Former Japanese soldier Teruo Murakami was among many in 1944 who voted to break out of Cowra’s prisoner-of-war camp because he wanted to die.
The 91-year-old returned to Cowra yesterday to visit its war cemeteries and honour the Japanese and Australian soldiers who died in the event.
Mr Murakami laid wreaths yesterday at the graves of the Australian soldiers and a monument to the Japanese dead, before burning incense in a Buddhist ceremony at the Japanese War Cemetery.
He was one of 1104 Japanese nationals who tried to escape the POW camp on August 5, 1944, many preferring to die rather than feel shame at their imprisonment.
Yesterday he stopped at the graves of 231 of his comrades killed during the breakout, and paused at the graves of his friends.
“They died too early, much younger than me, and I feel sorry for them,” he said.
Mr Murakami said his emotions grew as he visited the cemetery.
“I don’t know what to express,” he said.
He later visited Sakura Avenue, near the POW camp site, and went to Cowra High School to discuss the breakout with its students.
Mr Murakami visited Cowra as part of an Australian-Japan friendship tour.
Captured in New Britain, he was brought to Australia suffering from malnutrition and tropical diseases, and recovered in Brisbane before being transferred to the Cowra POW camp three months before the breakout.
Cowra Breakout Association’s Lawrance Ryan said Mr Murakami’s visit could be one of the last by someone involved in the breakout.