NPO Chiune Sugihara. Visas For Life

Who is Chiune Sugihara?

Chiune Sugihara
Chiune Sugihara

Chiune “Sempo” Sugihara

June 1, 1900 – July 31, 1986

Chiune Sugihara, serving as Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania during World War II, helped rescue some 6,000 desperate Jewish refugees fleeing annihilation by the Nazis by defying his own government and issuing transit visas through Japan. Those saved directly by these “visas for life” along with their descendants number in the hundreds of thousands living in countries throughout the world.

Sugihara, known as the Schindler of the East, is nicknamed Sempo from an alternative reading of his given name. Sugihara often used this easy-to-pronounce variation with foreign acquaintances.

Sugihara in later years

Returning to Japan with his family in 1947, Sugihara was dismissed from the foreign ministry for his unilateral issuance of the transit visas. He worked thereafter for trading companies and other firms, including lengthy overseas postings, without ever mentioning his past deeds.

In August 1968, he was suddenly contacted by a survivor, Joshua Nishri, who had become economic attaché in the Israeli embassy in Tokyo. Nishri approached Sugihara tearfully, holding a passport with the weathered visa and thanking him profusely. “Mr. Sugihara,” he said, “We have never forgotten you.” Sugihara learned to his surprise that survivors from around the world had been searching for him for years.

The following year, he visited Israel and received a special award for his actions from Minister of Religious Affairs Zerach Warheftig, himself a survivor. Subsequently, he was decorated by the Israeli government in 1974 and named Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s highest honor, by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem in 1985.


1900 Born in Yaotsu-cho, Gifu Prefecture
1918 Enters Waseda University
1919 Wins Foreign Ministry scholarship for overseas studies Studies Russian language in Harbin, China
1924 Appointed assistant secretary in Foreign Ministry Works in Japanese consulate in Harbin
1932 Appointed public assistant officer in Foreign Affairs Division in Manchukuo
1935 Plays key role in negotiations over North Manchuria Railway
1936 Marries Yukiko Kikuchi
1937 Appointed to foreign delegation in Helsinki, Finland
1939 Appointed consul in Kaunas, Lithuania
1940 Issues visas for Jewish refugees at consulate Continues issuing visas at hotel after consulate is closed Moves to Berlin Becomes consul in Prague
1941 Works in Japanese consulate in East Prussia Becomes consul in Bucharest, Romania
1945 Detained in prison camp in Bucharest
1947 Arrives in Hakata from Vladivostok Retires from Foreign Ministry
1968 Reunited with survivor Joshua Nishri
1969 Receives medal from Israeli Minister of Religious Affairs
1977 Retires from trading firm and returns to Japan
1985 Designated “Righteous Among the Nations” by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center
1986 Dies in Kamakura at age 86

NPO Chiune Sugihara. Visas For Life
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