Japanese soldier returns, 63 years after going to fight for the Emperor

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A former soldier with the Japanese army, long presumed dead, came home yesterday 63 years after leaving to fight in the Second World War.

Ishinosuke Uwano, 83, arrived at Japan's main international airport with his eldest son Anatoly, who was born in Ukraine, followed by a swarm of reporters asking questions about his mysterious past.

Mr Uwano, who looked fit and healthy, said he "felt good but very tired".

"I haven't spoken Japanese in 60 years," he said, "and first of all I would like to say konnichiwa [hello]."

Mr Uwano was still a teenager when he was drafted into the Imperial Army and sent to the Russian Far East. He ended the war on Sakhalin Island, which was seized and occupied by Russia, and later moved to the Ukraine, where it is thought he married a local woman and raised three children.

His last official sighting was in 1958. Six years ago his relatives gave up hope of finding him alive and officially removed his name from their family register.

A spokesman for Japan's Health Ministry said he contacted a Japanese embassy in Ukraine last year to ask for help in searching for surviving relatives. The spokesman said the ministry had no idea why it took him so long to come forward, and added: "We're looking forward to hearing his story."

Mr Uwano will return to the town of Hirono, 300 miles north of Tokyo, to meet his relatives today.