The government on Monday began excavating a site in Tokyo where a medical school once stood that may hold grisly secrets from the war's infamous Unit 731, which was believed to have carried out atrocities on prisoners.

The probe in Shinjuku Ward's Toyama district began in the afternoon at the former school linked to the germ and biological warfare outfit, whose experiments on war prisoners have never been officially acknowledged by the government but have been documented by historians and participants.

It is the first government probe of the Shinjuku site, where an army medical school once stood and later a health ministry facility for researching infectious diseases, and follows a former nurse's revelation that she helped bury body parts there as American forces began occupying Tokyo.