The Voices of Members - Letter to Miho Yamamoto
To my twin sister,
Dear Miho, how are you doing? Oh yes, I believe you are fine and trying your best.
I am now standing in front of the White House in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States of America. I have come here to make a plea for your rescue.
It has been almost 22 years since you suddenly disappeared in front of us, but I still remember you, Miho, as a 20-year-old woman, who was trying hard to fulfill her dreams.
You were the same as usual on the day you left home, telling us that you were going to the library. I never imagined that morning would be the beginning of such a long time without you―a long time of missing you.
Since then, father, mother and I regret how we opposed your wish of studying at a women’s university in Tokyo. We wish we had approved of it.
At that time, though, our older brother had passed away, and we didn’t want to let you go to Tokyo alone. We could not stand our family being separated from each other. We wanted you always to stay with us.
Maybe you made a decision to stay with us because you understood my feelings. You went to a local nursing school, and then you enjoyed climbing mountains very much. I will never forget the beauty of the mountains in the Japanese Southern Alps, or the three Ho-oh mountains we climbed together as members of our high school mountain circle. We still have the photos of you as an 18 or 19-year-old when you tried to conquer the mountains in the Japanese Northern Alps. I made a poster out of one of those photos, and brought it with me today.
I had been away from mountains for a while, but lately I’ve started climbing 3,000-meter-high mountains again. Do you remember the Japanese Alps in Yamanashi Prefecture―Senjogatake, Kai-Komagadake, and Kitadake? I conquered these peaks in the past two years. Last year, I realized my dream of climbing Kai-Komagadake with my son. He takes after our brother.
Miho, you never lost sight of your goals, even when the whole family was devastated over the loss of our dearest brother. You were even gentle enough to support us all, and to care a lot about our father and mother. That’s why I will never believe that you disappeared in front of us without a word. You cannot have left me alone, as you know I am weak. You must have fallen victim to this situation against your will. I have always believed that.
When Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited North Korea in 2002, it was widely reported that you might have been abducted by that country. People suspected it after your bag was found at Arahama Beach in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture. It was just after you had left home with it, saying that you were going to the local library. Kashiwazaki is the very place from which Mr. & Mrs. Hasuike had been abducted. Mr. & Mrs. Hasuike, Mr. & Mrs. Chimura, and Mr. & Mrs. Soga, however, came back to Japan safely thanks to support for their rescue from all over the country.
I have faced many difficult obstacles since you were taken from us, but I keep going because I still believe that you are alive and waiting for a rescue in North Korea.
I believe it is my mission to see you again, Miho, so I will continue to call out for help until I do. Many people have understood my desperation to meet you again, and have helped me so far.
Even a teacher at my university spoke out to help me, and my classmates at Kofu Higashi High School offered me a great deal of assistance as well. Those people supported me without giving up, no matter what. My classmates at Ichikawa Elementary School also helped me a lot. The people of Nagamatsudera and Ikeda are hoping for your return, too. Thanks to the help of all these people, I was able to collect 200,000 signatures of those who echoed my plea for your rescue, and I submitted them to the Japanese government twice.
I have spoken about you in front of a lot of people, although I have never been good at it. Your rescue has taken long enough for me to get used to speaking in front of people.
Do you know Megumi Yokota? You might have met her since she and you are about the same age. Maybe you know Etsuko Sasaki, because someone reported seeing you and her in the same section of North Korea―or Miwa Akita, who has been lost for a long time, just like you.
There are still about 400 people missing from Japan without explanation. They are called “The Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea.” The “Investigative Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea” and its representative, Kazuhiro Araki, started the rescue effort by gathering information from all over the country.
Have you listened to the Shiokaze program on short wave radio? Have you heard the voices of Mr. Araki and the other families? We have been sending messages to all of you who are presumed missing in North Korea, and we will keep calling for help without giving up. We will continue our rescue mission until the last hostage in North Korea has been released. Please stay alive and don’t give up hope.
I believe we will meet you and all the others again very soon.
I believe I will surely see you again, Miho.