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WWII sword returns after 70 years

Chunichi Shimbun

A “katana” sword confiscated by the U.S. military at the end of the war was recently returned to its owner’s family in Japan.

Miyoko Asai, 85, received the sword on behalf of her late husband, Masaaki, at their home in Seto, Aichi Prefecture, from Paul Ufima, who runs a film production company in Virginia.

Ufima, 37, inherited the sword from his grandfather, a former U.S. Marine officer who passed away 20 years ago. He kept the sword in his basement but began looking for its owner three years ago.

The name and unit of the soldier was written on a wooden plate attached to the sword, and Ufima contacted the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to get help in finding its owner. He was eventually informed that the owner was Masaaki Asai, and that the Asai family’s current residence had already been tracked down.

According to his wife, Masaaki Asai joined the army as a communications officer and was on Wake Island in the North Pacific when the war ended and his sword and watch were confiscated. It was learned after Wake was recaptured that scores of prisoners held by the Japanese were executed.

Classified as a Class B war criminal, Asai had difficulty finding a job after being repatriated to Japan. He studied accounting and eventually started his own company, becoming a gas fitter and providing services related to septic tanks. He passed away in 1993 at the age of 80.

On Oct. 19, Ufima visited Asai’s house with three of his staff. Three members of the family were present when Ufima handed over the sword, which Asai placed in front of her husband’s altar.

The sword is a meter long and its sheath was intact. Although it was no longer sharp, the blade was well preserved and not rusty.

“It’s very heavy, perhaps it’s because my husband’s spirit is in it,” Asai said.

“I want to thank Paul’s grandfather from the bottom of my heart for preserving it so well. I will make sure it is passed down to our family’s descendants,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“I know that these swords hold a special significance for Japanese people and I felt that I should return it to where it belongs,” Ufima explained.

He plans to film a documentary about the return of the sword.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Oct. 20.