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Cenotaph for Russian sailors rescued by Japanese in 1905 war relocated in Shimane Pref.

This March 6, 2021 photo shows the relocated cenotaph for the Iltish ship crew members, in Gotsu, Shimane Prefecture. (Mainichi/Kenichi Kayahara)

GOTSU, Shimane -- A cenotaph for Russian sailors rescued in the Sea of Japan by Japanese residents during the Japanese-Russo War in 1905 has been relocated within the city as an ongoing symbol of residents' love for humanity.

    The cenotaph, which had stood on the shore of the Wakicho district of Gotsu, was relocated to the grounds of a local community center in the western Japan city due to coastal erosion, among other reasons. In a ceremony at the community center on March 6, residents swore anew to pass on their predecessors' love for humankind.

    The Russian Baltic Fleet's auxiliary ship Iltish sank off the island of Majima on May 28, 1905 after being hit by cannon fire from a Japanese fleet. Residents of the Wakicho district subsequently rescued 265 crew members with fishing boats and other equipment. From the following year, people began to gather in late May to commemorate the incident, and gatherings continue to be held today at the community center and other places as "Russian festivals," where the "spirit of ancestors who saved enemy lives" has been passed down by word of mouth.

    Standing about 2.9 meters tall, the cenotaph was erected in 1959 by the late Ryoichi Sasakawa, former chairman of the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, who attempted to salvage the ship. Its relocation from a hill overlooking the sea to the community center, about 500 meters away, was funded with a town development subsidy.

    Some 30 people including Gotsu Mayor Osamu Yamashita and local residents attended the ceremony on March 6. Council chairman Hisao Noda said in a speech, "We'd like to pass on our predecessors' wonderful act and this circle of friendship by word of mouth." One of the attendants commented, "Some new residents don't know about the dramatic rescue. I think the cenotaph will become more familiar to people here and interest them."

    (Japanese original by Kenichi Kayahara, Hamada Local Bureau)

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