Japanese residents tell story of how people saved Russian soldiers from sinking ship

Japanese residents tell story of how people saved Russian soldiers from sinking ship

MATSUE Kyodo residents of a city in southwest Japan tell how their people saved over 200 Russian soldiers from a sinking ship at the height of the 1904 -- 1905 Russo-Japanese war, out of a desire to remember their ancestors' efforts to help those they were at war with.

On May 27th, 1905, the Russian Baltic Fleet's transport vessel, the Irtysh, sustained damage from Japanese battleships in waters off Tsushima Island, located between Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula.

The vessel drifted to waters about 2 kilometers off the coast of Gotsu in Japan's western prefecture of Shimane and became immobilized the following day.

When it started to sink, Gotsu residents watching on from the beach leapt into the sea to pull ashore boats carrying the crew.

Since 1906, events commemorating what happened have been held in the city, and are now known as the Russia festival.

The Waki neighborhood community center displays effects from the ship, and on its grounds stands a cenotaph to the Russians who died. The children of local schools have had exchanges with Russian children.

Waki resident Tsutomu Wada, 93, recalls how his late father, Genichi Wada, was a child who witnessed the Irtysh sinking and residents' attempts to rescue its crew.

Tsutomu recalls his father being invited to give elementary school lectures.

Many locals made efforts to tell the story. It's great that the story continues to be passed down today, Tsutomu said.

The festival is usually held every May, but was delayed in 2021 due to the coronaviruses and went ahead on a reduced scale. The festival organizers said that this year it has been postponed in the autumn due to changes in the global situation.

Hisao Noda, who is involved in the festival, said that the residents' compulsion to save people even from an enemy nation has value in society today. "I want children to learn about this and pass it on," said the 70-year-old.

The Russo-Japanese War was fought between the empires of Japan and Russia over their control of the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria historical region in Northeast Asia. Japan's victory came when the Imperial Japanese Navy dealt a serious blow to the Russian Navy at the Battle of Tsushima, which took place off Tsushima Island.