Vietnamese man gives tearful thanks 36 years after being rescued off the coast of Vietnam by a high school fishing training vessel, says ship “saved his life”

Vietnamese man gives tearful thanks 36 years after being rescued off the coast of Vietnam by a high school fishing training vessel, says ship “saved his life”

Masakazu Minami giving thanks to Gensho Miyagi, the ship captain of the Shonan-maru which rescued him at sea 36 years ago. March 16, the Yellow Bamboo restaurant in Tokyo

March 19, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Hiroe Nakagawa

“I want to say my thanks to the people of Okinawa who saved my life.

Not a day goes by where I forget what you did for me.” Masakazu Minami (50, Vietnamese name: John Tai Tuan Vin), who runs a Vietnamese restaurant in Tokyo, continues to carry these thoughts with him. Minami fled his home country of Vietnam in August of 1983 on a wooden ship, and was rescued off the coast of Ho Chi Minh City by the Shonan-maru, an Okinawan fishing training vessel from Okinawa Suisan (fishery) High School.

With help from the Ryukyu Shimpo, Minami was able to learn the name of the ship and the contact information of the captain of the ship at the time, Gensho Miyagi (75, formerly Gensho Shimoji).

On March 16, 36 years after being rescued, Minami spoke on the phone with Miyagi, giving his thanks with tears rolling down.

On August 4, 1983, the 14-year-old Minami boarded a small wooden boat and left Vietnam. With the support of his grandfather, he decided to flee abroad to escape the troubles in his home country.

In the middle of the night after four days at sea, he saw a small light out in the dark ocean. The next morning, he discovered that it came from a Japanese ship, and waving a torch and lifebuoy, he called out to be rescued.

Minami reflected, “I was saved. My life was preserved.”

The Shonan-maru had 69 students from the Okinawa Suisan High School aboard, having departed from Tomari Fishing Port in Naha in June. The ship discovered the wooden boat while making its way back home.

The maximum capacity of the Shonan-maru was 75 people, however Miyagi reckoned that they rescued around 105 people in total from the wooden ship.

The Shonan-maru changed course for Manilla in the Philippines, where they handed over the survivors to the Philippine government.

Minami then travelled from Manilla to a refugee center in Nagasaki, before being placed at the Motobu International Friendship Center in Motobu by the Japanese Red Cross’ Okinawa Branch, where he spent the next eight months.

After that, Minami went moved to Tokyo, where he decided to live permanently in his second home country of Japan.

In the nineties, he became a Japanese citizen, and he currently owns and operates the Vietnamese restaurant “Yellow Bamboo” in Uchisaiwai-cho, Chiyoda Ward.

Last summer, a teacher at a private high school in Okinawa visited Minami’s restaurant in Tokyo.

After hearing the story of his rescue 36 years ago, the teacher relayed the story to this paper. The paper inquired with the parties involved, and was able to learn the name of the ship as well as Miyagi’s contact information.

Minami said his thanks while tears rolled down his face. “If I had not been rescued I would not be here now.

I am sorry I have not been able to say thank you until now.” He then promised, “I want to tell you about my life until now.

I will come to Okinawa.”

Miyagi said happily, “I think we did the right thing. I am happy to hear that he had a successful life.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)
Go to Japanese


Previous Article:
Next Article:

[Similar Articles]