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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012

Customs officials still holding out for wartime owners


KOBE — Customs offices are still seeking the owners of items entrusted to them by people returning to Japan after the end of World War II 67 years ago.

The assets were seized by the Occupation authorities, who feared a massive inflow of assets brought in by the returnees would cause inflation and throw the economy into chaos.

After inflation fears subsided, the government began returning the items to their owners, but customs offices still hold around 870,000 items belonging to some 270,000 people. The assets range from stock certificates, deposit books, bank notes and coins to promissory notes issued by the Imperial military.

The Yokohama Customs holds some 600,000 items for 130,000 people, including wills, school reports and bank notes in the currencies of the Dutch East Indies, Burma and other authorities.

These days the number of items returned is extremely limited. In 2011, the Kobe Customs Office returned 620 items to 92 people.

The bank notes are mostly now considered worthless, but a customs official maintains, "We are responsible for keeping any currency entrusted to the government."

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