Quite simply Sugihara saved about 6,000 Jews from the Nazis despite working for an ally of Germany.
Sugihara was the acting consul in Lithuania's capital. One night in late July 1940, Consul he was woken by a crowd of Polish Jewish refugees gathered outside the consulate, desperate to flee the approaching Nazis. Thy refugees knew that their only path to safety lay to the east and if Sugihara would grant them Japanese transit visas, they could obtain Soviet visas.
Sugihara was moved by their plight and despite repeatedly receiving negative responses from Tokyo; he decided to risk disgrace, financial hardship and the end of his career. He and his wife Yukiko sat for almost a month from 31 July to 28 August 1940 writing out transit visas by hand. By the time they left for Berlin in August 1940 they had saved about 6,000 people. His last act was to hand his consular stamp to a refugee, who went on issuing passes.
Sugihara was dismissed from the Foreign Ministry. Disgraced in Japan, he eked out a living as a part-time translator and ended his life working for a trading company with connections to Russia. He died in 1986 and his family had to wait until 14 years later for the then Foreign Minister Yohei Kono to formally apologise.
A year before he died he was recognised as "Righteous Among the Nations" by the Yad Vashem Martyrs Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. The Emperor's visit and thus his seal of approval is for many of his family the highest honour that Japan can bestow for Sugihara's bravery. "The visit by the imperial couple makes me feel as though his actions have again been rewarded," one of his surviving family members told the Asahi newspaper.
Heroes are ordinary men and women showing extraordinary bravery in adversity. Through his selflessness, 6,000 people lived who would probably have been slaughtered in the Holocaust. The Visas for Life Foundation, which commemorates Sugihara, estimates that there are over 100,000 descendants alive on this planet thanks to them. The Sugiharas are true heroes and deserve the fullest recognition.