TOKYO – A court Friday ordered the government to pay millions of dollars in compensation to dozens of Japanese who, as children, were stranded in China at the close of World War II.
The 65 plaintiffs claimed the government was responsible for their delayed return to Japan and upon their return, had failed to provide adequate support to help them reintegrate into Japanese society. They were each seeking $285,000 in compensation.
The Kobe District Court ordered the state to pay between $57,000 and $199,000 to 61 of the plaintiffs, according to court official Yukio Ogushi. The court rejected claims by four others, he said. The total amount of compensation will be more than $4 million, Kyodo News agency reported.
"The ruling acknowledges the situation is a serious violation of human rights for the plaintiffs," those abandoned in China and their lawyers said.
"I am extremely happy," said Mitsuko Miyajima, one of the plaintiffs told public broadcaster NHK. "I feel like I've become the kind of grandmother who's able to do things — like give her grandchild gifts to celebrate getting into high school."
Hisafumi Kitahara, the head of the Health Ministry's section in charge of Japanese abandoned in China, said the ruling was "severe." He said the government will examine the ruling closely before deciding how it will respond.
Nearly 2,000 "war orphans" have sued the government in lawsuits that are pending at several local courts across Japan.
The plaintiffs were the children of Japanese military officials, bureaucrats and private businessmen who were sent to settle in China's remote northeast. They were left behind by their fleeing parents as Soviet troops closed in at the end of the war in 1945.
About 6,300 people came back after ties between the two states was normalized in 1972, including 2,500 who were under age 12 when they were abandoned in China, according to Health Ministry official Hayato Igarashi.
Raised by Chinese who adopted them, most of them were too young to remember their Japanese names or those of their natural parents. Only some have been able to reconnect with their families.
The cases have drawn attention to the painful legacy of Japan's conquest and colonization of East Asia in the first half of the 20th century.