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Makato and Yoko Okai

Makato Okai, his wife Yoko and their two cats were on their way home to Fukuoka, Japan aboard KAL 007.  Makato, 22 years old, was a jazz guitarist who had been attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where he also had a band of his own.  Having dropped out of Berklee for financial reasons, he was returning home in the hopes that he could put together a band, make some records and eventually return to Boston.

Before coming to the US, Makato had bought a custom electric guitar, a valuable Stratocaster with a wine-red oak body and a black aluminum pick guard.  It was his most treasured possesion.  It was to become his parents' final memento of their son.  The guitar and some other instruments were stolen from a van while he and other band members stopped for a bite to eat on the way to a recording session in South Boston.  The next day a very saddened Makato and his friends completed the recording with borrowed equipment.  This was just a few days before he and Yoko were to return to Japan.  The night before they left, the band members presented him with a tape of the session.  A man of few words,  Makato listened to the tape and said, "Sounds good.  Sounds good."

Upon hearing the news that Makato and Yoko's plane had been shot down, Makato's parents sent word to the Boston area police pleading that they find and return his guitar--their last memento of there son.  Word went out on the street and South Boston residents helped in recovering not one but two stolen guitars.  The Stratocaster was given to a priest who was able to pass it on to a friend of Mukato who took it to Japan and gave it to the Okais.  The second guitar, turned in to the police later, was taken to Japan on September 29, 1983, just a month and three days after it had been stolen.

The Japanese consulate in Boston released this statement:  "The guitars have been the source of much consolation for the Okai family during the difficult period of grief."

(Sources for this article are The Boston Globe of September 14, 1983, and September 29, 1983, by Joanne Ball with contributions from Globe reporter Susan Trausch.)

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