Turkey: Report on Mr. MIYAZAKI’s Memorial Service - Words of Condolence from Fusako YANASE

On Tuesday, December 6th, Mr. Atsushi MIYAZAKI’s memorial service was held at Nippon-Seinenkan (Shinjuku Tokyo). Over 222 people were present at the service, including Mr. MIYAZAKI’s family, Mr. Ali BABACAN, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Kazuyuki HAMADA, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, representatives from Turkey, supporters, friends of Mr. MIYAZAKI, and representatives of NGOs. We also received many messages of condolence and flower offerings. We would like to thank those who attended and also those who made this memorial service possible.

Below is the words of condolence from Fusako YANASE, Chairperson of AAR JAPAN.


Dear Mr. Atsushi MIYAZAKI,

One month is about to pass by since you left us.

It is a rule of life that all living things must come to an end and all people must part ways. What a privilege it is to believe that tomorrow will always come, and to take for granted our loved ones who we assume will forever be right beside us with their unchanging hearts. Your death has been extremely difficult to accept, and I have been reminded of how harsh reality can be these past few months.

One early afternoon in late October, we had lunch together in Tokyo. I remember it was a relatively warm day despite being well into the month.

Faintly blushing, you said to me, “I will head to Turkey tomorrow.” It was immediately after AAR JAPAN decided to send emergency relief team to eastern Turkey in response to the massive earthquake that struck on October 23rd. It had only been 2, 3 months since you joined AAR JAPAN, but you had already made yourself into a vital team member at the office and you worked hard each and every day with so much joy.

“It has always been my dream to join AAR JAPAN and work abroad,” I recall you saying.

Having been with AAR JAPAN for the past 32 years, that word “dream” you voiced was rather refreshing and heartwarming. I was reassured that everything was going to be okay and I held high expectations of you.

Mr. MIYAZAKI, you always carried a wonderful smile. Anyone who had the pleasure to meet you would instantly open up to you. I’m sure it was the same in Turkey, as I have been told that the Turkish people immediately welcomed you with opens arms and open hearts.

After meeting your mother and the rest of your family for the first time, I knew straight away where you got your kind disposition. You have been blessed with such wonderful family members.

Upon achieving your dream of studying in the United Kingdom, you returned to Japan and for several years helped look after your father who had suffered a stroke. After the third anniversary of your father’s passing, you left your home in Oita Prefecture and joined us at AAR JAPAN in Tokyo.

Your first assignment at AAR JAPAN was to provide relief activities in Rikuzen-takata City in Iwate Prefecture, an area severely affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Kojuen, the facility for the elderly that you visited, was located on a small hill in Rikuzen-takata City.

The building of Kojuen shook numerous times for long hours on March 11th.  The elderly people there supposedly froze in state of shock, were unable to move, and frantically cried in fear.

The elderly people endured many days without gas, electricity, and water, and survived through the cold and hunger inside the destroyed facility. AAR JAPAN immediately carried out extensive relief activities at Kojuen such as reconstruction of the facility and provision of fuel and gasoline.

Mr. MIYAZAKI, as a member of the relief team, you accomplished so much in providing them support and saving their lives. I am certain that you made good use of your past experience nursing your ill father, as you tightly held the elderly survivors’ hands and lent them your ears.

When you returned to Tokyo and we had lunch together, I remember speaking to you about how a number of countries including Turkey sent relief to Japan following the disaster, and how important it is for each country to cooperate and help one and another.

That is when you also mentioned that you were so grateful of the Turkish people and their actions inspired you to go to disaster-stricken Turkey to repay the favor as a Japanese citizen. You demonstrated so much passion and dependability.

However, on November 9th, you were attacked by what was thought to be an aftershock while staying in a hotel in Van, a major city in eastern Turkey.

It happened in the evening while you were facing your laptop computer, writing a report to Tokyo headquarters. We were informed that you had been buried under the rubbles along with your fellow colleague, Ms. Miyuki KONNAI.

Initially, we let out a sigh of relief after hearing that both you and Ms. KONNAI were rescued; however, the tragic news followed shortly afterwards.

Despite it being an aftershock, 36 precious lives, including yours, were taken away in this incident. A close colleague of yours, a Turkish volunteer who you had befriended during the short time, was the one who notified us.

Your two friends, Mr. Serbay Ekinoğlu and Ms. Ayşegül Başer, are here today on behalf of the citizens of Van who passed away. Thank you very much.

All of us at the office in Meguro, Tokyo continued our prayers into the late hours, waiting for more information from your friends and hoping for your safety and survival. However, there was nothing we could do but to let our heads down in moment of silence.

We have received countless words of condolence and encouragement from around the nation.

In addition to Mr. Abdullah Gül, the President of Turkey, sending his words of condolence to the Emperor of Japan, the Turkish government and all of Turkish people have been mourning your loss, expressing their sympathy, and praying that you rest in peace.

Coming all the way from disaster-stricken Japan to assist the earthquake survivors in Turkey and subsequently getting involved in this tragic accident, they would like to express their sincerest appreciation and apology to you.

For your return home to Japan, the Turkish government prepared a jet for you and a cordial ceremony was held by the guards at the airport. Many important people including the Japanese ambassador gathered to send you off, and the national flag of Japan was placed on your coffin.

When the jet arrived in Japan, the captain and the rest of the crew members of Turkish Airlines completed their mission of sending you back to your home country with their utmost care and respect.

As a symbol of their appreciation, the Turkish people have decided to place your name on a memorial hospital and a park in Istanbul and a statue will also be built in your honor.

Today, at this very place, Mr. Kazuyuki HAMADA, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kazuhiko KOSHIKAWA, the Director-General of the International Cooperation Bureau, and Mr. Matahiro YAMAGUCHI, the Director of the Non-Governmental Organizations Cooperation Division, have gathered to pay their respect, in addition to 18 visitors from Turkey including Mr. Ali Babacan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, and Tunç Angili, the Charge d’Affairs of the Turkish Embassy.

Mr. MIYAZAKI, your courageous deeds in Turkey, which you have quite literally dedicated your life to, have made significant contributions to the mutual understanding and cooperation between Japan and Turkey. In my eyes, you have built a forever-lasting bridge between the two countries.

Here, I vow to you that AAR JAPAN will take after your beliefs and carry on our activities with much strength and determination. I truly hope that you will watch over us and continue to encourage your colleagues from up above. I believe that you will provide us the ambition to aim higher, the courage to step forward, and the power to persist.

Finally, Mr. MIYAZAKI, I would like to send you off by commending you for your outstanding work and expressing my utmost respect and gratitude to you.

I pray that you rest in peace.

Thank you, Mr. MIYAZAKI.

December 6th, 2011
Association for Aid and Relief Japan
Chairperson of AAR JAPAN