In a final poignant act, Masakatsu Taniguchi scrawled a message to his family on an air sickness bag before JAL Flight 123 crashed on Aug. 12, 1985, the deadliest single-aircraft accident in history.
“Machiko, please take good care of our children,” Taniguchi, 40, wrote to his wife.
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the disaster, the messages written by the passengers aboard the doomed aircraft continue to inspire and guide the loved ones they left behind.
At least seven scribbled notes before the Boeing 747, bound for Osaka from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, slammed into a mountain ridge near the village of Ueno, Gunma Prefecture. Only four of the 524 people aboard survived.
While the pilots fought to gain control of the plane, which had lost all its hydraulic flight control systems shortly after takeoff, some passengers wrote their final thoughts.
Machiko, who manages an apartment building, offered the blood-stained paper bag with her husband's last words to the family altar at her home in Minoo, Osaka Prefecture.
Whenever their two children would quarrel, she would scold them in front of the altar, saying, “Aren’t you ashamed of doing such a thing?”
The Taniguchi's younger son, Makoto, 39, is now the father of a 5-year-old daughter, Yuna.
“We family members have lived by his message,” said Makoto. “I want to be together with my daughter as much as possible, just like my father did for us.”
Their other son, 43, was also married in 2008.
With her life at peace, Taniguchi does not need to look at the note from her husband anymore.
She plans to tell Masakatsu at an upcoming hike to the Osutaka-no-One ridge, the crash site, “I feel I have fulfilled our promise.”
Another bereaved family member, Tsuyoshi Kawaguchi, a 51-year-old Tokyo resident, occasionally reads the seven-page message his father wrote aboard the doomed flight.
“The plane is turning around and descending rapidly. I am grateful for the happy life I have spent until now,” wrote Hirotsugu Kawaguchi, 52, in a memo book.
Tsuyoshi was a senior student at university when the crash occurred. He later saw his father’s body wrapped completely in bandages, and he felt his death was not real to him.
The memo book was found in Hirotsugu’s jacket pocket. His words, inscribed with a ballpoint pen, were written scratchily. He pressed the pen so hard down on the paper that the letters penetrated into the next page.
The words were deciphered by Hirotsugu’s work subordinate, who knew his handwriting.
“Dad is very sad,” part of the message said. Tears welled up in Tsuyoshi’s eyes as he read this.
Tsuyoshi retired two years ago from a glass manufacturer, and started a company to export Japanese traditional crafts, which he has liked since he was young.
He once served as an officer of the cause-investigation committee of the 8.12 liaison association composed of families of the crash victims.
Tsuyoshi decided to start a new business, after asking himself the definition of a happy life.
His two daughters saw their grandfather's notebook at his parents’ home five years ago.
The elder daughter, now in the third year at junior high school, said recently in regard to the JAL crash, “I’ve decided to say when I die, ‘I have been happy. Thank you.’ I will work hard to be happy always.”
Tsuyoshi will turn 52, the age his father died, next year.
“My father told me to live for the present in his message,’ ” Tsuyoshi said. “I will keep asking myself whether I am living my life to the fullest.”
Japan Airlines Co. is displaying six of the seven final messages written by passengers and a cabin attendant.