Residents of the hometowns of five Japanese kidnapped by North Korea in 1978 began preparations Thursday for the abductees’ homecoming visit next week.
Two couples — Yasushi Chimura and Fukie Hamamoto, and Kaoru Hasuike and Yukiko Okudo — and one woman, Hitomi Soga, are to arrive in Japan on Tuesday.
The government will cover the abductees’ travel expenses.
In Chimura and Hamamoto’s hometown of Obama, Fukui Prefecture, a support group established by two of the couple’s former classmates is preparing to provide them with psychological care.
The group said it is also collecting donations that will go toward temporarily covering the couple’s living expenses after they permanently return to Japan.
Meanwhile, the city government is planning to help the couple find jobs and housing if they and their children choose to settle in Japan, city officials said.
Chimura’s 75-year-old father, Tamotsu, said he is polishing his son’s carpentry tools and awaiting the homecoming. Chimura was an apprentice carpenter when he was abducted at the age of 23.
North Korea has said Chimura and Hamamoto, both 47, got married in 1979, a year after they were abducted together from Fukui Prefecture, and now live in Pyongyang with a daughter and two sons.
In Hasuike and Okudo’s hometown of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, Hasuike’s classmates at Kashiwazaki Senior High School formed a group that has been collecting signatures in support of the couple’s return to Japan.
The group said it will offer the couple support if they choose to live in Japan.
Hasuike, 45, and Okudo, 46, were abducted together from Niigata Prefecture. They are reportedly married and have a son studying at a North Korean computer college.
Tokyo’s Chuo University, which Hasuike was attending at the time of his abduction, said earlier it has decided to readmit him if he wishes.
Hasuike was a junior in the university’s law department and aspired to become a lawyer after graduating, according to his 74-year-old father, Hidekazu Hasuike. Just three days before his abduction, Hasuike told his father of his dream to become a lawyer and his father promised to help him realize that dream.
In Soga’s hometown on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, residents recently formed a support group for the former nursing assistant and her mother, Miyoshi, who went missing with Soga.
Pyongyang said Soga, 43, married a former U.S. soldier in North Korea and has two daughters, aged 19 and 17.
The police this week added Soga and her mother to their official list of people believed to have been abducted to North Korea.