• Kyodo

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A group of 64 Japanese left Nemuro port Sunday to visit Russian-held Kunashiri Island, the former home of some the travelers, as part of a visa-free exchange program.

The departure marks the seventh trip this year under the program, in which the former residents and Russian inhabitants of the four Russian-held islands make reciprocal visa-free visits.

Among the 64 are former Japanese residents of Kunashiri and their second-generation relatives. Hiroyuki Hosoda, state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs, also took part as an adviser.

The exchanges, based on an agreement between Tokyo and Moscow in 1992, are aimed at promoting understanding between former Japanese residents of the islands and the current Russian inhabitants.

They will stay there for three days and return to Nemuro port Tuesday.