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The FBI says it has returned 22 artifacts to Japan that were looted following the Battle of Okinawa after a Massachusetts family going through their late World War II veteran father’s personal effects discovered “what appeared to be very valuable Asian art.” 

The artifacts, which had been missing for nearly 80 years, “date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, represent a significant piece of Okinawan history and include six portraits, a hand-drawn map of Okinawa dating back to the 19th century, and various pieces of pottery and ceramics,” according to a statement from the FBI’s Boston Division. 

“This case highlights the important role the public plays in recognizing and reporting possible stolen art,” said Jodi Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division. “We’d like to thank the family from Massachusetts who did the right thing in reaching out to us and relinquishing these treasures so we could return them to the people of Okinawa.” 

The FBI said that last year, the family discovered the artifacts while going through the belongings of their late father, a World War II veteran who had never served in the Pacific Theater. 

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“In an effort to identify the provenance of the artifacts, they checked the National Stolen Art File and determined that at least four of the items were missing 18th century portraits that had been listed in the database,” the FBI said. “Included with the artifacts was an unsigned, typewritten letter stating these items were collected in Okinawa during the last days of World War II.” 

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The FBI says it was able to authenticate the artworks through an investigation before the National Museum of Asian Art at the Smithsonian Institute assisted agents in ensuring they were properly packaged for transport back to Japan, where they arrived Friday. 

FBI returns artifacts to Japan

 

“In 2001, the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education, as a result of its participation in the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, registered some of these artifacts with the FBI’s National Stolen Art File, a database of art and cultural property that have been reported stolen to the FBI by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad,” the FBI said. 

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