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‘Destiny: The Secret Operations of the Yodogo Exiles’: the true story of a group of Japanese radicals

by Chelsea Szendi Schieder

Contributing Writer

Journalist, author and editor Koji Takazawa’s “Destiny” tells the story of the group of Japanese student radicals that hijacked a plane and redirected it to North Korea in 1970. It is an exhaustive account of Takazawa’s efforts to tease out the truth of what happened to those men and their subsequent operations abroad, which included kidnapping Japanese travelers.

Destiny: The Secret Operations of the Yodogo Exiles, by Koji Takazawa, Edited by Patricia G. Steinhoff.
416 pages
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI’I PRESS, Nonfiction.

Based on interviews with the hijackers and their wives over several trips to North Korea, the book created controversy when it was published in 1998 and angered many of Takazawa’s sources. However, in 2002 the North Korean government confirmed Takazawa’s research into kidnappings of Japanese citizens, a sticking point in Japan-North Korea relations to this day.

Although the book is journalistic, the story unfolds like a mystery. Takazawa invites the reader into his questions and frustrations as he analyzes the many false stories he hears from the hijackers and their wives, and he freely adopts a more imaginative style to evoke dramatic events from the past. It’s particularly interesting to watch him pick apart stories he initially believed about how the hijackers acquired Japanese wives. The writing is obsessive, indicating the lengths to which Takazawa went to chase down his story, but the text also includes some extraneous details.

All in all, Takazawa’s work represents his commitment to investigative journalism. The English-language translation of this outstanding work brings to life a very recent but often obscured history.