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Central Japan high schoolers contribute English article on local heroine to The Mainichi

Attendees of an unveiling ceremony for a memorial monument honoring Chiune Sugihara and his wife Yukiko are seen in this still image taken from a Mainichi Shimbun video shot in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Nov.1, 2020. The Katoh Gakuen Gyoshu Senior High School students who wrote an article for The Mainichi are seen in the front row. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Ishikawa)

A group of high school students in the central Japan city of Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, has written an English article for The Mainichi on the unveiling ceremony of a monument dedicated to Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who issued more than 2,000 transit visas to Jews in Lithuania in 1940, and his wife Yukiko, who was born in Numazu. The students at Katoh Gakuen Gyoshu Senior High School in the city acted as interpreters for Lithuanian Ambassador Gediminas Varvuolis and other international figures who attended the Nov. 1 ceremony. Below is the article sent by the group:

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    Numazu monument honors Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara for issuing 'visas for life'

    By Nanami Chesen, Noa Takano and Kanon Morikawa, contributing writers

    NUMAZU, Shizuoka -- A monument dedicated to Chiune Sugihara and his wife Yukiko was unveiled in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Nov. 1 to honor their humanitarian action 80 years ago believed to have saved the lives of some 6,000 Jews.

    This monument is the first where both Chiune and Yukiko are being honored together. Yukiko was born in Numazu. She gave firm moral support to her husband when he, as a Japanese diplomat, issued transit visas for persecuted Polish Jews.

    In July and August, 1940, the Japanese Consulate building in Kaunas, Lithuania, was surrounded by crowds of Jewish refugees escaping from persecution by Nazi Germany. Initially Chiune, acting consul, appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo about issuing visas but received a definite "No," which was understandable considering the political situation at that time. Although aware that he would lose his job, he decided to issue visas, which were later dubbed "visas for life."

    Yukiko's unflagging moral support was the secret of Chiune's courageous, humanitarian and empathetic action. Two of her tanka (31-syllable Japanese poems) show that the couple spent two nights of tormented inner conflict but eventually made up their minds to issue visas.

    The monument, a bronze relief depicting the faces of the Sugiharas side by side, demonstrates Yukiko's great support for Chiune, and is situated in Minatoguchi Park near the Numazu fish market. In addition to the Japanese attendees, Gediminas Varvuolis, ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania, and Barak Schein, press secretary of the State of Israel, attended the unveiling.

    Yukiko, who loved Numazu, spent her time at the beautiful beach and admired the views of Mount Fuji. The monument has been built on the coast where Suruga Bay and the foot of Mount Fuji meet.

    The monument was funded by the generous support of local citizens as well as by crowdfunding. Sohaku Matsushita, chief priest of Chokouji Temple in the Otsuka district of Numazu, took the initiative to organize the movement to build the monument. He also oversaw the Nov. 1 ceremony.

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    Nanami Chesen, Noa Takano and Kanon Morikawa are year 11 students at Katoh Gakuen Gyoshu High School in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

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