SAPPORO – A 79-year-old Japanese man who went missing on Russia’s Sakhalin Island after the end of World War II came home Sunday for the first time in 67 years.
Yoshiteru Nakagawa now resides in Russia’s Kalmykiya Republic along the Caspian Sea. He arrived at Shin Chitose Airport near Sapporo on a flight from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk together with his younger sister, 75-year-old Toyoko Chiba of Bibai, Hokkaido.
Chiba, supported by a Japanese nonprofit organization, had been visiting Nakagawa at his home since June 21 to arrange the visit.
Nakagawa has indicated a desire to visit the grave of his mother, and is scheduled to stay in Japan until July 16.
When Nakagawa, in a wheelchair, appeared at the arrival gate, he clasped his hands together in gratitude to supporters who had come to greet him.
He cried as another younger sister, Tomiko Orui, 60, presented him with a bouquet of flowers. The two had never met, as she was still in their mother’s womb when the family was separated.
In a news conference after his arrival, Nakagawa, speaking in Japanese, said that he “never dreamed” he would be able to set foot in Japan again.
He was born in Yamagata Prefecture in 1926, and his family later moved to Sakhalin. The southern half of the island was then under Japanese rule and called Karafuto.
About a month after the war ended in August 1945, his mother, younger sister and younger brother were repatriated to Hokkaido, but Nakagawa and his father remained behind. Their whereabouts became unknown after that.
Chiba said her brother had been mistaken for an Imperial Japanese Army soldier and was taken as a prisoner of war by the Soviet Union. Nakagawa married a Russian woman but subsequently divorced.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which is in charge of war victims’ relief affairs, began an investigation after Nakagawa inquired through the Japanese Embassy in Moscow in March 2001 for permission to return to Japan temporarily.
DNA tests in April 2005 showed he was Chiba’s brother.
Two previous plans to visit Japan had to be canceled because of his poor health.