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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Holds a Special Place in Visiting Japanese Leader's Heart

TOKYO -- When new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori visits this weekend, he'll be returning to the nation where half of his father's ashes are buried.

Shigeki Mori, mayor for decades of a small city in Japan, loved Russia so much he requested that his remains be split between the two countries so the ties he had established would never be forgotten.

The peaceful ties he forged could give a boost to the younger Mori's goal of improving relations and upholding the last wishes of his father, who died in 1989.

"Since his father's grave is in Russia, the Russian president-elect will welcome him with a warm heart,'' asserted Sotonobu Matsuyama, a close friend of the Mori family and vice chairman of the Japan-Russia Friendship Association in Neagari, the Mori family's roost on the Sea of Japan. "I sense it because Putin is inviting Mori to his hometown of St. Petersburg and I'm sure they will talk about his father.''

Mori arrived Friday evening in St. Petersburg. Over the weekend, he'll attend a state luncheon and concert at the Hermitage Museum and stroll along the river with President-elect Vladimir Putin, as well as visit a joint venture between Japan's Sony Corp. and a local electronics maker.

Mori has visited Russia five or six times, his spokesman said, including two visits to his father's large granite grave in the Siberian city of Shelekhov, which bears a large color photo and his name in Japanese characters.

Shigeki Mori's ties with Siberia began in 1960, when as mayor of Neagari he met a fellow World War II veteran - who fought for Russia -at a conference of Japanese and Russian coastal cities. The Russian was the mayor of Shelekhov.

The men went on to found a bilateral friendship society that now numbers 600 and promotes exchanges between the two cities.