MORIOKA, Japan – A former Japanese soldier was reunited with relatives Thursday, the first time he had seen them since he went off to fight for the emperor more than 60 years ago.
Ishinosuke Uwano, 83, and his brother Ushitaro Sadate, 80, looked at each other for a few seconds and then hugged tightly, patting each other's backs.
Uwano, who was believed killed in World War II and recently surfaced in Ukraine, is in Tokyo for a 10-day visit. He was in an Imperial Army force occupying eastern Russia's Sakhalin island when the war ended in August 1945 and was last reported seen there in 1958.
He said Wednesday he had not been able to return to Japan earlier "due to the former Soviet regime" in Ukraine. He did not elaborate.
It was not clear how he ended up in Ukraine after the war.
On Thursday, five other relatives wiped away tears as Uwano hugged his brother in a reunion sponsored by the government of the northern prefecture of Iwate.
"We are filled with emotions. We just can't express anything in words now," Sadate said. Uwano was so overcome that he could not speak.
Uwano then hugged each of his two younger sisters, ages 75 and 70, his first meeting with them since leaving Japan in 1943 to fight in the war. He met his four nephews, ages 52 to 62, for the first time.
The former soldier also called on the deputy governor in the prefectural capital, Morioka, before leaving for his old hometown of Hirono, about 290 miles northeast of Tokyo, to stay with his relatives for a week. He was accompanied by his son.
Japanese media said Uwano moved to Ukraine in 1965 and also has two daughters. He lives in Zhitomyr, a city about 90 miles west of the capital, Kiev, according to the Kyodo News agency.
The government believes about 400 former Japanese soldiers from World War II are living in the former Soviet Union, and says 40 of them have been identified.