Photo/IllutrationU.S. President Donald Trump talks to families of Japanese abducted by North Korea during their meeting in Tokyo on Nov. 6. (Pool Photo via AP)

Family members of Japanese abducted by North Korea say the emotions expressed by U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting have raised hopes that they might see their loved ones again.

“(Trump) is more cheerful and softer than I thought,” Sakie Yokota, 81, told reporters. “He listened (to our stories) intently.”

Yokota was among 17 family members of Japanese abductees who met with Trump at the state guest house in Tokyo’s Moto-Akasaka district on the afternoon of Nov. 6.

After Trump shook their hands, he listened to their stories and viewed photographs of the missing victims for about half an hour.

The family members said Trump’s expressions of anger and sympathy showed that the issue could move forward.

Yokota’s daughter, Megumi, was 13 years old when she was abducted in Niigata Prefecture in 1977.

The mother showed the president a family portrait taken by Shigeru Yokota, 84, Megumi’s father, during a family trip. Shigeru didn’t attend the meeting due to health reasons.

Takuya Yokota, 49, pointed to his older sister in the photo. Trump and first lady Melania gazed at Megumi’s face.

“It seems that Trump saw the contrast between the brilliant period of our family and (our lives after the abduction),” Takuya said. “He said that we need to solve the problem, which was heartening.

“From now on, the Japanese government needs to take initiative to find a solution,” he added.

Shigeo Iizuka, 79, the brother of Yaeko Taguchi, who was abducted when she was 22 years old, said the meeting with Trump was a big event and a chance to move forward strategically.

“It was noteworthy that Trump said he would make efforts to proceed toward a resolution of the problem,” said Iizuka, who heads the association of families of abduction victims.

He added: “The abduction issue is a top priority for Japan. I would like Trump and the Japanese government not to consider today’s meeting just a special event but to properly follow up.”

Hitomi Soga, 58, who was abducted by North Korean agents along with her mother, Miyoshi, was among five Japanese who returned to Japan from North Korea in 2002.

Trump told her that it was good that she was able to come back to Japan.

Soga showed the president a picture of her then 46-year-old mother.

“My mother who was abducted with me has not come back to Japan yet. I want her to return home without further delay,” Soga said to Trump.

Trump reportedly gave a serious nod to her wish.

Pyongyang has admitted to abducting a number of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. North Korean officials have said those who remain unaccounted-for are either dead or never entered the country.

The family members and the Japanese government doubt North Korea’s claims and continue to demand answers from Pyongyang.

Trump is the third sitting U.S. president to meet with the families of the abductees, following George W. Bush in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2014.

(This article was written by Ryuichi Kitano, senior staff writer, and Daisuke Shimizu)