Sunday, February 11, 2001
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Posted at 7:50 p.m. February 11, 2001

Four young mariners among the missing

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Other boys had left Uwajima City for bigger cities and better opportunities.

But Toshiya Sakashima, Yusuke Terata, Takeshi Mizuguchi and Katsuya Nomoto were learning to fish on the open ocean, just like the older men in their coastal city that faces the Sea of Uwa.

Toshiya Sakashima
Yusuke Terata
Takeshi Mizuguchi
Katsuya Nomoto
Now the four boys — each of them 17 years old — have become the youngest of nine people missing at sea since Friday. Their training ship, the Ehime Maru, was hit by the fast-attack submarine USS Greeneville as the sub practiced a “main emergency ballast blow” intended to shoot it to the surface.

Uwajima City built industries based on pearl cultivation and hamachi, or yellowtail tuna. But the population peaked around 1980, at about 70,000 people. Cheap imports of fish and a changing Japanese diet began depressing Uwajima’s fishing industry. Today, the population has fallen to about 65,000.

Although the four boys were training to be fishermen, three of them had other dreams:

Takeshi loves computers and Japanese animation. There isn’t an animated show he doesn’t know. His friends consider him a walking encyclopedia of Japanese animation. But Takeshi also has more scholarly interests. He’s at the top of his class in ocean engineering and has told friends of his dreams to go to college.

Katsuya is fascinated with gadgets and fiddles with machines. His father is a fisherman, but Katsuya dreams of being an engineer.

Yusuke loves animals, especially fish. When he visited Tokyo on a school trip last year, he was disappointed that the group didn’t get to see the Parasite Museum. It’s filled with exhibits of parasites and has a famous display of giant tapeworms. Yusuke plans to be a veterinarian.

Toshiya seems content to live a simpler life in Uwajima City. He and his mother live alone and Toshiya works in construction and at the city fishmarkets to help support them.

For a present, he once gave a classmate a prized yellowtail fish.

When he leaves school behind, Toshiya told his friends he wants to drive a truck delivering fish.

The night before the collision with the USS Greeneville, Toshiya called a friend and joked at the success of the Ehime Maru’s trip.

“We had such a big catch of mackerel today,” he said, “that I can’t even stand the sight of fish anymore.”

Yomiuri Shimbun contributed to this report.

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