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Chiba Pref. threw out 500 volumes of war-related public records

CHIBA -- A prefectural archives center here discarded about 500 volumes of documents related to World War II, including names of the war dead and registry data of bereaved families, it has been learned.

    The Chiba Prefectural Archives disposed 10,177 volumes of public records in its collection over a course of one year until March 2016. After checking with the Chiba Prefectural Government, the Japan Society for Archival Science and other groups found out that the discarded documents included registry lists of families of the war dead, names of demobilized soldiers and those who emigrated from the prefecture to Manchuria, in present-day northeastern China.

    The prefectural government has admitted that the documents "included records that cannot be deemed unnecessary." Furthermore, it acknowledged that the disposal of such documents violated in-house regulations that require all public records created or acquired by fiscal 1952 to be saved as historical archives by the Chiba Prefectural Archives.

    According to the archives center, it had collected and stored documents marked "long-period storage" in an across-the-board manner without concrete standards for what should be collected and saved. In 2014, the prefectural government revised its administrative document management regulations, as the archives center had stored documents that "could not be considered historical public records." Starting in fiscal 2015, the prefectural government disposed of documents that were deemed "non-historical records" and had been stored over 30 years, while taking the opinions of divisions that had jurisdiction over those documents into consideration.

    For most of the documents, officials reportedly judged what to discard based solely on their titles without actually checking their contents.

    The prefectural government's health and welfare guidance division, which manages war-related documents, says most of the disposed records can be substituted by other documents, such as government notifications and family registries. The disposed records, however, included documents acquired or compiled by fiscal 1952, which the prefectural government must preserve under a separate in-house rule that came into force at the same time as the revision to the regulations.

    A total of 14 groups specializing in history, including the Japan Society for Archival Science, in February requested that the prefectural government halt its disposal of public records. The archives center decided to postpone the disposal work for fiscal 2016 and is considering reviewing the selection process.

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