The man in the black-and-white photograph wore a dark jacket with wide lapels. His hair was cut short and parted to one side. His eyes were directed toward the camera as if he were looking directly at me. I recognized him immediately: Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese vice-consul in Lithuania who helped to save thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II.
I was at the tourist information center in Tsuruga on the Sea of Japan coast in Fukui Prefecture. I had been asking what there was to see there when I saw that picture on a pamphlet. I knew Sugihara was originally from Gifu Prefecture, so I couldn't understand what his connection was to Tsuruga. I was going to find out.
Most guidebooks do not even mention Tsuruga, and in those that do it only rates a brief entry. In his 1994 classic "Japan: Land of Myth and Legend," Alan Booth says, "The heavily indented coast of Fukui Prefecture is attractive enough for it to have been designated a quasi-national park, although one part of it has earned its reputation for a grimmer reason. The Wakasa Bay area, particularly the city of Tsuruga, long a major port, is now Japan's most rapidly developing centre for atomic power."