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In an effort to press the government to fulfill a promise it once made 40 years ago, 12 representatives of Japanese emigrants to the Dominican Republic set foot Sept. 29 on their motherland.

The emigrants and their sons as well as four others joining them Sept. 29 are among 1,319 Japanese who moved to the Caribbean country on the first and only nation-led emigration plan, which was implemented in the late 1950s. The emigrants who arrived Sept. 29 are now 57 to 84 years old.

They want the Foreign Ministry and Japan International Cooperation Agency to fulfill the conditions they advertised when the emigrants set off — a promise to provide each family with ownership of 18 hectares of agricultural land. “When I went there, there were just rocks and desert with salty sands. I was disappointed because I trusted what the government said,” said Moru Hidaka, 84, who moved to the Dominican Republic with her husband in 1958 and raised five children there. “The place we went was Dominica’s colony, and the property was not for us to own,” Hidaka said.

Their lawyer, Kenshi Nishida, claimed that JICA, the Foreign Ministry’s affiliate, promoted the emigration of Japanese farmers to the island by calling it a “Caribbean paradise,” although the ministry had not conducted sufficient research. A ministry spokesman confirmed that 1,319 Japanese in 249 families emigrated to the country, but declined further comment.

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