JAPAN'S Ambassador to the UK has visited the graves of 10 of his countrymen lost when their ship was torpedoed in the First World War.

His Excellency Koji Tsuruoka, plus a group of Japanese businessmen, travelled to Pembrokeshire to meet David James of the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society for a visit to the memorial to the Japanese sailors buried in Angle Churchyard,

The memorial had been built following a campaign led by David.

The men died when their ship the Hiranomaru (owned by the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Line) was torpedoed by the German UB91 on October 4 1918.

Also in the group were Isao Kano, CEO Mitsubishi Europe and Keiji Kubota Deputy Director of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Shipping Line as well as directors of Mitsubishi and NYK

They met David and Angle villagers at St Marys Church in Angle and said a prayer at the Japanese grave side before examining the burial records in the church.

After signing the visitors' book they left Angle to visit the Heritage Centre in Pembroke Dock to see the model of the Imperial Japanese Ship Hiei of 1877. The original ship had been built in Bufferland Pembroke Dock, one of the first warships for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Her first Lieutenant was Heihachiro Togo, and to mark the kindnesses shown him during his stay in Pembroke Dock a ginko tree was planted in the garden of his lodging house.

During David's campaign to build the Angle memorial he mentioned the tree to several Japanese journalists who became very excited.

David said: "It seems that Heihachiro Togo had become Japan's most famous Admiral, known as the Nelson of the East. To find something connected to him in Pembrokeshire, half the world away from Japan was wonderful." David was instructed to obtain cuttings from the tree, pot them and some would be taken back to Japan to be planted in Places of Honour connected with Admiral Togo.

Staff from the National Botanic Gardens of Wales took about 30 cuttings, potted them on and are caring for them.

David added: "The story broke in Japan and suddenly things Welsh are of great interest there. The list of places requiring cuttings increased to include all the Japan Maritime Self Defence Forces bases, Admiral Togo's birthplace, temples and shrines dedicated to him and a few other sites in Japan.

"The saplings will be sent to the Japanese National Botanic Garden in Hiroshima."

Mitsubishi and Nippon Yusen Kaisha are involved as they see this as a matter of national pride and are arranging the transportation of the saplings .

David said: "I told a Japanese journalist that the Imperial Japanese Navy was born in Pembroke Dock, which appeared in the Japanese press. The Mayor of Kure City, in Hiroshima province sent me an email saying that because the Hiei was built in Pembroke Dock his city owes its existence to Pembroke Dock.

"The Ambassador also said to me: “If it wasn’t for this Dockyard (Pembroke Dock ) Japan would not exist today.”