Japan Times staffer gets award for rescuing boy

by Eric Johnston

KYOTO — Simon Bartz, an employee of The Japan Times, was one of four people honored by Kyoto police and rescue officials Wednesday for his role in saving the lives of two 7-year-old boys on Sept. 20.

In a ceremony attended by the principal of the boys’ school, Bartz received a certificate of appreciation for his role in the rescue.

Bartz, a writer and editor with the paper, and his friend, Takashi Baba, were near the Kamogawa River in northern Kyoto when they spotted the two boys. One was floating face down and the other was thrashing in the water.

“At first we didn’t think anything was wrong. We were just enjoying what was a very beautiful day. But then we realized something was up, because the boy who was floating showed no movement, so we jumped into the river,” Bartz said.

While Baba and another passerby, Naoki Kubo, who was jogging along the riverbank, rescued the boy who was struggling, Bartz pulled the other boy, who was then unconscious, out of the water. Another passerby, a college student trained in first aid, managed to revive the boy after about 10 minutes.

Masaomi Hagio, head of the Kyoto Prefectural Police force’s Shimogamo Station, praised Bartz. “We express our gratitude for his brave actions,” Hagio said as he handed out the certificate, adding Bartz’s quick action certainly saved the lives of the two.

Both boys, whose names have not been disclosed, have recovered and were back at school by Wednesday, Hagio said.

Reflecting on his experience, Bartz said the most traumatic thing about the incident was realizing the boy was not breathing when he pulled him from the water.

“I thought I had a dead child in my arms. I was just sitting there praying, and it seemed like ages before he showed any sign of life. It seemed like a miracle when his eyes opened, and I’m very happy and relieved that both children are OK,” he said.