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JAL crash remembered after 32 years

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A family member mourns the victims of the 1985 Japan Airlines jumbo jet crash at the memorial built near the disaster site in Ueno, Gunma Prefecture, on Saturday.

Jiji Press UENO, Gunma (Jiji Press) — Family members of victims of the 1985 crash of a Japan Airlines jumbo jet went on a memorial hike to the mountainous disaster site on Saturday, its 32nd anniversary, pledging efforts to prevent the accident from being forgotten.

The family members and other people connected to the victims climbed the 1,565-meter-high Osutaka Ridge in the village of Ueno, Gunma Prefecture, to pay their respects at memorial markers for individual victims that are placed along the steep 800-meter trail, wishing that a similar accident will never happen.

While thinking of the victims, the mourners made a promise to hand the story down to future generations in order to prevent the tragedy, which left 520 people dead, from fading with time.

Risako Uchino, 57, from Kawasaki had avoided visiting Osutaka Ridge for years since she lost her 54-year-old father, Shinjiro Minami, in the crash, visiting other places on the anniversary of her father’s death. But she started taking part in the annual memorial hike in 2004 after interactions with other bereaved families.

This year, Uchino built a stone burial marker for her father to replace a wooden one.

“I thought it was nice that the wood decays and goes back to soil,” she said.

Her thought changed, however, after getting energy from the memorial hike every year. Feeling that she is “fixated here” on the ridge, she chose a stone marker, with hopes that her father will watch over her grandchildren.

On Saturday she reported to her father that her daughter, who was born in the year after the accident, married this year.

Mika Okuda, a 47-year-old resident of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, brought her three children to the grave marker of Yumiko Yoshida, an actress of the Takarazuka Revue all-female musical troupe who died in the crash at age 24.

Wanting to be like Yoshida, Okuda fulfilled her dream of entering Takarazuka Music School after the accident.

“It’s hard to imagine that a family member who said ‘I’m going’ would not return home,” said Okuda, who has often talked about the horrors of the accident to her children.

“I wonder how they felt,” Okuda’s eldest daughter, 16-year-old Manako, said of the fear believed to have gripped the passengers of the plane.

“I cannot bear losing a precious family member,” she said. “I hope that a similar accident will never happen.”Speech

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