Six and a half years on…

Hugo

Today marks 6 and a half years since you were abducted to Japan so I thought I’d post a short note to you today with some bits of news for you.

Yesterday saw Prince Harry get married to Meghan Markle. The Prince is a few years younger than me and I remember watching him and his brother grow up when I was growing up so that shows how quickly time passes. I watched part of the television coverage from Windsor. It was reported that a billion people watched the proceedings around the world and it struck me that you might well have been one of them. I well remember the time when Prince Andrew married in 1986 when I was about the age you are now.

Tomorrow I have again been roped in to walk the 10 km London legal walk. According to my professional magazine, over 12,000 people are to participate this year. Because of the numbers, there are two routes again this year – one going down and then back up the other side of the Thames and the other through the parks. Not sure which route the team that I am going with is to take this year – we took the park route last year which also took in a bit of the River as well. I will try and take some photos for you again as I did last year, particularly if we take the river route this time.

On a much sadder note, on 28 May 2018, it will be exactly 10 years since Grandad, the Great grandfather you never met, passed away. As I’ve said before you were born 6 months to the day after he died. Along with you, he is the person I think about a lot. He achieved a lot in his life; he obtained a PhD from Cambridge University and went on to become the deputy head of a Ministry of Defence research facility.  He was involved in the design in the 1960s of the satellite dishes that adorned the BT Tower until quite recently; at the time they were state-of-the art and stood the test of time (the article that this link goes to is written by someone with the same name as me).  His ashes are interred in west London and I will go and visit him again later this month.

Hope you are keeping well.

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Abduction issue takes center stage in London in ‘The Great Wave’

Abduction issue takes center stage in London in ‘The Great Wave’

BY WILLIAM HOLLINGWORTH

KYODO

A new play based on the abduction of Japanese citizens to North Korea has been captivating and educating audiences at the National Theatre in London.

“The Great Wave,” which tells the fictional story of one family’s fight to find out what happened to their missing daughter, has received rave reviews in newspapers and sheds light on a story little-known in Britain.

“I wanted to tell the story of a family caught up in a political situation,” says playwright Francis Turnly, who is half-Japanese and half-Northern Irish. “I think it’s the first play about the abductions in English.”

The play, based on true accounts of alleged North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens, is set in 1979 when 17-year-old Hanako Tanaka goes missing from a beach on a stormy night. Her mother, Etsuko, and sister, Reiko, live in hope that she will one day return.

However, Hanako has been abducted to North Korea, where she teaches would-be agents Japanese culture and language.

While the play portrays the brutal side of the regime, it also shows the bonds of friendship and humanity that develop between Hanako and North Korean citizens. Later, she marries a North Korean and has a daughter, Hana.

After years of fighting for the truth from the Japanese government, officials admit the abductions took place and in very poignant scenes, Etsuko and Reiko send a video message to Hanako in the hope she will be returned.

Hanako is last seen watching the recording and says she wants to return. But she is not among the abductees who return to Japan, and her family is told she died in a landslide.

The play has a bittersweet ending when Hanako’s daughter, Hana, emerges from an aircraft and ends up living with the family in Japan.

“It’s been on my mind to write about the abductions for quite a while because my mother is Japanese and she told me about it some years ago, but getting a play on this size was quite difficult to do,” says the 43-year-old Turnly.

He was able to write the play after winning a bursary in 2015 and becoming writer-in-residence at London’s Tricycle Theatre.

“I drew from several of the abductees’ and relatives’ accounts and from articles, but I didn’t want to base the play on one particular individual’s story,” he says. “I wanted my own characters. Because it is such a sensitive matter in Japan, I didn’t want to be seen wading in and taking people’s private stories.

“I also didn’t want to show the North Koreans as the cliched villains … the more we stay with the North Koreans in the play, the more we realize they are human beings, just like Hanako.”

Turnly is pleased the compelling story of the abductions is reaching a wider audience.

