September 1, 1998

Dear Mrs. Akino, Friends, and Colleagues:

When we returned from a conference in Ireland recently, we were deeply shocked and saddened to learn from Basil Dmytryshyn of the tragic, senseless death in Tajikistan of Yutaka Akino. During the ten wonderful months that we spent at the Slavic Research Center in 1981-82, Yutaka was a central figure in our daily lives. Because we were naive gai jin,Yutaka's role was crucial. Often taking time from his postgraduate work under Hiroshi Kimura to help us, he greatly eased our adjustment to life in Sapporo, acting with skill, courtesy, and humour. We were always impressed with his intelligence, patience, and dependability. Through him we acquired a car, driving permits, bank cards, cross-country skiis, and numerous other lesser items (and were even politely informed that we were bowing incorrectly). When Gail's parents visited us, they were treated to a trip to an orchard, followed by an Akino barbecue. Yutaka was a favourite of our two children, who would invariably shriek with delight whenever he visited our apartment. And on a couple of embarrassing (for me) occasions when I confused his name with yukata,he thought it was a huge joke and laughed hardest of all. Throughout our stay in Sapporo we were aware that Yutaka was working on his dissertation, being a conscientious son, husband, and father, playing rugby, visiting friends, and honing his knowledge of foreign languages. And we were far from the only foreigners whom he befriended and assisted. To us he seemed a larger than life figure, capable of almost anything. A few years later, when our 19-year-old daughter Lara returned to Japan briefly with a language class, she was thrilled when Yutaka took her to a special Chinese restaurant in Tokyo and "treated me like a lady." It was then that we learned, proudly, that he had become something of a TV personality in his country as a commentator.

It is with great sorrow that we extend to his wife Yoko and her family our deep sympathy for the loss of an outstanding and unforgettable man. I think that it is fitting that he died while on a mission of peace for the UN in a country that he had, in part, devoted himself to. We remember him fondly and miss him acutely.