Remains of former Japanese soldier returned to his family 69 years after his death

Remains of former Japanese soldier returned to his family 69 years after his death

Kazuo Tabata (left) and other family members reunite with the remains of their father Kozo, a Japanese soldier who was killed during the Battle of Okinawa, after his absence of 69 years in Machida, Tokyo on April 7.

April 8, 2014 Yoko Shima of Ryukyu Shimpo

The remains of a former Japanese soldier found in Urasoe Maeda in July last year were returned to his family members, who live in Machida, Tokyo, on April 7. DNA analysis has identified the remains of Kozo Tabata, who was a 33-year-old corporal of the Japanese Imperial Army at the time of the Battle of Okinawa. The man, originally from Akita Prefecture, was killed in battle. His son Kazuo, 76, daughter Takako Yanagisawa, 75, and Yoshiko Kato, 72, felt an absence for 69 years, until they received their father’s remains last week. It was a long awaited reunion for the family. This is the fourth time DNA analysis has identified the remains of those who were killed during the Battle of Okinawa.

Late Japanese soldier Kozo Tabata

Before the World War Two, Kozo was an owner of an electric appliance shop in Karafuto or Sakhalin and had four children with his wife Yukiko. In 1941, he was called up to serve the Japanese Imperial Army and was sent to Manchuria. As a member of the 24th Division, he moved to Okinawa from Manchuria in 1944. Kazuo, who was a three-year-old at the time, remembers his father’s surprised face when an accident occurred. Kazuo cut his wrist when he broke glassware in trying to help his father, who was working in the shop. “Every time I see this scar, it reminds me of my father. Even though I was young then, I can still remember him vividly because I spent time at his side,” said Kazuo. Yoshiko has no memory of her father as she was still in her mother’s womb. “I have long envied the families who lived with their fathers. So I am happy to finally meet him. Now is the best time for my family,” said she.

The volunteer group Gamafuya found a set of remains and a personal seal engraved with the name “Tabata” and a purse around it. Kazuo stepped forward to identify them because he thought that the remains might be those of his father. Takamatsu Gushiken, the president of Gamafuya, said, “This set of remains was found with the cooperation of construction workers. Thanks to them, we were able to return it to the family. We would like to create a system to collect the remains before the construction works begin so that we are able to return them to the bereaved families.”

The former soldier’s children will tell their mother about her deceased husband’s remains being returned. Even though the 99-year old woman sometimes does not recognize her daughters, she can instantly identify her husband in the photograph. They plan to bring his remains home to his wife as early as possible.

(English translation by T&CT)

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