OTARU, HOKKAIDO – The remains of an Imperial Japanese Army soldier were returned to his family in the Otaru, Hokkaido, on Thursday after they were discovered last year on Russian island of Shumshu.
The island, at the northern end of the Kuril chain, was the site of a fierce battle between Japan and the Soviet Union in August 1945 just after Japan’s surrender in World War II. The remains were the first on the island to be identified as Japanese.
Brought home this time were the remains of Shigeichi Idoi, from Otaru. He was 23 when he died.
Receiving them, a member of the soldier’s family said that for relatives, the war does not really end unless they see their loved ones’ remains.
“I’m really glad that I can see this day thanks to everyone,” his younger sister, Ai, 76, said 71 years after the war. “Our parents should also be delighted in heaven.”
A Russian team found the remains in August last year in a trench together with his metal ID card and personal seal.
The remains were returned to Japan last November and identified by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in June via DNA testing.
According to Ai, Shigeichi was the eldest son and went to war in 1942. In 1948, the family received an official report that he had died on Shumshu on Aug. 18, 1945, three days after Japan surrendered.
The battle lasted several days, and some 600 Japanese and 3,000 Soviet soldiers are believed to have been killed or wounded.
Japan started collecting Japanese remains on the islands in 1990 and has recovered 43 sets so far. Progress has been slow due partly to severe weather.
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