OBAMA PARK OBSERVATION DECK

Abduction site becomes unlikely tourist attraction

Kyodo

The scene where a Japanese couple were abducted to North Korea 24 years ago from this small town on the Sea of Japan coast has become a sightseeing attraction.

The Obama Park observation deck, sitting on a hill overlooking Wakasa Bay about 2 km west of Obama, was once known only to locals.

But since Sept. 17, the day North Korea admitted it had abducted or lured 13 Japanese to its shores, including two from Obama, the deck has become a tourist magnet.

On weekends, the parking lot is filled with cars from beyond Fukui that bring visitors toting cameras and binoculars.

On the evening of July 7, 1978, Yasushi Chimura and his wife Fukie, two of the five Japanese who survived their kidnappings and are now on a homecoming visit to Japan, went on a date to the park and sat on the observation deck. There, they were spirited away by North Korean agents and ferried to the secretive state, where they married and began new lives.

Obama residents said the surge in outside visitors to the observation deck started in early October, particularly on the weekends. Cars bearing license plates from as far away as Kobe and Tokyo were spotted just last week.

Masanari Yoshioka, a 50-year-old Obama-born businessman who now lives in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, was among those who visited the deck over the weekend.

“I don’t usually come here. But it has been so much in the news,” said Yoshioka, who returned to visit his ill mother.

Hisashi Hasegawa, a 53-year-old translator from Tokyo who calls himself a North Korea watcher, came away impressed by a visit to Obama Park with his wife.

“The slope from the observation deck is much steeper than I thought. I can’t believe they carried out the kidnapping from here,” he said.