Former Japanese resident of Russian-held isle dies during trip to his former home


A Japanese man, who was once a resident of a Russian-held island off Hokkaido, died on his way back from a visa-free trip to his former home, the Japanese government said Tuesday.

No foul play is suspected in the death of 78-year-old Akira Ito, said Teru Fukui, minister in charge of the Northern Territories, the Japanese term for the islands held by Moscow but claimed by Tokyo.

It is the first time that a participant in a visa-free visit to the islands has died during the trip, according to the Cabinet Office.

Ito left a port in Nemuro, Hokkaido, by ship on June 6 and visited Etorofu, one of the disputed islands.

He was found lying in a bathroom after 3 a.m. Saturday while the ship was at anchor off Kunashiri, another of the islands, as part of procedures to leave the area.

Ito was confirmed dead by a doctor who accompanied those making the trip.