Photo/Illutration A student walks down the slope at Omura High School in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, on March 27. (Minako Yoshimoto)

OMURA, Nagasaki Prefecture--Chieko Machida remembers how her usually quiet father was excited to accompany her to her entrance ceremony at Omura High School here on a spring day in 1971.

The day they walked up the slope lined with cherry blossom trees to the school is a vivid memory to her.

Students of Omura High School walk under cherry blossom trees in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, on March 27. (Minako Yoshimoto)

Decades earlier, her father also walked up and down the same street every day as a student of the school.

Her family lived in Mishima, a small island in Omura Bay. Her father grew watermelons in the summer and radishes in the winter.

With no running water available, the family had to draw water every day from a well with a bucket.

As the oldest of four siblings, Chieko, now 67, was busy helping her parents at home and in the fields. She studied hard, too, not even wasting the 20 minutes spent on a boat as her daily commute to school.

Then a plan to build an airport on the island came up amid the post-war economic boom. All 66 people from the 13 households on the island eventually decided to leave.

Nagasaki Airport, the world’s first offshore airport, opened in 1975 on what was used to be the peanut-shaped island. The island is now a completely different shape because of land reclamation.

Years later, Chieko brought her three children to the slope to show them the cherry blossom trees.

Every time she returns to Nagasaki, she passes the airport as she drives. The facility bears no trace of what used to be there.

Her home island is gone and the street lined with cherry blossom trees is the only place left from that time.

“My island is lost; I can no longer go back there,” said Chieko. “I wish I could show my grandchildren around the island and let them enjoy swimming at the beach.”

Her father stayed in the area after he left the island.

He sent all his children to Omura High School. He also worked as a security guard at the airport for a while.

Now he rests in peace on a hill that looks down at the island.

Nagasaki Airport is seen from the cemetery where Chieko Machida’s father is buried in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, on March 27. (Minako Yoshimoto)


This article is part of a series of stories about memories of cherry blossoms solicited from readers.