Families, friends celebrate after news of rescue

Families and colleagues of Japanese hostages released from the ambassador’s residence in Lima embraced a long-awaited end to the four-month crisis April 23.

“I couldn’t confirm my dad’s release on television, so I was relieved when I heard from my mother directly that he was rescued safely,” said Morimichi Aoki, 24, the eldest son of Ambassador Morihisa Aoki, at his home in Hiroshima. Aoki’s youngest son said his mother, Naoko, had called him at about 7 a.m. April 23 from Lima on her mobile phone. She accompanied the ambassador to a local hospital after he was rescued, the son said.

“You probably know already, but your dad is safe now,” he quoted his mother as saying. “More than anything, I felt so relieved,” he added.

Junichi Miyashita, elder brother of 54-year-old Akira Miyashita, who is president of the Peru subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp., was jubilant at the news of his brother’s release. “I am really happy,” 69-year-old Junichi said at his home in Kyoto Prefecture. “I want to see him right now and hold his hands quietly.”

Junichi said that checking the morning news on television became part of his daily routine since rebels stormed the Japanese ambassador’s residence and took hostages at a birthday party for the Emperor on Dec. 17. On April 23, he turned on the news shortly before 6 a.m., just as he had done for the past four months, and the footage of Peruvian forces entering the ambassador’s compound suddenly appeared on the screen. “I was so worried that (the forceful rescue) might fail,” Junichi said.

At their homes in Yokohama, two family members of Tadashi Iwamoto, 57, Toyo Menka Kaisha’s Lima representative, shared their excitement. Iwamoto’s sister, 52-year-old Yoshiko Hagiwara, learned of the rescue operation through a radio broadcast and immediately informed her brother, Shoji Iwamoto, 56. “Since my brother was taken hostage, I had acquired the habit of listening to the radio every morning,” Hagiwara said. “My heart almost stopped when I heard they stormed the residence.”

Hagiwara said that during the hostage crisis her brother sent dozens of letters to family members, telling them he was all right and that they did not have to worry. Yasuo Taki, 67, elder brother of Shigeru Taki, 59, president of the Peruvian subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., learned of the rescue operation from relatives that his sister-in-law had contacted from Lima. “I was worried it might lead to a disaster,” Taki said at his home in Kushiro, Hokkaido. “But I thought the hostages would figure out places to hide. I am so glad they got out safely.”

A news conference was held at Marubeni Corp.’s headquarters in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward shortly after 8 a.m. on the release of Keiichi Saito, head of the trading house’s Lima branch. “I knew he would be fine because he is a tough guy,” said Toshihiko Kawashima, head of the public relations department. “But I would like to praise him for his patience.” Marubeni officials said that during the hostage standoff, Saito sent many letters to his colleagues in Japan, expressing his desire to start working again.