FBI recovers, returns 22 Japanese artifacts looted after Battle of Okinawa – WPXI

FBI Restores 22 Precious Japanese Artifacts Plundered in Wake of Okinawa Battle

After nearly eight decades, 22 historic artifacts that were taken from Japan after the Battle of Okinawa have finally been returned to their rightful place.

The FBI’s Boston Division made the announcement about the recovery of these items. Among them are pieces that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. This collection includes six portraits, with three originally being part of a single piece, a hand-drawn map of Okinawa, and various pottery and ceramics pieces.

Denny Tamaki, the governor of Okinawa Prefecture, expressed his gratitude during a news conference in Japan. He highlighted the significance of the FBI’s cooperation with other U.S. government entities in facilitating the return of these artifacts.

A family in Massachusetts discovered these items last year while sorting through their late father’s belongings. Upon realizing the potential value of these pieces, they consulted the FBI’s National Stolen Art File. This database lists art and cultural properties reported stolen both in the U.S. and internationally.

The family, choosing to stay anonymous, found that at least four of the items were 18th-century portraits previously reported stolen by Japan. A letter found with the artifacts suggested they were taken from Okinawa during the last days of World War II.

The family’s late father, a World War II veteran, had never served in the Pacific Theater. How these items came into his possession remains unclear.

Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly, a member of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, shared his excitement about unveiling the scrolls. He emphasized the cultural significance of these artifacts, particularly the portraits of Okinawan kings from the 18th and 19th centuries, to Japan’s identity.

Jodi Cohen, in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, described the return of these long-lost items as incredibly rewarding. She also stressed the crucial role the public plays in identifying and reporting potentially stolen art.

The family from Massachusetts was praised for doing the right thing by contacting the FBI and handing over these valuable artifacts for their return to Okinawa.

The National Museum of Asian Art at the Smithsonian Institute assisted in properly packaging the artifacts for their journey back to Japan. A formal ceremony to officially repatriate the items is scheduled to take place in Japan at a later date.