• Kyodo


Nearly 150 relatives of victims of a 1985 Japan Airlines jumbo jet crash offered prayers to the dead Sunday in a ceremony to mark the 16th anniversary of the accident in Gunma Prefecture.

Relatives of those who perished in the 1985 crash of a JAL jet place flowers at a memorial erected near the crash site.

The relatives and JAL officials offered a minute’s silent prayer for the 520 victims at 6:56 p.m. — the time the Boeing 747 crashed into Mount Osutaka in the prefecture — after lighting a candle for each of the victims.

The ceremony was held in Irei-no Sono park at the foot of the mountain. All 15 crew members and 505 of the 509 passengers on board were killed in the crash, making it the worst single-aircraft accident in history.

Earlier in the day, relatives of the victims climbed the mountain and prayed at memorial markers for the victims set up around the crash site.

As of 4 p.m., about 300 relatives scaled a steep mountain pass of around 2.2 km, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based carrier said, adding that many family members who made the climb are now old.

Among the climbers was Yoshiko Takahama, 57, whose husband, Masami, 49, was the captain of the fully loaded JAL Flight 123 when it left Tokyo’s Haneda airport for Osaka on the fateful evening.

“Last year, I heard for the first time my husband’s voice just before the crash, recovered from the voice recorder. Visiting this place reminds me of the voice and it is indeed hard for me,” she said.

Megumi Shima, 72, who lost his 30-year-old son, Kazunori, said: “It has become too much for my body to do the climbing. I think this will be the last time.”

Some relatives of the victims attended a ceremony to unveil a monument to aviation safety at a location overlooking the crash site on the mountain.

The monument, a model of nine people sitting in three rows of airplane seats, is accompanied by a bronze bell.

Diana Yukawa, 15, a Britain-based violinist who lost her Japanese father in the accident, played during the ceremony a song by popular singer and TV celebrity Kyu Sakamoto, who was also killed in the accident. Outside of Japan, the tune is known as “Sukiyaki Song.”

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