• Kyodo

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A ceremony Saturday commemorated the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of Japanese immigrants to the Dominican Republic.

The ceremony was held after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi issued an official apology earlier this month for the hardship they experienced under a government-led emigration program in the 1950s and offered to provide them de facto compensation.

Following the apology, a group of the emigrants who filed a damages suit seeking 3.18 billion yen dropped an appeal with the Tokyo High Court against a June ruling that had rejected their claims.

“Our motherland Japan has not abandoned us,” Toru Takegama, head of a Japanese emigrants association, said at the ceremony. “We highly appreciate the official apology issued by Prime Minister Koizumi.

“Let’s work hard toward a better tomorrow,” he added.

Reading a message from Koizumi, Hidehisa Otsuji, the prime minister’s special envoy and a former minister of health, labor and welfare, said, “The government sincerely reflects on and apologizes for having caused tremendous hardship.”

The first batch of emigrants arrived in July 1956 and settled in Dajabon in the northwest part of the Caribbean island country. About 250 families, or some 1,300 people, relocated from Japan.

Currently about 900 Japanese emigrants and their descendents live there. Others returned to Japan or relocated to other countries.

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