Local News

Mountain Tunnel Hides Remnants of Wartime

Posted February 9, 1998

— Buried deep inside a mountain are secrets some say are an embarassment to the Japanese government. These tunnels were dug as World War II was coming to a close. The allied forces were bombing Toyko. The Emperor's family and the imperial government needed a safe place to survive. It's a place some say many people died, and those deaths were covered up.

Seven thousand Korean laborers joined 3,000 Japanese, and in nine months, they dug 3.5 miles of tunnels. The scars of dynamite pockets remain. There was a lot of blasting and long hours of manual labor, often 12-16 hour days.

Impressions in the ground show where small railroad ties were. Supporting the tracks were carts pushed by laborers. Japanese males too small or too ill or feeble for war toiled here. Two of them died. Whether any Koreans died here is a major dispute.

The Japanese government told the people there were none. Eyewitnesses say otherwise, and those eyewitnesses are succumbing to age, some passing away before they could testify to what they say is the truth. There is now a two-fold effort to preserve the tunnel for future generations. Money for that slowly trickles in.

School children are helping with the work to try to get a full accounting of what may have happened to Korean laborers. Ghostly images hone from 3.5 miles of hand-dug tunnels, some say tied to secrets still buried deep in the mountain. Watch WRAL's 11:00 news for Jim Payne's nightly reports from Nagano.

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