Update October 2020: I am currently conducting a survey about people’s interest in and impressions of the isho. Please could you help with my research by going to the following page when you have finished reading the post below. https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZVPLJB3.
One of the most well known aspects of JL123 are the isho (‘last notes’, ‘last memo’, ‘will’, or ‘final letters’) written by some of the passengers. Below are my translations of the isho. They are based on the translations on display at the JAL Safety Promotion Center, but I have made a few alterations to try to preserve the nuance of the original Japanese. Annotations are provided to help explain some of the choices of words. What is lost in reproducing the words here is the impact due to the nature of how it was written, what it was written on, or other visual factors (such as staining of blood or earth from the crash site). Further details about the isho, including a photograph of one of them, are in my book Dealing With Disaster in Japan: Responses to the Flight JL123 Crash.
‘Mariko, Tsuyoshi, Chiyoko,
Be good to each other and work hard.
Help your mother.
It’s sad, but I’m sure I won’t make it.
I don’t know the cause.
It’s been five minutes now.
I don’t want to take any more planes.
Please kami-sama* help me.
To think that our dinner last night was the last time.
There was some sort of explosion in the cabin
There was smoke and we started to descend
Where are we going, what will happen?
Tsuyoshi , I’m counting on you
Darling**, it’s too bad that this has happened.
Please take good care of the children
It’s 6:30 now.
The plane is turning around and descending rapidly.
I am grateful for the truly happy life I have enjoyed until now.’
Notes: *I have left the original word ‘kami-sama‘ (deities) as it is ambiguous about whether this would be a request to the Shinto (or Buddhist) deities or a Christian God.
**The original Japanese uses the word ‘mama‘ (‘mother’), a common way for Japanese to address a wife.
Look after Tetsuya (and parents)
Suddenly there was an explosion and the masks dropped
With the explosion we began to fall
Be brave and live
Tetsuya be good.’
‘The plane is swaying a lot left and right,
18:30 descending rapidly
Japan Air Lines 18:00 flight to Osaka accident
I might die.
Everybody please live happily.
Goodbye Sumiko Miki Kyoko Kentaro
18:45 The plane is level and stable
There’s little oxygen, I feel sick
Inside the plane voices are saying let’s do our best
I don’t know what happened to the plane
18:46 I am worried about the landing
The stewardesses are calm.’
‘I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared. Help me. I feel sick. I don’t want to die. Mariko’
‘Keiji, Hisako, Tadaomi, Shin’ichi, Rihiya, Sakura’
Look after the children
Yumiko Tsushima (stewardess)
(underlined parts indicate those which were originally written in English)
Unfasten your safety belts. Brace yourselves. Don’t take any baggage.
Follow our instructions.
First announcement to PAX*
Check if the Doors can be used.
C’K for fire outside. C’K with other CREW.
Unfasten your safety belts. High heels.
Don’t take any baggage.
Persons in front 2 rows.
Jump. Jump and Slide.
Get away from the aircraft.
Go to a safe area,
Take off high heel shoes. Don’t take any baggage.
Help the elderly and disabled.
Release your seat belts
Don’t take baggage.
Follow our instruction.
Lower yourself and cover your mouth and nose with towel.
Follow the person in front and move over there.
Low position with a wet towel
Covering nose and mouth.’
**’High’ is an abbreviation for high heel shoes.
‘Please live bravely. Please look after the children’
Note: Contrary to what is written on many English websites, there is no evidence that Kyu Sakamoto (Hisahi Oshima) wrote an isho.
I am currently conducting a survey about people’s interest in and impressions of the isho. Please could you help with my research by going to https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZVPLJB3. All of the data will be collected anonymously and according to the appropriate research ethics.
Also see my post The significance of the isho (last messages) on JL123