MINAMI-OSUMI, Kagoshima Prefecture--It might take only a few minutes to get a reply from an e-mail, but what about 18 years for sea mail?
Students at an elementary school here in southern Japan were stunned Sept. 29 when a letter arrived from Hawaii, some 7,000 kilometers away, in a response to a message in a bottle dropped into the sea in 1993 by Kota Tanaka, then a fourth-grader at the same school.
"I feel my heart is overflowing. I don't know what to say. It's as if my son's soul has come back," said his mother Taeko.
Her son died 7 years ago of heart failure while doing volunteer work as a college student.
The municipal Odomari Elementary School, situated close to where the Kuroshio warm current passes, has encouraged its pupils since 1984 to release messages in bottles into the sea.
The school says it shows children that they are linked to the world by water. The children board fishing boats each year to waters a few kilometers off Cape Sata to hurl their messages into the sea.
Tanaka released his on July 11, 1993. He wrote that he loved football, could juggle a ball 10 times on end and wanted a reply.
The response came from Aileen Sadako Kitaoka-Yee, a resident of Oahu island, Hawaii. She said her son spotted the bottle along the shore in 1996 and she had kept it at home since then.
She learned what Tanaka's message said only recently, when she sent it to a relative in Kumamoto Prefecture who translated it.
In the English letter she sent to the school, Kitaoka-Yee said she wanted Tanaka to drop in at her home if he visits Hawaii, so she could show him where his bottle was recovered. She also enclosed a copy of Tanaka's letter.
"I never imagined that a reply could arrive from Hawaii 18 years later," said Shinichiro Matsumoto, the headmaster.
Tanaka was a junior-year student at Kyushu Sangyo University in Fukuoka when he died at age 20. He was taking part in a clean-up at Koinoura beach in Fukutsu, Fukuoka Prefecture, which is known for sea turtles that lay eggs there, Taeko said. She visits the beach every year to offer flowers to the memory of her son.
"He would be 28 years old if he were alive. I realize that we are linked to the world. He loved the sea, so he would have been happy to know that a letter had arrived from Hawaii," she said, trying to hold back tears.
- « Prev
- Next »