12 August – A Key Date in the Year

Today seems like an appropriate day to come back from over a month’s break from writing blog posts and using social media (other than responding to a few tagged posts, for example).

When making plans for the next year, we all have dates that we check to see what day they fall on, or block off in the calendar to make sure we don’t end up double-booking ourselves, and such like. These can be important birthdays, anniversaries, the start of the academic year, and such like. I have those. But, I have one extra one: 12 August.

It’s odd at one level that 12 August has become so significant, as it certainly wasn’t always this way. It really started in 2007 when I began researching the JL123 crash, which occurred on 12 August 1985. In that year, and some others, I travelled to Ueno-mura for the anniversary. In other years, I would do my best to follow what was going on via social media and the official media. Often this would be reports on the previous night’s toronagashi (lantern festival), as well as some of the reports from Osutaka-no-One (see picture below).

There have also been years when I have managed to find a live broadcast of the memorial events at Irei-no-Sono. I hope that I will be able to find one of these this year also.

Due to my research and the connections that I have made with many people connected to the crash and village in some way, 12 August has become a day of reflection for me, with my thoughts with all the victims, those families and friends who lost loved ones in the crash, as well as though who became involved in providing support, reporting on the event (at least those who did so ethically), and trying to find out what happened.

You can find further links to posts and information related to the JL123 crash below.

12 August, however, is not only about the JL123 crash for me, for it is also the date upon which most of my first novel, “Hijacking Japan” is set. This had not always been the plan. In fact, from memory, when I started working on the book, it was going to be set in July and this was the basis for a long time. It wasn’t until I got further into the book – after a long hiatus when I didn’t do any writing on the book at all – that I realised that I could make the book so much stronger by putting even more of my knowledge and experiences of Japan into the book. While my work on the shinkansen was already a key part of this, by the time I got back to writing the novel, I had already been researching the JL123 for a few years, and I realised that it would work well to have Ueno-mura and reference to the crash to become part of the book also. Personally, I think this adds a good additional dimension to the story and one of the characters – at the very least it may help to introduce the JL123 crash to more people who would otherwise unaware of it. Setting the book on 12 August did present a challenge, however, as I discuss at the end of the book. The book also had to be set on a Friday, and due to other factors, this meant that the book had to be set in 2011 – just months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, which was less than ideal. Of course, this year (2022), 12 August also falls on a Friday (12 August 1985, was a Monday, in case you were wondering).

Despite the cover image of the book, “Hijacking Japan” is not all about trains or the hijacking of a train – which is partly why the title speaks to Japan, rather than a train, being hijacked. The book is essentially in two parts. The first part covers the build up to the hijacking and the hijack itself. The second half deals with consequences of the hijack and features more on the police investigation and the hunt for who did it and why. The main chapters are also written in such a way as to make it feel as though things are progressing in real time (just as the TV show “24” did).

Since “Hijacking Japan”, I have gone on to write to two further novels (“Tokyo 20/20 Vision” and “FOUR“), which are part of a series (“The Iwakura Series”). Both of these have references back to “Hijacking Japan”, but don’t directly follow on. I have two further books planned for this series, with one (in particular) planned to make further links to JL123 and 12 August.

So, there you have it, the two reasons to date why 12 August is a significant date to me (it would probably be fitting that when I die, it is on 12 August) and why I always block off at least the morning (if in the UK), and why I tend to be relatively active on social media that day (if I have access to the Internet).

Here are some other posts related to JL123:

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