TOKYO – A former Japanese soldier last seen by his family when he went off to fight in World War II has resurfaced in Ukraine and is returning to Japan to see his relatives after 60 years, the government said Monday.
Ishinosuke Uwano, now 83, had been declared among Japan's war dead in 2000.
Suminori Arima, a health ministry official in charge of locating war veterans lost overseas, declined to say where Uwano had been the past six decades or why he had not been in touch with his family in Japan.
He said Uwano was expected to arrive Wednesday with his Ukrainian son to spend 10 days with his surviving relatives in Iwate, about 290 miles northeast of Tokyo.
"It's wonderful that Mr. Uwano can make a homecoming visit in good health," Arima said.
Uwano was an Imperial Army soldier serving in a force occupying the island of Sakhalin in Russia's far east when the war ended in August 1945. Arima said he was last reported seen there in 1958.
Arima said the aging Uwano, who lives in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, asked someone in his local community to help him track down his Japanese relatives. Inquiries by the acquaintance eventually reached the health ministry, which sent staff to interview Uwano at the Japanese Embassy in Kiev, Arima said.
The health ministry declined to provide more information on the former soldier and details of his Japanese and Ukrainian families were not disclosed.
Kyodo News agency said Uwano moved to Ukraine in 1965 and has three children. He lives in Zhitomir, a city just west of the capital, Kiev, the report said.
The government believes about 400 former Japanese World War II soldiers are living in the states of the former Soviet Union, including 40 who have been identified.