“I think the play will raise awareness about the abductions in the U.K.,” he says. “Speaking to audience members, they said they were really affected and never knew that this took place. They said they would have found it far-fetched if it hadn’t been based on true events.”

Asked whether the play might be staged in Japan, he adds, “Because it’s such a sensitive matter, we have to be quite diplomatic in our approach. But it’s out of my hands, I think.”

Turnly decided to name the play after Hokusai’s famous woodblock print as the title reflects the emotional roller coaster the characters endure throughout the performance.

“The Great Wave” is part of Turnly’s “Japanese Schoolgirls” trilogy, which also includes a play about the cosplay industry titled “Harajuku Girls” and “Neko,” a supernatural story about a mixed-race girl who turns into a cat.

Critics have praised the performance, which is directed by Indhu Rubasingham and co-produced by the National Theatre and Tricycle Theatre.

“I found the story captivating and was hooked,” said audience member Rebecca Tebbett. “We didn’t know if this was a true story. We haven’t heard about the abductions before. I’m going to go home now and research this issue.”

Her friend, Eduard Buhac, added: “I didn’t expect it to be such an odyssey. The actors really pulled it off. It’s great that there are plays like this, and with an all-Asian cast. It was very powerful. The stage design and music were all very immersive and captivating.”

“The Great Wave” runs until April 14 at the National Theatre in London. For more details, visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-great-wave.

Source:  “Abduction issue takes centre stage in London in ‘The Great Wave'”, The Japan Times, 4 April 2018 (theatre review)

National Theatre:  production webpage

Snow in London

Hello Hugo

You turn nine and a quarter today.  It snowed overnight in London – the weather in the UK is very bad this week.  I went out early and took some photographs of the snow for you – please see below.  I am going up to see Grandad on Friday evening; I’m taking a plane up to Newcastle and am hoping that the flight is not cancelled because of the bad weather.

Hope you are keeping well.

 

Child Abduction Conference, 9 February 2018

I attended the 1 King’s Bench Walk annual child abduction conference on Friday. I have attended every year since 2014 and the conference has been running since 2003 so this was the 15th year. It was again chaired by Richard Harrison, QC. I will single out just two of the talks.
There was an interesting opening talk by Mr Justice Francis. He was appointed to the High Court bench relatively recently and was the judge in the distressing Charlie Gard case which made news around the world in 2017. He spoke about that and about international cases involving children. He made the point that better liaison between judges of different countries would help to improve the quality of judicial decision making in countries were that was an issue as well as helping to better manage individual cases being litigated in two countries. He was also critical of countries which assigned low level family judges to abduction cases given the importance of the same: in the UK all abduction cases are dealt with in the High Court.
As in previous years, a talk was given by a representative of the charity Reunite. This was the only part of the day that Japan was mentioned, twice. In the course of the presentation, the speaker revealed that Reunite is currently working with the Japanese authorities to promote co-mediation. At the end of the presentation the chairman asked the speaker whether there were any “particularly challenging” Hague countries in terms of the recovery of children. The speaker replied, as I knew she would, by saying simply “Japan”. She it appeared did not seem to see the need to expand on this answer but when asked to do so by the chairman she went on to explain that “enforcement is not pushed” in Japan because it is “not engrained in its legal culture.” She also said that she did not see this changing any time soon.
This was just intended as a short write-up; anyone wanting to know more is welcome to get in contact.

14 December 2017

Hello Hugo

It is my 40th birthday today.  I was aged 30 the day that you were born in late 2008.  I have tried to “involve” you in my day today:  the first thing that I did today was to once again visit the spot at Heathrow Airport where I last saw you.  After that I took the train to Paddington from where I walked to the nearby Regent’s Park.  This is one of my favourite places in London and I remember being taken there by my own parents when I was a similar age to you.  I have now come into work for a few hours but plan to leave early to visit the National Portrait Gallery, Westminster Cathedral and the theatre later today.  Below are some photographs that I took of the Park.