Brothers reunited in Japan after 60 years apart

Eric Pfeiffer

Two brothers in their mid-80's have been reunited after spending more than 60 years apart on different continents and speaking different languages.

Japanese-American Minoru Ohye traveled to Kyoto to celebrate his 86th birthday with his brother Hiroshi Kamimura, 84. Both brothers were born in Sacramento, California but became separated after their father died in a fishing accident. They were both temporarily sent to Japan to live with family but their lives quickly went in very different directions.

In Kyoto, the two brothers hugged upon meeting and exchanged gifts: California chocolate for Japanese sake. "If we miss this chance, we may never meet. You never know," said Ohye. "Either he may die, or I may die."

In the photo above, you can see the resemblance in their faces but some of the differences are also notable. After they were separated, Hiroshi was adopted by Japanese parents and went on to become a tax accountant. Even at 84, his hands and face appear soft and tanned, concealing his age. Minoru's story was perhaps more dramatic. He was conscripted and fought with the Japanese Imperial Army at just age 13 and was sent to Siberia when Japan surrendered. He was later returned to his mother in California and even served in the U.S. Army. In fact, it was his military service that offered the brothers their last reunion, when Ohye was stationed on the Korean peninsula in the mid 1950's and made a brief visit to Japan.

Despite being 60 years and a world apart, the brothers discovered they share some cultural and physiological traits. For example, they both love golf and suffer from back pain.

"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."

The brothers were reunited through a program at the Eskaton Wilson Manor home for the elderly, where Ohye has lived for about 10 years. Ohye was able to find a place in Eskaton Manor thanks to the efforts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Eskaton has a program called "Thrill of a Lifetime" that grants a "wish" to a resident. The Associated Press reports that Ohye's wish to reunite with his brother stood out amongst requests for football game tickets and rafting trips.

More from the AP:

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."

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