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Japanese War Widow's Dying Wish Fulfilled

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Japanese air raid on Darwin 1943, courtesy of Australian War Memorial

Published Aug 9, 2015 10:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Japanese wartime widow has found final peace in the waters off Darwin, Australia, near where her aircrew husband perished during World War II. 

On the eve of the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender the dying wish of Miyoko Kawahara was finally fulfilled on Saturday. 

In 1943 her young husband Shinji Kawahara was among the Japanese Navy flight crew flying a reconnaissance mission near Charles Point northwest of Darwin when he was shot down by Spitfire fighters. Both Shinji and his fellow flight crew member flight chief petty officer Tomihiko Tanaka died but their bodies were never recovered. 

Before she died on October 11, 2014, Miyoko expressed a wish for her ashes to join her husband’s body at the site of the downed aircraft off the Northern Territory coast. 

Supported by the federal and Northern Territory governments and the City of Darwin, the Kawahara family were able to carry out this request.

In a simple ceremony on the waters outside Darwin, Miyoko’s ashes were given to the sea by five family members, led by Noriyo Ito, the daughter of Shinji Kawahara. 

"My mother had a difficult life after the war and their marriage was very short," said 72-year-old Ito, reports ABC New. "I don't remember anything about my father because I was eight months old when he died."

Three generations of the family travelled from Tokyo to Darwin to witness the private ceremony.

The Northern Territory’s Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Peter Styles, said the Northern Territory Government was more than happy to join with others to help the Kawahara family's emotional pilgrimage to Darwin, and the Royal Australian Navy provided the platform for the journey.

"For many Australians now the war is more a subject of interest rather than anger," Styles said.  

"We are firm friends with Japan, and we’re happy to support this request to bring the family peace in their quest.

"The Territory saw more than two years of being on the war’s front line, with air raids carried out until the end of 1943. There was great heartbreak and tragedy and we remember the fallen from both sides."