I have been conducting research about the Japan Air Lines flight JL123 (also known as JAL123) since 2007. The research not only covers the crash itself (you can find a summary here), but also the aftermath of the disaster and the way in which it impacted the lives of so many people around the world. A book on the subject, Dealing with Disaster in Japan: Responses to the Flight JL123 Crash, was published by Routledge in English in 2011. A second book, Osutaka: A Chronicle of Loss in the World’s Largest Single Plane Crash, related to the crash details the experiences of the father of the sole British victim and includes the diary and his photographs during his time in Japan as he went to identify his son’s remains. Recently, I have also written two articles related to the crash, see Developing a Model to Explain Modifications to Public Transportation Accident Memorials and one about disaster narratives, which includes discussion about the novels and dramatizations related to the crash. I also helped to translate the Japanese text for Naonori Kohira’s book 4/524.
2020 marks the 35th anniversary of the crash. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic (and with the trauma and problems many are facing around the world due to the virus, there are likely to be lessons to be learnt from what the JL123 families went through) many families have been unable to travel to Ueno-mura to go to Osutaka-no-One (the crash site) or Irei-no-Sono. I am also in the UK and will spend time reflecting on my own visits over previous years, thinking about all of the people I have met connected to the crash, and also keeping an eye on the news and social media about the crash. Was delighted that Ueno-mura showed the Irei-no-Sono service live on YouTube so was able to follow it and participate in the minute’s silence.
Here is my own video that I made some years ago…
There are still many questions that remain about what happened in 1985 and I hope that one day we will finally find out the truth (see also this post). With so many B747s being retired, now would be a perfect opportunity to experiment on a real plane to see if the theory about what happened to JL123 holds up. I doubt anyone will do this, just as I doubt that the theory will hold up.
My views on the crash were also featured in an article in The Japan Times which was published on the anniversary.
Let us never forget, plane crashes are about human lives rather than machinery.
May all of the victims Rest in Peace