By MARI YAMAGUCHI , Sep 18, 2011
TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese teenager expressed her gratitude Sunday after a U.S. sailor in Hawaii found a bottle she had tossed into the sea off Japan's southern coast as a child, and said she was delighted to be reconnected with her old classmates as a result.
Saki Arikawa, 17, said she had almost forgotten about the bottle and initially couldn't believe it was found after five years.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from her hometown in Kagoshima, she said "it's a miracle" the bottle was found. "It's incredible," she said.
The clear glass bottle was found Thursday by Navy Petty Officer Jon Moore during a beach cleanup at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai island.
~ U.S. Navy electrician's Mate 2nd Class Jon Moore removes a message from a bottle sent from Kagoshima, Japan more than five years ago
The bottle contained four origami cranes — symbols of peace in Japan — as well as a photo of Arikawa's elementary school class and a note dated March 25, 2006, and signed by Arikawa saying she wanted it to be "a graduation memory."
~ A photo of 6th grade students from Kagoshima, Japan found in a bottle by Petty Officer Jon Moore during a cleanup on a beach at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai Island
News of the bottle's recovery reconnected more than a dozen of her old classmates, now studying at different high schools, and their elementary school homeroom teacher for a reunion Saturday. Arikawa says she now wants to further expand the circle of friendship.
"Thanks to the bottle, some of us could get together and had a great time," she said. "Now I'd like to meet the person who kindly saved my bottle."
The bottle was one of five she tossed into the ocean in 2006 as her sixth-grade class graduated from Kokubu Elementary School in Kagoshima. She and her 31 classmates dropped five bottles each, including the one that turned up last week.
Three other bottles had previously been recovered, including two in Alaska and a third at another location in Hawaii.
The Navy said Moore was among 40 base personnel and 16 students and faculty from a Kauai school who picked up beach trash in observance of International Coastal Cleanup Day.