The remains of 2,337 unidentified Japanese soldiers who died during World War II were delivered Monday to Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo.
The remains, together with those already laid to rest, bring the number of war dead honored at the cemetery to 364,896, according to the welfare ministry, which held a memorial service later in the day.
The 2,337 sets of remains were brought home by the government and other groups from former war zones including the Solomon Islands and Russia.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and welfare minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki attended the memorial service, along with representatives of the soldiers’ relatives.
“We will do our best to gather as many remains as possible with the help of the bereaved families and other private groups,” Shiozaki said in a speech.
“Many remains, including those of my father’s, are still left on the battlefields of war,” said Sachiko Yamaguchi, 73, of Yokohama. “I hope the government will put more effort into it.”
Since fiscal 2003, the welfare ministry has been using DNA analysis to help identify the remains, but as of March only 1,044 had been successfully identified through this process, officials said.
While Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery houses the unidentified or unclaimed remains of soldiers who died overseas during World War II, the contentious Yasukuni Shrine, which stands nearby, honors millions of war dead, as well as convicted war criminals.
Yasukuni is regarded by many countries as a symbol of Japan’s wartime militarism.