Megumi Yokota, left is sitting with her mother Sakie who is holding Megumi’s twin brothers in her hand on the Children’s Day
It’s Children’s Day in Japan right now. Remember what a fun day this was for our family? Remember how we played and had sushi and baked a cake? We also ate chimaki sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, and kashiwa mochi rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves. I remember learning how to make sakura mochi rice cakes wrapped in pickled cherry leaves for this special day. What do you remember, Megumi?
We were thrilled the day you were born. Remember how happy we were, too, when your younger twin brothers, Takuya and Tetsuya, were born? Remember how we raised the koinobori carp streamers and set up the yoroi and kabuto armor and helmet display? The koinobori were cute little carps, just the right size for displaying on our condominium veranda. Tetsuya has his own son now and he still has the kabuto helmet.
Children’s Day is supposed to be a recognition of our children, an expression of our hopes for their future, and also a day of thanks to all mothers. Children are endearingly precious to every parent. Megumi, you were a robust baby weighing 3,260 grams, and with a lush head of black hair. To this day your mother remembers the solid weight of your little body as she held you in her arms. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but before you were born, we were convinced you would be a boy. There was no ultrasound to check in those days, and people convinced us you must be a boy, just by the shape of your mother’s extending belly.
We hadn’t been thinking of a girl’s name, so we went into quite a tizzy when you were born. Your mother, Sakie, wanted a name with three characters. I went through a whole list of names in hiragana phonetic lettering. We finally decided on “Megumi” to convey our fervent hope that you would grow healthy and loved by everyone. And you did!
The situation on the Korean peninsula is tense and complicated right now. Are you aware of what is going on? What are you thinking? Your mother and father can do nothing but pray. Every day we fret: why can’t we save you? But that only deepens our anxiety, so we choose to remember you at your cheerful best.
The efforts to resolve the abduction are only half-hearted. The situation is grim, but the Japanese government needs to seize the moment and be more creative in tackling the issue. We are constantly telling government officials to act as if they were trying to recover their own children.
We also wish that the North Korean leaders would open up their hearts, step out into the world, and make a greater effort to meet and talk with their fellow human beings.
Forty years have passed since you were abducted. You were only 13 then. Two decades ago, we learned for the first time that you were in North Korea. We trusted the government to bring you home, but to no avail.
Forty years is a lifetime. Many of the people who worked so hard to solve the abduction issue have fallen by the wayside, struck down by disease. It is so very sad. Resolution is taking way too long to achieve.
We still wait for the day when we will be reunited and can live together again. Your mother and father are doing everything we can to stay healthy and strong for that happy day. We still believe we will see you again. That day is certain to come, and we want you to remain strong and healthy too. Please, please, wait with hope in your heart.
The people of Japan have assured us, “The abductions are not to be forgiven. We must work together [to resolve the issue].” Your father is so very old now; he wasn’t feeling good enough to attend the mass rally held on April 23. But your mother attended, and berated the government: “It is a national shame that 40 years have passed and we still haven’t rescued the people who were abducted!”
Frankly, we don’t think the Japanese government is really trying to capture the culprits. We still sense that there are evil people within our country and we worry that ignoring them will lead to greater problems.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed that he will solve the abduction issue. Your mother and father believed him when we first met him, and we still believe him now. It is our fervent hope that Japan will bring the victims home and that the world will see that we are a strong and committed nation.
Read the Japanese version of this article here.
Read Japan Forward’s special coverage of the abduction issue.