Nagoya, Japan

This tour is dedicated to Chiune Sugihara, Japanese diplomat who saved 6500 of Jews from Holocaust. He is recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations...

This tour is dedicated to Chiune Sugihara, Japanese diplomat who saved 6500 of Jews from Holocaust. He is recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

9am.  Meet your guide at the pier, Nagoya port for full day sightseeing of Gifu with vegetarian lunch included.

Visit Sugihara Chiuhe Museum, located in the deep countryside, about 2 hour drive, in Gifu Prefecture dedicated to the life and good deeds of this small town’s most famous son.  Chiune Sugihara, was the first Japanese diplomat posted to Lithuania. Sugihara graduated from the exclusive Harbin Gakuin, Japan’s training center for experts on the Soviet Union.

As the director of the foreign ministry in Manchukuo, a puppet state Japan had established in Manchuria under Japanese supervision, Sugihara negotiated the purchase of the North Manchurian railroad from the Soviet Union in 1932.

Because Sugihara was fluent in Russian, the Japanese sent him to the Lithuanian capital, Kovno, in November 1939. He had learned the language from Russian emigres during 16 years in Harbin, Manchuria. He was ordered to provide Japan with intelligence on Soviet and German troop movements in the Baltic region. Sugihara also exchanged information with members of the Polish underground in Lithuania and issued them visas for transit through Japan in 1940. He recognized the urgency of the situation in Lithuania following the occupation by Soviet forces in June 1940 and the accompanying wave of arrests by Soviet secret police. Sugihara have realized that, with western Europe engulfed in war, the most likely avenue for escape for refugees in Lithuania was an eastern route through the Soviet Union to Japan.

In the summer of 1940, when refugees came to him with bogus visas for Curacao and other Dutch possessions in America, Sugihara decided to facilitate their escape from war-torn Europe. In the absence of clear instructions from Tokyo, he granted 10-day visas for transit through Japan to hundreds of refugees who held Curacao destination visas. Before closing his consulate in the fall of 1940, Sugihara even gave visas to refugees who lacked all travel papers.  After Sugihara had issued some 1,800 visas, he received a cable from Tokyo reminding him: “You must make sure that they [refugees] have finished their procedure for their entry visas and also they must possess the travel money or the money that they need during their stay in Japan. Otherwise, you should not give them the transit visa.”

In his response to the cable, Sugihara admitted issuing visas to people who had not completed all arrangements for destination visas. He explained the extenuating circumstances: Japan was the only transit country available for those going in the direction of the United States, and his visas were needed for departure from the Soviet Union. Sugihara suggested that travelers who arrived in the Soviet port of Vladivostok with incomplete paperwork should not be allowed to board ship for Japan. Tokyo wrote back that the Soviet Union insisted that Japan honor all visas already issued by its consulates.

By the time Sugihara left Lithuania he had issued visas to 2,140 persons. These visas also covered some 300 others, mostly children. Not everyone who held visas was able to leave Lithuania, however, before the Soviet Union stopped granting exit visas.

Sugihara left Lithuania in early September 1940. The Japanese transferred him to Prague in Bohemia and then to Bucharest, Romania, Germany’s ally, where he remained until after the end of the war. During the victorious Soviet army’s march though the Balkans in 1944, the Soviets arrested Sugihara together with other diplomats from enemy nations. Soviet authorities held him and his family, under fairly benign conditions, for the next three years. When Sugihara returned to Japan in 1947, the Foreign Ministry retired him with a small pension as part of a large staff reduction enacted under the American occupation.

Sugihara held a variety of jobs after the war including one for a Japanese trading company in Moscow from 1960 to 1975. A year before he died in 1986, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, honored Sugihara with the title “Righteous Among the Nations” for his aid to the refugees in Lithuania during World War II.

The Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum presents the history of Sugihara’s life using video (including English and Hebrew language versions), photographs, realia and a recreation of his office in Kaunas. Each visitor is given a blue passport on entry in remembrance of Sugihara’s humanity. The western-style museum is pleasantly built of cypress (hinoki) trees and close by is the Bells of Peace Monument, the piles of visas issued by Suhihara, with the words “Love”, “Courage” and “Heart” engraved on the bells.

Visit Nagoya Castle, built by Ieyasu, first of the Tokugawa shoguns, in 1612, is famous for the golden dolphins atop the roof of its castle tower. Until the overthrow of the Tokugawa in 1867, it was the residence of the Owari branch of the Tokugawa. Much of the castle burned down in air raids during World War II. The tower was rebuilt in 1959 as a reinforced concrete building with seven stories above ground and a basement. Floors one to five contain exhibition rooms that give the history of Nagoya. Meijo Park, which was built around the castle, is planted with seasonal flowers that make it a nice place for to stroll.

4pm return to the ship.

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