3 bodies found in Russia after Hokkaido boat tragedy arrive in Japan

Three bodies recovered by Russia, believed to be those of people missing from a tourist boat that sank off Hokkaido in April, arrived in Japan on a coast guard ship on Saturday.

A photo taken by a Kyodo News helicopter shows a vehicle carrying a body leaving a coast guard ship in the port of Otaru on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido on September 10, 2022. (Kyodo)

The bodies, found between May and June, were handed over to the Japanese coast guard by Russian authorities the previous day after DNA tests were carried out in Russia. Tests based on data sent by Japan showed the bodies were two of the passengers and a crew member of the sightseeing ship Kazu I, which sank in bad weather on April 23, leaving 15 dead and 11 missing.

Hokkaido police will release the bodies to the victims’ families after further DNA tests are conducted, officials said.

The bodies are believed to be those of Akira Soyama, a 27-year-old sailor, and a woman and a man among those still missing.

One of the bodies was found in the southern part of Sakhalin, and the rest on the island of Kunashiri.

The boat was pulled from the seabed about 11 kilometers west of Utoro port in Shari, where it set off with 26 people on board for a three-hour cruise around the Shiretoko Peninsula, a world natural heritage site, despite warnings of bad weather.

Kunashiri Island is one of four islands controlled by Russia and claimed by Japan, collectively referred to as the Northern Territories by Tokyo and the Southern Kuriles by Moscow.

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