Sixty-six years after the end of World War II, Chuji Inoue and many others are fighting their own private little wars, trying to repatriate the remains of some 1.13 million Japanese who remain unaccounted for.
Inoue, 77, lost his father, Seiichi, in the fighting on Iwojima and is intent on going there to search for his remains.
"My war will not end until I bring back everyone," he said.
Even with the passage of time, some bereaved family members are still receiving the remains of loved ones decades after the fact.
For example, in June 2009, Takashi Higashibata, 70, of Awa, Tokushima Prefecture, was informed that the remains of his father, Tadao, had been found in an underground bunker in central Okinawa Prefecture, where some of the heaviest fighting occurred during the Battle of Okinawa.
The remains were found by Gamafuya, a group of volunteers who search for remains of the war dead. The word "gamafuya" from the Okinawan dialect means people who dig caves.
A rubber seal found next to the remains was used to confirm the identity.
Tadao sold metals in the former Manchuria when he was drafted in 1944 at age 32. Takashi was only 3 at the time and has very few memories of his father.
Takashi visited Okinawa for the first time and entered the dark cave where his father's remains were found.
Placing incense on the site and touching the soil brought tears to Takashi's eyes.
"I am now certain I had a father and that he died here," he said.
Takamatsu Gushiken, 57, is the leader of Gamafuya. While he works repairing medical equipment in Naha, he spends his weekends searching for the remains of the war dead in the central and southern parts of Okinawa. He has been doing this for close to 30 years.
Okinawa was long considered a sacrificial pawn meant only to delay fighting on the main Japanese islands.
Of the combined 200,000 or so casualties on both the Japanese and U.S. sides, about 120,000 were Okinawa residents.
Initially, Gushiken wanted to search for the remains of Okinawa residents who were dragged into the fighting.
However, whenever buttons of military uniforms or military boots were found, Gushiken had no way of knowing if they belonged to someone from the Korean Peninsula who was forced to work for the Japanese military or an Okinawa resident.
Gushiken said he came to realize that it would be irreverent to seek out the status of the individual before he or she died because death took everything from them.
"The remains that I found were all victims who were killed by war," Gushiken said.
He said he feels the remains are asking why they had to die in that location.
After Takashi Higashibata placed his father's remains in the family grave, he began studying about the Battle of Okinawa that took his father's life.
From that research, Takashi believes his father was engaged in heavy fighting against U.S. troops who were advancing on Shuri, where Japanese headquarters were located.
Gushiken told him that based on the condition of the remains his father may have died at his own hand, using a grenade.
"The war pushed many people to extreme limits and forced them to commit suicide," Takashi said. "Many of the remains of those people cannot return home. I feel like I can hear the anger of Okinawa."
Another island where many remains are still unidentified is Iwojima, located 1,250 kilometers south of central Tokyo.
Almost all the Japanese troops who fought the United States on the island died. While a total of 21,900 soldiers died there, about 12,000 have still not been identified.
Inoue, of Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture, has participated in efforts by the central government to gather remains on Iwojima since the 1970s, and he has visited the island more than 30 times.
Inoue received a notice on Aug. 15, 1945, that his father had died in battle.
A box said to contain his remains instead only had a small piece of wood saying it represented the soul of the late Seiichi Inoue.
Inoue said he could not be satisfied with what appeared to be an attempt to send a religious tablet to his family.
Inoue's father was drafted in June 1944 when he was 34. He was sent to Iwojima in July. In late October, his father sent the family a postcard that said, "Send me a photo."
Inoue believes his father at that time likely was resigned to his own death.
While only wishing to see his family one last time, Inoue's father died on an isolated island with little food and water for the Japanese troops.
Last December, on a visit to Iwojima, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, "It is the central government's responsibility to bring back the remains. We will search down to the very last bit of sand."
Inoue knows better than others how difficult that task will be.
Whenever Inoue visits Iwojima he cannot help thinking, "The nation sent them to the battlefield, so it should bring them back. They should respect the life of a person."
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