Yaotsu town, located in Kamo county, Gifu prefecture,central Japan, is the birthplace of Chiune Sugihara. He was born in small cozy town in 1900 and spent his childhood surrounded by nature. On 31th October, governor of Gifu prefecture, Hajime Furuta and Mayer of Yaotsu town, Shingo Akatsuka visited to Kaunas, Lithuania. Yaotsu is seeking for adding Sugihara’s records to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. At Sugihara House in Kaunas, Mr.Akatsuka gave a presentation about this initiative.
On 24th September, the Japanese National Commission recognised “Sugihara lists” as an candidate of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2017. Series of documents related to Chiune Sugihara was enlisted as “Sugihara lists–the records of issuing a large number of Japan transit visas based on the humanitarianism and philanthropic spirit of Chiune Sugihara to save refugees in 1940” It includes the lists of visas issued by him for 2139 people, his memoirs, diplomatic cables regarding the issue of visas, an actual passport with Visas for life. It consists of 20 items.
Regarding the importance of Sugihara lists’ application, ”There still remained wars caused by racial discrimination or prejudice. Decision made by Chiune Sugihara at that time was courageous and precious. Yaotsu in Japan would like to disseminate his brave act and make it memorized by the people all over the world. We shall convey the importance of world peace and human lives,” said Shingo Akatsuka, Yaotsu mayor.
There is Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum established in 2000. The number of visitors keeps increasing constantly. According to what Mainichi newspaper reported on 25th October, average visitors daily were around 90 since its establishment, however, reached at 150 after renewal of the museum in this April. Broadcasting about UNESCO’s memory of the world register accelerated its tendency and it reached at 270 per day on average.
Though it was first time to visit to Kaunas for Mr.Furuta, Gifu governor, it was third visit for Mr. Akatsuka. He marked, “Kaunas is a city with green and water as beautiful as Yaotsu. Time by time I feel like returning to my hometown when I came here. We have a lot of common. I would like to deepen cooperation with Kaunas””
Simonas Kairys, vice mayor of Kaunas said, “When we talk about wars in Kaunas, we can’t avoid referring to him. His existence in our city was meaningful. We’d like to support the initiative of Yaotsu. Furthermore, we’re planning to inscribe historical Kaunas buildings as a UNESCO heritage. It’d be very nice that we also cooperate with this manner.”
Schedule coming is as follows: The Japanese National Commission, recognized “Sugihara lists” as a candidate of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, will submit official application seat to UNESCO head quarter on March 2016. Its result will be announced in 2017.
After domestic nomination there is much time until official decision of new inscription. It is highly required to promote the initiative both domestically and internationally. Yet memory of the world register is aimed at preserving humanity’s documentary heritage, it is said that members of experts did not take into account its historical accuracy. This is the point criticized in Japan at the occasion of its register of “Nanjing Massacre”. Sugihara lists’ initiative by Yaotsu, Japan is supported not only by Lithuania and Israel but also by Russia.
Baltic Asia asked a question “What kind of education about Chiune Sugihara is implemented?” to Mr. Akatsuka. His answer goes like this:”We’re teaching about him at elementary school and junior-high school in town based on our humanitarian education. May wish children learned a lot from him and grow up to be a person who has a sympathy to others.”
A journalist from Japan said, “No doubt Chiune Sugihara is important character who catches a heart of Japanese. On top of that, however, I really want to know his meaning for Lithuanian people. I keep doing research on this aspect.”
The credit of Chiune Sugihara reminds people of a variety of notion like importance of human lives or a way of individual inside a group. It is universal. Wishing that his credit won’t remain in Japan but spread in other countries, we’re supporting this initiative.