KUSHIRO, HOKKAIDO – In the first flight negotiated over their decades-long territorial spat, Japanese former residents of a group of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido flew to two of the disputed isles Saturday to visit their ancestors’ graves.
The trip by the group of 68, including 17 former islanders and their families, was originally scheduled for June but postponed by inclement weather.
Until now, the trips have only been made by chartered ships during the summer. The islands were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan lost World War II in August 1945.
The islands comprise Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group. The arrangement for the day trip to Etorofu and Kunashiri is in line with a bilateral agreement made in April to reduce the burden on the aging former islanders.