Ex-Residents of Russian-Held Isles Pray for Ancestors from Air

Society Culture

Sapporo, Oct. 21 (Jiji Press)--A program for former Japanese residents of Russian-held northwestern Pacific islands to pray for their ancestors from the air kicked off on Wednesday.

The program, using chartered flights, was set up at the request of former residents and organized by the Japanese side as an independent event at a time when all other programs slated this year under a Japan-Russia special exchange initiative related to the islands were canceled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. It is the first time for the Japanese side to carry out an event independently under the bilateral initiative.

The islands, located off the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido, were seized by the former Soviet Union from Japan at the end of World War II and have long been claimed by Japan. The islands are known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

A total of five chartered flights are planned under the program--two on Wednesday three on Sunday.

The first flight, carrying some 30 former residents, left Nemuro Nakashibetsu Airport in the Hokkaido town of Nakashibetsu around 10:45 a.m. Wednesday (1:45 a.m. GMT). "I put my hands together" to offer prayers from the air, Hirotoshi Kawata, an 86-year-old former resident of Tarakuto, part of the Habomai group of islets, among the disputed islands, said. "I'm very grateful" for the program, he said with a smile.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press