The city of Maizuru in Kyoto Prefecture – located on the western coast of Japan, and one of the ports heavily used by Japanese soldiers, prisoners-of-war, and civilians when they were repatriated after the Second World War – revealed on Tuesday that it is set to recommend surviving mementos, records of Japanese POWs who were captured and imprisoned in the Soviet Union after WWII for listing on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
The city is looking to have 570 items – some of which include memoirs and drawings made by former Japanese inmates in Siberian labor camps, and even the lists of those who were repatriated on ships that arrived through the port of Maizuru – recognized by UNESCO in 2015. These items are regularly on display at the Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum, items that chronicle the arrival of the former POWS and other Japanese repatriates from overseas between 1945 and 1956. According to records preserved by the museum and the city, over 650,000 Japanese nationals – some 450,000 of them POWs liberated from Siberia – arrived in Japan via Maizuru’s port. Other soldiers and civilians who came back to Japan after WWII came from China, the Korean Peninsula and islands in the southern Pacific – who also used the Maizuru port as point of entry back to Japan.
Aside from Maizuru, the Japanese central government and the city of Minamikyushu in Kagoshima Prefecture have also made recommendations for listings on the UNESCO register, the latter being controversial as the items are letters that kamikaze suicide pilots wrote to their families before they went on their life-ending sorties. The Chinese government has spoken out in protest to what they say is Japan’s bid to legitimize and romanticize Japan’s expansionist past. “The design behind the so-called application for the kamikaze pilots is very clear, which is to try to beautify the Japanese militarist history of invasion,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said against this attempt. “This intention is diametrically opposed to UNESCO’s objective of maintaining world peace, and must be strongly condemned and resolutely opposed by the international community.”