About 40 people gathered at a port in Niigata City on the Japan Sea coast on Saturday to mourn the deaths of Japanese nationals and their relatives who died in North Korea.
Saturday marked 60 years since the Japanese government launched a program to assist Koreans living in Japan to relocate to North Korea.
Those remembered were among about 93,000 people who left the port for North Korea over a 25-year-period, starting from 1959.
Koreans and their Japanese wives took the chance to start life in the North, which was touted as "a paradise on earth."
Poverty and discrimination in Japan is said to be a factor behind decisions to move to North Korea.
However, they faced difficult lives after they moved, and many of the Japanese wives went missing.
Participants in Saturday's memorial included people who subsequently fled North Korea.
They lay flowers after offering silent prayers.
Eiko Kawasaki, a chief organizer of the event, read out a declaration, appealing for efforts to reunite separated families.
Hiroko Saito moved to North Korea with her Korean husband and had 6 children. She said she remembered the 4 children she lost, and that she wants to save those who remain in the country.