Ishikawa Native Living in North Korea Expresses Regret Over News of His Japanese Mother’s Death

Courtesy of the Terakoshi family
Takeshi Terakoshi, right, with his mother Tomoe in Pyongyang during her last visit to North Korea in April 2018.

A man who lives in North Korea after his disappearance from Japan in the early 1960s has expressed regret upon receiving news of his mother’s death.

Tomoe Terakoshi, the mother of Takeshi Terakoshi who went missing in the sea off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture in May 1963 and now lives in North Korea, died at a hospital in Kanazawa on Feb. 25. She was 92.

The mother visited North Korea 66 times, worrying about her son from whom she was separated when he was only 13.

Upon hearing the news of his mother’s death, Takeshi called his sister earlier this month.

The sister, 71, who lives in Kanazawa, received the call on March 5. Takeshi reportedly told her that he learned of his mother’s death through a telegram from Japan, but it took him some time to secure money to make an international call, which he said is expensive.

“So, our mother has died,” he reportedly said, and he seemed unable to think of the right words to say after that. Then, he told his sister, “I caused you much trouble. I’m deeply sorry, and I regret that I couldn’t do anything as your elder brother.”

They spoke for only five minutes. All the sister could tell her brother was their mother’s condition in her last moments and that she had placed a photograph of Takeshi in the coffin.

Takeshi, who is a native of Shika in Ishikawa Prefecture, disappeared while fishing with two uncles.

It was initially thought that he was in an accident at sea, but he was confirmed to be alive in North Korea in January 1987, meaning it was possible that he had been abducted by North Korea.

At that time, Takeshi was 37 years old, married and had a family in North Korea. In September that year, he was reunited with Tomoe for the first time in 24 years. Takeshi repeatedly told his mother that he had been rescued by a North Korean fishing boat.

His words prompted Tomoe to make the difficult decision to stop claiming that Takeshi had been “abducted” in consideration of her son’s safety.

Takeshi temporarily returned to Japan in October 2002 as a deputy head of a North Korean delegation. However, he went back to Pyongyang.

Shortly after that, five people — who the Japanese government had recognized as having been abducted by North Korean agents — returned to Japan.

Tomoe was profoundly shaken by the news of the returnees, whose fate seemed so different from that of her son, the sister said.

Despite having such complex feelings, Tomoe continued visiting her son, using money she earned by working as a cleaning woman in multiple positions from morning till night. Her last visit to North Korea was in April 2018 when she was 87. She used a wheelchair to get around.

“It’s possible to measure the depth of the sea and the height of a mountain, but a mother’s love is immeasurable,” he reportedly told his sister when he called her last year after learning that Tomoe was hospitalized.

Tomoe reportedly told Takeshi’s sister: “Please scatter my ashes in the Sea of Japan. Then, they will eventually flow to where Takeshi is.”

“I want to deliver our mother’s ashes and mementos, such as her glasses, to my brother so that he can hold them,” the sister said in tears.