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Ex-residents of disputed islets to pray for ancestors from sky

Sapporo, Aug. 5 (Jiji Press)–The Hokkaido government said Wednesday that it will charter flights between October and November to let former Japanese residents of Russian-held islands off the northernmost prefecture pray for their ancestors from the sky.


Hokkaido decided on the flights in line with requests from former residents after this year’s visa-free exchange program between Japan and Russia was canceled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The program usually takes place between May and October.


According to the prefectural government, chartered aircraft will fly near Kunashiri and the Habomai group of islets, two of the four disputed northwestern Pacific islands seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II.


The aircraft, set to fly from and to the Hokkaido town of Nakashibetsu, will carry some 20 people per flight. The prefectural government plans to offer a one-hour flight five times.

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