those who died. Wrote Isao Sakamoto, Japanese Consul in Chiang Mai."

Conclusions to be drawn here are that:

1. The Memorial Hall is not mentioned by the Japanese Consul in 1993, which implies that the hall had not yet been built by 1993.

2. Thus, the stele, with plaques dated 1970 and 1980, existed before the Memorial Hall.

3. As yet unknown is where the 1970 plaque resided until it was incorporated in the stele with the 1980 plaque at its base. And where that stele resided until it came to be seen today in front of the more recently erected Memorial Hall.

The earliest Google Earth view of the wat compound currently available is dated 28 Apr 2002 and appears to show at least an outline of the Memorial Hall. This would be consistent with a brochure* in Japanese which indicates that the "museum" was established in 2002. The outline would therefore have been of the museum under construction. Hopefully Google Earth will continue to add earlier views to help clarify this matter.

*ムーンサーン寺院資料館のご案内 (Information on the the Wat Muen San Museum), undated.

14.^ CIMG2892.jpg
       16 Mar 2008

15.^ CIMG2894a.jpg
       16 Mar 2008

16.^ CIMG2896b.jpg
       16 Mar 2008







16a.^ Organizations are not yet identified.

17.^ CIMG2895.jpg
       16 Mar 2008













17a.^ The date is 1980, which could imply a relationship with IJA veteran efforts to recover remains of war dead in the late 1970s (as documented in 戦没者遺骨収集の記録 ピルマ・インド・タイ).

18.^ part CIMG2892.jpg
       16 Mar 2008














18a.^ I would be very happy if someone could correct me on this.







18b.^ DSCF1316a.jpg
       15 Aug 2012













19.^ Dr Masanao Umebayashi, aka Dr Manao, was awarded the 2012 Sano Tozaburo Special Prize for his ongoing fruit tree planting program in northern Thailand.

In 2008, he was cited in the Japanese Foreign Minister's Commendations for FY2008, for his "Promotion of International Cooperation in Thailand" [a reference to his ongoing voluntary fruit tree planting program for northern Thai hill tribes].

He maintains THAItalk website, which describes tree planting efforts; previously Weekly Talk website for same purpose (both in Japanese). In addition, he monitors a blog at "Dr Manao Talk BBS".

He is a member, Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry.

Good summaries (in Japanese) of his efforts are at Peoples Life and Bangkokshuho.

Photo: CIMG5739b.jpg
          15 Aug 2010

20.^ See
 AgroForestryTree Database

21.^ John Chapman: American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of [frontier America].

22.^ See Wikipedia, "Coconut" for comparison of dwarf and tall coconut palms.

23.^ N19°20.0 E99°08.9
        08 Jul 2012
Field verify location.









24.^ DSCF1232a.jpg
        08 Jul 2012









24a.^ No photos for this event: my camera ran out of battery.


25.^ CIMG2898b.jpg
        16 Mar 2008

The story of the "cattle statues" is told here.