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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Missing WWII vet returns to Japan
Ishinosuke Uwano at Tokyo airport
Mr Uwano appeared emotional when he arrived in Tokyo
An 83-year-old ex-Japanese soldier lost since 1958 has returned to Japan from Ukraine, where he has lived since 1965.

Ishinosuke Uwano muttered a few words in halting Japanese as he flew into Tokyo for a 10-day visit.

"I have never spoken Japanese for 60 years, and first of all I would like to say 'konnichiwa' [hello]," he said.

Mr Uwano was on military service on Russia's Sakhalin Island at the end of WWII but lost contact with his family in 1958, and was declared dead in 2000.

However, unknown to Japanese authorities - or his family - Mr Uwano married a Ukrainian woman and set up home in a town west of the country's capital, Kiev.

He has three children and holds Ukrainian nationality.

Family reunion

Walking into Tokyo's Narita airport accompanied by his Ukrainian son, Mr Uwano smiled and told waiting reporters of his joy at being back in Japan.

I had not dreamed about going to Japan. I remember the cherry blossoms
Ishinosuke Uwano
He said that the government of the former Soviet Union had prevented him contacting his family, who live north-east of Tokyo, once he moved to Ukraine.

"I'm looking forward to seeing and talking with my brothers and cousins," he said.

Earlier, before leaving Ukraine, Mr Uwano described how his memories of Japan had faded.

"I had not dreamed about going to Japan. I remember the 'sakura' [cherry blossoms]," he told Ukrainian TV.

Soldiers' plight

Japanese officials, who arranged the trip after locating Mr Uwano in Ukraine last year, said he was visiting as a tourist on this occasion, but they hoped to arrange to restore his Japanese citizenship.

He was one of thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians who were left stranded across the Pacific and in parts of China and Russia after the war ended.

Some were kept as prisoners and forced to work as slave labourers, others chose to remain of their own accord.

Why Mr Uwano remained in Russia, and how he ended up in Ukraine, has not been disclosed.

There is still much interest in Japan in the plight of former soldiers who never made it home, the BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says.

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