Busan City Map published in 1937
written in Japanese

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
previous issues.

January, 2008

Sentimental Journey Home
-To Busan of 70 years ago-

Special thanks to Mr. Hur NamSik, the Mayor of Busan Metropolitan City
and the people of the International Relations Division
who made this unbelievable journey possible.

In October, 2007, I had a great luck to meet Mr. Hur NamSik, the Mayor of Busan Metropolitan City, Korea, when he attended the Governors' Summit held in Karatsu.
At Yoyokaku, a dinner party was held. I, as the landlady, greeted the guests. When I talked with the Mayor of Busan, I told him that I was born in Busan in 1944. Until 1945, Korea was a part of Japan, as you may know.
Mr. Mayor said that I was always welcome to the hometown Busan. If I had some information, he kindly said, he would be able to locate my birthplace, the house we lived in, the schools my mother went and also the schools where my father taught.

This was a rare chance that I had to jump on. I had long wanted to go to Busan, not the present Busan which is so easily accessible from Karatsu, by only 30 minutes' flight from Fukuoka, but the old Busan of long long ago where My father and mother met and the children were born.

The most important reason why I want to go there is my mother.

Mother is 92 years old now, and because of cerebral infarction she now lives in a mingled intoxication of past and present. She always wants to go home in Busan. Home, where her parents are waiting for the youngest daughter. Another home where her husband and the new-born baby, whom she had lost when the baby was 3 years old, are waiting. Highschool where she, every morning, raised the National Flag as the representative of the whole school, and the elementary school where she spent her happiest childhood.

I have barely any memories about Busan, because I was only one year-old in 1945 when Japan lost the War and all the Japanese people who lived in Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, abandoned their estate and retreated to Japan with much difficulty. Sometimes children were left, sometimes old people remained who could not walk hundreds miles to the southmost ports of Korea.
Retreat was comparatively easy for my family, because we lived in Busan. We did not need to walk a far distance. My sister and I were taken back safely.
Father had to re-build his life from the beginning, but somehow he did it, and we were happy again in Karatsu. Busan was forgotten, and nobody spoke about the place for 60 years.
We lost Father 13 years ago, and Mother didn't speak about Busan at that time either. Only after Mother got ill, her hidden desire and longing for her lost days and the lost baby came up to the surface.

I, as a daughter, can not soothe her yearning, and for the reason of my mother, I gradually got to long for Busan too.

Then, I met the Mayor.
I decided to go. My sister, 3 years senior to me, my cousin , 79 years old, who still clearly remembers about Busan.
My husband joined. So we four started for Busan on December 3, 2007.
The following is the report of our time-travel to the present and past Busan.

Mr. Hur NamSik
The Mayor of Busan Metropolitan City

Family of Mother in 1926
Mother was 15.

Mother's birthplace in Busan

There is a hotel now on the land
which was Grandfather's estate.
The stone stairs remain
as they were before 1945

Behind the hotel, there remains
an old Japanese style house,
which probably was one of Grandfather's properties.

The backside of the hotel

The Elementary School Mother went.

The Elementary School Mother went
is now a huge Korean Elementary School

Mother's Highschool before 1945

Mother's Highschool is now a Boys Middle School

Mother and nieces
in front of the school where
my father was the principal
just after marriage.

Graduation ceremony day in 1937
Father is in the center

The above school is now this big!

Mother and the first baby

Father, Mother, my sister and the baby me.

The house where my sister and I were born was still there. We lived here until 1945.The house now is a skeleton of a Japanese structure covered with tinplate patches on the broken walls and roof.

The highschool my cousin went.
The school was not changed.

Father worked for the Chamber of Commerce
from 1941 to 1945.
The building was destructed now,
and a new project of 107 stories' building
is going on.

The National Marine Product Highschool for which foundation Father worked in 1940.
It is now Bugeon University

Dinner with the Busan City people
who helped us so much.


What is your impression about this time-travel?
I was quite thrilled, and though the weather in Korea was so cold and freezing, my heart was filled with warm friendship and gratitude. Now I can share the memories of Busan with my mother.

Thank you again, the Busan people, who made this dream come true.