In Northern Japan, lonely tombstones mark the graves of 199 officers and men of the now defunct Japanese Imperial Army who died in an attempt to cross the snow-covered Hakkoda Mountains in midwinter.
Snow falling over tombstones 1902 victims
SDF trucks through snow to begin current expedition (note Japanese super partly over this shot should be edited out) on Jan. 16th.
SDF men from trucks
Skis in snow as men prepare
cu unit's commander, Colonel Shibata
Men march away (various shots)
Men on skis through deep snow (various shots)
Memorial to 1902 dead
SDF men salute
Flowers placed at memorial
ws campsite for firstnight, men dig "igloos"
cu man crawls inside
Men inside, cooking, eating and drinking
Man goes to sleep
ou candle burning
Men towards camera through snow pulling sled (shot 17 Jan.)
ws men through trees and snow.
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Background: In Northern Japan, lonely tombstones mark the graves of 199 officers and men of the now defunct Japanese Imperial Army who died in an attempt to cross the snow-covered Hakkoda Mountains in midwinter.
The men of the Army's fifth infantry regiment died during a training exercise in 1902.
Seventy years later, a unit of the Ground Self Defence Forces yesterday (Sunday) set out on an attempt to successfully complete the march and "console the souls of the victims".
Local residents of the area, in Aomori Prefecture in the north of Japan's main Honshu Island, have warned the current march is foolhardy as the mountain crossing is impossible in winter.
But Colonel Shibata, commander of the SDF's fifth regiment, is confident of success. He says his men will have the most modern equipment available, including a rescue helicopter.
Men on this present expedition have been training in deep snow for several weeks. Bivouacs filled with supplies have already been established along the route, which is now well sign-posted.
Soon after starting their march, the SDF unit paused for a memorial service at a statue in honour of those who died in 1902.
On their first night, the men dug virtual igloos in the snow, filling them quickly with gear and simple heating like one candle, which the Eskimos of northern Canada have proved is an efficient method. Hot meals and drinks came from portable gas stoves.
The SDF unit expects to finish the 43 kilometre march on Tuesday.
During the ill-fated trek seventy years ago, the group became lost in a blizzard and 199 of the 210 men froze to death in a temperature 42 degrees centigrade below freezing point. The victims were wearing shoes, not skis, and their compasses froze in the cold.