井の中の蛙

4/24/2006

The Return of Uwano Ishinosuke

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 12:00 pm

 Japanese World War II military stragglers are still showing up on the newswires six decades after the end of the conflict. This past week, Japan has been captivated by the return of Uwano Ishinosuke, 83, a former soldier in the Japanese Army who was stranded on Sakhalin Island when the Russians took over, and has been living for the past 50 years in the Ukraine with his Ukranian wife and family. Speaking only Ukranian and travelling on a Ukranian passport, Uwano visited the graves of his parents and some relatives in Iwate prefecture before returning to the Ukraine.

 Having last been sighted in 1958, Uwano’s family had had him officially declared as “war dead” and removed from the household register in 2000. Uwano’s existence came to light last year after he asked friends in Ukraine to help him contact the Japanese government and was eventually put into contact with the Japanese consulate in Kiev, which arranged his return visit. The Japanese government estimates that there may be as many as 400 Japanese military stragglers still living in the former Soviet Union, although the whereabouts are known for only 40 of them.

 In other straggler news, last year reports of former Japanese soldiers living near a remote village in the Philippines caused the Japanese government to sent an official search party, but the soldiers were not found.

 For those interested in learning more about Japanese Imperial Army stragglers, there is a pretty decent book on the topic by Beatrice Trefalt: Japanese Army Stragglers and Memories of the War in Japan, 1950-1975. Unfortunately it is published by RoutledgeCurzon and is therefore prohibitively expensive, so a university library may be the best place to get it.

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