Kyoto: They no longer speak the same
language, but two brothers separated nearly 60 years each
think the other hasn`t changed a bit.
Japanese-American Minoru Ohye celebrated his 86th birthday
today with his only brother after traveling to Japan for a
reunion with him.
The brothers were born in Sacramento, California, but
were separated as children after their father died in a
fishing accident. They were sent to live with relatives in
Japan and ended up in different homes.
The reunited brothers hugged in a hotel room and
exchanged gifts of California chocolate and Japanese sake. The
American brother wore his trademark baseball cap and jeans.
The Japanese bother wore a suit and tie.
But the same bright eyes and square jaws were a dead
giveaway that they were brothers. They both loved golf and had
back pains. They thought the other hadn`t changed a bit.
"If we miss this chance, we may never meet. You never
know," said Ohye, energetic except for a sore knee. "Either he
may die, or I may die."
Separated across the Pacific, their only prior meeting
had been a brief one in the mid-1950s when Ohye stopped by
Japan while serving in the US Army in the demilitarized zone
on the Korean peninsula.
His brother, Hiroshi Kamimura, 84, was adopted by a
Japanese family, grew up in the ancient capital of Kyoto and
became a tax accountant. He married and had three sons.
Ohye joined the youth group of the Japanese Imperial Army
at 13 and went to Russia, where he was sent to a Siberian coal
mine when Japan surrendered. He returned to be with his mother
in Yuba City, California, in 1951, and worked as a bookbinder
and a gardener.
He became homeless when he failed to collect payment for
a restaurant he ran and later sold in the late 1950s.
About 10 years ago, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a
welfare service organisation for US veterans, found him a spot
in the Eskaton Wilson Manor home for the elderly.
It was Eskaton`s programme to grant a wish called "Thrill
of a Lifetime" that got Ohye back to Japan.
While others wished for rafting trips and football game
tickets, the only thing Ohye wanted was to see his brother
again. Eskaton administrator Debbie Reynolds put together a
fundraiser for Ohye`s trip.
Kamimura acknowledged it had been difficult to
communicate with his brother through telephone calls because
he didn`t understand English. They would exchange a lot of
"hellos" and then their conversations ended, he said.
"I am happy. He is the only brother I have," Kamimura
said after watching Ohye blow out the candles on a birthday
cake at a restaurant. "This may be our last time together."
Brian Berry, a graduate student at the University of
Tokyo who was approached by Reynolds to help with the reunion
and got Ohye from the Tokyo airport to Kyoto, was relieved the
brothers were together at last.
"Even over time, with all that has been gone through,
still the only thing you are thinking about is your family,"
he said. "Right when you`re near the end of your life, you are
still thinking about your family."