The government has decided to conduct a DNA test for the first time on what is believed to be the remains of a Japanese soldier who died in a battle with Soviet forces in 1945, government sources said Wednesday.
The man is thought to have died in a battle on Shumshu Island, now part of Russia’s Kuril Islands, shortly after Japan’s surrender in World War II on Aug. 15, 1945, according to the sources.
Shumshu Island, the second northernmost of what Japan called the Chishima Island group, was invaded by Soviet forces before dawn on Aug. 18, 1945, sparking a major battle through Aug. 23 that year, in which at least several hundred Japanese and Soviet troops died.
The remains subject to the DNA test are likely to be those of Shigeichi Idoi, a 23-year-old native of Otaru in Hokkaido, judging from belongings recovered together with them, according to the sources at Japan’s welfare ministry and Idoi’s family.
Since 1990, 43 sets of remains believed to be from Japanese soldiers who fought on Shumshu Island have been repatriated, but none has been identified.
The remains suspected to be Idoi’s were one of 27 sets of remains discovered earlier by Russian researchers in a trench and handed over to Japan in November in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the Russian Far East.
Together with the remains, a metal identification tag and a seal bearing the name of Idoi were found, according to the Russian researchers. Although the tag did not indicate the holder’s name, numbers on it suggested the remains are likely Idoi’s based on a list of soldiers compiled by the Japanese military.
Yuriko Minato, the 80-year-old sister of Idoi, said she was looking forward to placing her brother’s remains in the grave of their mother. “Unless his remains are returned, our war will never end,” she said.
The battle on Shumshu Island occurred while Tokyo was in the process of demobilizing following its acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, which demanded Japan’s unconditional surrender.
The specific number of casualties remains unconfirmed, with up to 3,000 Soviet and around 350 Japanese troops believed to have died by the time a cease-fire agreement was reached.
It took a long time to collect the remains of soldiers on the island as no civilians live there and landing is restricted. The island also has no accommodation.