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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japanese Soldier Surfaces in Ukraine After 60 Years

TOKYO -- A former Imperial Army soldier, who has not been seen by his Japanese family since he went off to fight in World War II and was declared among the war dead in 2000, has resurfaced in Ukraine and is returning to Japan to see his relatives after 60 years, the Japanese government said.

Ishinosuke Uwano, now 83, was expected to arrive in Japan on Wednesday, accompanied by his Ukrainian son, for a 10-day visit with his surviving relatives in Iwate, about 460 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, said Suminori Arima, who is in charge of locating war veterans lost overseas for the Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry.

"It's wonderful that Mr. Uwano can make a homecoming visit in good health," Arima said.

Arima declined to say exactly where Uwano had been for the past six decades, nor why he had not been in touch with his Japanese family in all that time.

Uwano was on the Far East island of Sakhalin when the war ended in August 1945, and was last reported seen on the same Pacific island in 1958. Arima did not say who reported seeing him there.

Public broadcaster NHK said he was drafted in 1943 to fight in Sakhalin.

He failed to return to Japan, and he did not contact any of his relatives there.

In 2000, Uwano's family agreed to register Uwano as having died in the war.

But Uwano, who now lives in Ukraine at an undisclosed location with his Ukrainian family, asked someone in his local community to help him track his Japanese relatives.

Inquiries by his acquaintance, whom Arima did not identify, eventually reached the Health and Welfare Ministry, which sent staff to interview Uwano at the Japanese Embassy in Kiev, Arima said.

Kyodo News agency said Uwano, who moved to Ukraine in 1965 and now has three children, was currently in Zhitomir, a city just west of Kiev.

The Iwate government was working to restore his family registry -- a record of all births, marriages, deaths and other information -- to rerecord him as alive.

The ministry refused to provide any more information on the returning war veteran, and details of his Japanese and Ukrainian families were not disclosed.

The government believes that about 400 former Japanese World War II soldiers remain in the former Soviet Union, including 40 who have been identified.

Last year, Japanese officials went to a remote Philippine village after receiving information that two former Japanese World War II soldiers could be hiding out there -- but it turned out to be a wild goose chase.