© NPO Chiune Sugihara. Visas For Life
Born in 1900 in Gifu Prefecture, Chiune Sugihara spent his childhood in a very ordinary family.
After graduating from Aichi Prefectural Zuiryo High School in Nagoya City, he studied English and foreign culture at Waseda University and passed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entrance examination in 1919.
He was sent to Harbin in northeast China, where he spent more than 16 years as a diplomat and studied Russian at Harbin Gakuin.
In 1939, he was appointed Vice-Consul at the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania and posted to Kaunas, Lithuania. At the same time, Hitler's dictatorship was gaining power in Germany, and he invaded Poland in the same year. Many Jews fled Poland to Lithuania.
In the early morning of 18 July 1940, an event occurred that forced Chiune to make a decision. A large number of Jewish refugees who had fled Poland to Lithuania to escape persecution by Nazi Germany flooded the Japanese Consulate, which was about to close, in search of transit visas. Chiune remained in close communication with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under tense circumstances. After much anguish, he decided to issue visas to all Jewish refugees whose lives were in danger, in defiance of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affair's order that visas should not be issued to those who did not meet the visa requirement. He said that he did not care if he was going to be fired or not and that rejection would be wrong on humanitarian grounds. The total number of visas issued in a month amounts to 2,139. After receiving their visas, the refugees took the Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok and landed in Japan from Tsuruga. They were then evacuated from Kobe and Yokohama to other parts of the world. Thousands of lives were saved thanks to the visas issued by Chiune Sugihara
In 2000, the 100th anniversary of Sugihara's birth, a plaque was placed in the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan to commemorate the Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara, who made a humanitarian and courageous decision.
2020 marks the 80th anniversary since Sugihara issued the visa for life, and in the same year, Lithuania declared 2020 the year of Chiune Sugihara.