japan-old-sold-cp-9849515

Ishinosuke Uwano, 83, a Japanese soldier who disappeared during the Second World War, is returning home 60 years later. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

A long-lost Japanese soldier last seen by his family when he left to fight in the Second World War is returning to Japan from Ukraine to see his relatives.

The family of Ishinosuke Uwano, now 83, had agreed in 2000 to have him declared dead.

Japanese officials declined on Monday to say where Uwano has been for all the time he was missing, and why he hadn't contacted his family.

They say he will arrive Wednesday with his Ukrainian son. They are expected to spend 10 days with surviving relatives in Iwate, about 470 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

Uwano was part of an occupying force on the island of Sakhalin in eastern Russia when the war ended in August 1945. He was last reported to have been seen there in 1958.

Japanese officials say Uwano asked someone in his community to help him track down his Japanese relatives. The acquaintance's inquiries reached the Japanese Health Ministry, which sent staff to interview Uwano at the Japanese Embassy in Kiev.

Kyodo News agency said Uwano moved to Ukraine in 1965 and has three children. He lives in Zhitomir, a city just west of the capital, Kiev, the report said.

The Associated Press reports that the government believes about 400 former Japanese soldiers who fought in the Second World War are living in the states of the former Soviet Union. Only 40 have been identified.