© NPO Chiune Sugihara. Visas For Life

About Chiune Sugihara

In Lithuania, the year 2020 was declared to be the Year of a Japanese man named Chiune Sugihara. But what did he do to get such a notable distinction?

Let's start from the beginning. Chiune Sugihara was born in 1900 in Gifu Prefecture, Japan, and despite his father’s wishes, he went on to study English and foreign cultures at Waseda University. In 1919, he passed the exam to enter the Foreign Ministry and was sent to Harbin in the northeast of China where he spent the better part of 16 years as a diplomat and studying at Harbin Gakuin to attain a fluent command of Russian. In 1939 he became vice-consul at the Japanese consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania. At that time a lot of Jews fled from Poland into Lithuania hoping to be safe and were desperately trying to get exit visas. On the morning of July 18, 1940, Chiune Sugihara, looked out the window at a great crowd of refugees around the gate of the consulate.

He asked the Foreign Ministry of Japan for approval to issue visas to Jewish refugees, but he was denied. Twice. Chiune Sugihara cemented his legacy by handwriting visas for 18 to 20 hours a day and issued 2,139 visas, which saved thousands of people. The reason being one visa would be given to the head of the family but would cover the entire family. It is estimated around 40.000 descendants of saved Jews are alive today. Sugihara visas enabled Jews to travel to Japan or to the Jewish ghetto in Shanghai. From there they traveled to the USA, Canada, Australia, or Latin American countries. In the words of Chiune Sugihara, “I didn’t do anything special….I made my own decisions, that’s all. I followed my own conscience and listened to it.”
Explore these sites which are all deeply associated with Chiune Sugihara, including Yaotsu-town - the hometown of Chiune Sugihara, Nagoya City- where he spent his childhood, and Tsuruga City- the port town where the refugees arrived with their hands clenching the “Visas for Life” issued by him. Extending your journey to Takayama City, Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa City, it is highly recommended as these are areas reminiscent of an Old-Japan filled with untouched landscapes and its traditional culture.

Chiune Route Model Course


Starting point of this ‘Chiune’ Route as Nagoya is easily accessible both by Shinkansen or air from Tokyo and Osaka. Nagoya is where Chiune Sugihara spent 10 years of his childhood and also a home to the ‘Sempo’ Sugihara Memorial. This is an outdoor exhibit showcasing a series of panels, pictures, statues and the replicated lists of 2,257 recipients of the ‘Visas of Life.’ A perfect start to embark the journey fulfilled with Chiune’s humanity and courage.



In Yaotsu town, the hometown of Chiune Sugihara, there is ‘The Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall” built to commemorate the deed of Sugihara, who saved thousands of lives of Jewish refugees by issuing their transit visas to Japan. To honour his significant achievement, many Israeli tourists visit the museum every year.



Takayama is an ideal stopover for anyone the Sugihara remembrance journey. Its historic charm results from the beautiful preservation of the old town surrounded in the mountainous Hida region. Takayama accommodates any activities like outdoors, family-friendly, foodies and cultural immersion.



Registered as a ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’, it is well known for its unique traditional building style- Gassho-Zukuri. This is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of urban life and experience the classic cultural and historical adventures. A MUST visit for those exploring the Chiune Route.



As the Edo-period old towns and historical buildings still remain, Kanazawa is a perfect destination to be fully immersed in Japan’s beauty while on the Sugihara Route. The tranquil walk in the iconic Kenroku-en Garden- one of Japan’s “Three Most Beautiful Traditional Japanese Style Gardens” is a treat for your soul.



A highlight of this Chiune Route is also ‘the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum’ where the Tsuruga Port played a major role in saving over 700 Polish orphans in the 1920s and a large number of Jewish refugees with the ‘Visas of Life’ in 1940. The visitors will surely be touched by how local residents warmly welcomed and supported these arrivals with numerous displays of recollections, reminiscence and testimonials from those who survived and their descendants.




Nagoya City

Nagoya (名古屋) is Japan's fourth most populated city and the capital of Aichi Prefecture. This part of Japan is famous its local specialties which miso plays a vital role in. Its icon is Misonikomi- a chewy texture udon which is simmered in a miso-flavoured dashi broth.


Yaotsu (八百津町, Yaotsu-Town) is a town located in Gifu Prefecture. It was historically said that this town was the transit point between road and river transportations, accommodating several river ports on the Kiso River flowing from east to west through the town.

Takayama City

Takayama (高山) is a city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture. Takayama retains a traditional touch like few other Japanese cities, especially in its beautifully preserved old town.

Shirakawa Village

Shirakawa Village (白川村, Shirakawa-go) is located in Gifu Prefecture. Designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional Gassho style houses, some of which are more than 250 years old.

Kanazawa City

Kanazawa (金沢市, Kanazawa-shi) is the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture. Kanazawa’s unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens” and by many considered the most beautiful of them all.

Tsuruga City

Tsuruga (敦賀市, Tsuruga-shi) is a city located in Fukui Prefecture. In addition to its coastline, forests, and wetlands, Tsuruga has well-preserved historical sites that provide a glimpse into times past such as ancient temples.