Monday, April 1, 2013

Mystery Monday: Japanese Passport Mystery Solved

*To catch up on my Mystery Monday series about Nolan Lane and the Japanese passport, click HERE.

Early on Easter morning, I checked my email and found a message from Jun Miyagi, the grandson of Maka Kanehawa, owner of the Japanese passport I found in my Uncle Nolan's WWII photo album.  Mr. Miyagi's email contained the following letter in which he tells his grandmother's tragic story.

 March 29, 2013

Dear Ms. Southworth,

Please forgive my delay in writing.
First of all, words cannot tell you my feelings of surprise and happiness at receiving your letter from far away America.
Kogi Kamehama and his wife, Makato Kamehama (the correct spelling their names) were my maternal grandparents.  They were married in Okinawa before the 2nd world war and lived in the small village of Ozato in the southeastern part of Okinawa. Their first child was my mother, Tomiko, who was born in Okinawa before the war.  Kogi was a farmer of sorts but life was very hard on Okinawa.  For that reason he joined many Okinawans who emigrated to South America in search of a better life. Leaving their daughter with their parents, Kogi and Makato went to South America.  They planned to call her there after they settled down.  However, when the war started they were worried about their daughter and family and went back to Okinawa to take care of them.  By the time the battle for Okinawa started, my mother was 21 years old and had become a school teacher.  I'm not sure of the date, but some time in May or June 1945 my mother's house was bombed.  Everything was completely destroyed and everyone in her family were killed.  By some miracle my mother, Tomiko, survived.

The whole southern part of Okinawa was completely destroyed.  So much so that it is said not even a blade of grass was left.  My mother was the sole survivor of the Kamehama clan.  Their bodies were all buried in the ruble of the war so we don't even have a grave to visit and pray for them.  And of course no photographs of them remain for us as a memorial.  So the passport your uncle found in the ruble is another miracle.  I'm sure he felt that way when he found it.  And I believe that somehow or other he kept it in hopes of some day giving it the owner's family.  The photograph your uncle found will be a precious link for us to our grandmother and our ancestors. Thank you for completing your Uncle's desire in keeping our grandmother's passport safe so it could eventually rest in peace in Okinawa.  You can't imagine how much this means to us.

By the way, my mother Tomiko Kamahama married my father, Gensuke Miyagi, a professor of Biology at the Ryukyu University.  My mother continued teaching grade school till her retirement.  I am the oldest of three children.  My name is Jun. Followed by another brother, Kaoru, and a sister, Hiroko.  My wife's name is Keiko. We have three wonderful daughters.

I am sorry to trouble you but would you be so kind as to send my grandmother's passport to the address below.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sincerely yours,

Jun Miyagi

My deepest sympathy as well as my sincerest thanks go out to Mr. Miyagi and his family.  And, if you're reading this, Mr. Miyagi, your grandmother's passport will be on its way home this week.


  1. I had goosebumps reading this incredible lost and found story. And the story about this family's horrible losses in Okinawa. I am sure your Uncle would be pleased that you solved the mystery.

    1. It is an amazing story, and it's such a tragedy that one family could lose so much so quickly. I'm so happy that I can return this passport to Mr. Miyagi! Thank you for visiting my blog!