Megumi, hello. Spring has come round again. It is the season of graduations and matriculations.
In the springtime forty years ago, Dad took a picture of you in your middle school uniform standing under the cherry trees. Those cherry trees were especially beautiful. The picture was taken after you had fallen ill and been unable to attend the middle school entrance ceremony. You had finally begun to get better when Dad took your picture, and you didn’t like being taken out for the snapshot. “Not with the way my face looks now!” you said. You were embarrassed to be seen after having been sick.
That picture, the one we took on that day, is now our priceless treasure. It was in the winter of that same year that you were taken away from us.
Mom was so terribly lonely. She tried to shake her loneliness by throwing herself into the efforts to bring the abductees home. The seasons come and go, but we mark the time since your abduction by the fact that you are not here. For forty years we have waited to see you again. We keep the faith and fight on.
There was no warning—one day, you had just disappeared. It wasn’t until twenty years later—1997—that we learned you were actually in North Korea. We could hardly believe it—“She’s alive!” we cried out. Everyone was overjoyed.
It was also in 1997 that we formed the Family Council along with the family members of others who had been abducted by the North Koreans.
Dad and I both wore sashes—“Shigeru, Megumi Yokota’s Father” and “Sakie, Megumi’s Mother”—and stood on the street corner, first in Niigata and then elsewhere, asking for help in rescuing you, Megumi, and all the other abductees.
At first, people didn’t believe that what we were saying was true. The only phrase the media would use was “suspected abduction”.
But we didn’t give up. Our beloved children had been kidnapped as part of a state-level crime. It was a crucial fact, and we plead with everyone who would listen to us that it was the truth. In the end, our pleas were heard, and the entire country eventually rallied behind us.
The appeals of the family council led to more than ten million people agreeing to sign our petition. Our efforts led us far beyond Japan—we met with the American president and some congressmen, and we brought our case before the United Nations. Those were extraordinary days for us.
We sometimes ask ourselves, “What have our lives been lived for?” We have just one answer—we live in the hope that you, Megumi, will be brought home to us someday.
At first, we thought that the Japanese government would set to work immediately to bring this matter to a resolution. But four decades are gone, and we still do not have you with us. There have been those who have dedicated themselves to helping us, and, because of them, we now know more than we did before. The Japanese people grew angry, and even the media began to take up the case.
But, in the end, we are just common people, average parents from an average home. We are just like every other mother and father in Japan. These average family members coming together are who make up the family council.
We have been all across Japan, telling everyone about you and the other abductees. Without the support of so many of the Japanese people, we would not have been able to do anything. Everyone who has helped us—everyone—has been pure of heart. We are grateful for them all.
There have been a dozen or so different prime ministers since we first started our rescue efforts. The cabinet minister in charge of the abduction issue changes once every few years. Politics and international relations are too difficult for us to understand. So all we can do is beg: Please, do something to solve this problem.
If there is ever an incident with North Korea and it spirals out of control, then everyone in Japan may be wiped out in an instant.
Would the Japanese government be able to protect the Japanese people if something were to happen on the Korean peninsula? There is an existential threat to the nation just across the Sea of Japan, but do politicians really take that threat seriously? Do politicians really have at heart the best interests of the country, the people, and the children who were abducted by North Korea?
When I look at the Japanese Diet, I become terribly sad. “There are so many more pressing problems than the things they discuss...” I think to myself. Indeed, I get the feeling that the Diet politicians intentionally avoid discussing anything but un-serious issues. I want the Diet to debate things that are truly important for Japan.
Recently, I have been telling politicians, “The abductees may think that they have been abandoned by their parents and siblings, or that they have been abandoned by their country.”
The abductees live in a country where one false move can get one murdered. The abductees cannot cry out for help. They are our children, and all they can do is keep silent and wait to be rescued. Megumi, your Mom and Dad hope against hope that Japan will act—now—to reach out to you and save you from your captives.
So many saddening things have taken place. For example, when your name was first reported in the news was in 2002, when the North Koreans said that you were “deceased”. And then they sent counterfeit bones, telling us that they were your remains. All of these problems hinged on whether you were alive or dead.
North Korea is a country of horrors. We can put nothing past them—they are truly capable of anything. Night after night after night, we have been unable to sleep, consumed as we were with fear for what might be happening to you.
We think of you and pray for you every day. No matter how far you may be from us, we are still together beneath the same blue sky. And at night, while we look up at the moon and stars, we ask ourselves if you are doing the same. Yes, we pray. When we walk through the house or are out walking down the street, we feel your presence everywhere.
When you were here, you picked so many flowers for us, you told us so often about your favorite books you had read. When we think of all of these little things, it becomes too heartbreaking for us to bear.
Not long ago, Mom took out the fancy dolls that you used to play with and put them out along with some flowers. It was all so nice. Everything made us think of you, of the way things used to be when you were here.
Dad is 84 now, and Mom is 81. We are lucky to have been able to live this long. Don’t ever give up, Megumi. Stay cheerful and press ahead. You are going to come home, Megumi, and we are going to take another picture, a new one, under the cherry trees.
To the people of Japan: We are Megumi Yokota’s father and mother, Shigeru and Sakie. Thank you for everything you do to support us. We and the other family members of the abductees are getting older, and our bodies are growing weak. It is becoming difficult for us to stand on the front lines of the rescue efforts. We cannot make as many public appeals as we once could. But we will go on using every means available to us to appeal for the rescue of the abductees.
We put down in writing here our thoughts and feelings for our daughter. We will fight until the end, believing that every abductee will come home again. We beg of you: join us in the fight.
(Click here to read the original in Japanese)