Eastern Japanese City Seeks 1,400 31-Year-Old Time Capsule Owners

Plate-shaped time capsules each bearing the imprint of a child’s hand are seen at the Kawagoe Municipal Education Center in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, on Aug. 19, 2022. (Mainichi/Takashi Nakamura)

KAWAGOE, Saitama – The government of this eastern Japanese city is searching for the approximately 1,400 original owners of the time capsule plates installed near Kawagoe Station 31 years ago, calling on those who were involved in their childhood to pick up memories.

The time capsules are shaped like mortarboards with a child’s handprint on each one and contain letters to their future selves, photographs, drawings, and other items inside. A total of some 1,700 of these plaques were installed in a plaza near the west exit of the station in 1991 as part of an event organized by the Kawagoe Junior Chamber. Among them, 225 plaques were later returned to their rightful owners after the city government tracked down those who had left their handprints on them.

“We will keep the plaques until the end of the year, but it has not been decided how to handle them after that. We would like people to come forward if they remember being involved,” an official said. from the city.

The plaques – each measuring 25 by 20 centimeters and 5 centimeters thick – bear the handprints of elementary school children in the city from that era. According to the original plan, the city was supposed to present the plaques to now-adult alumni this year to commemorate the centennial of the city’s municipalization.

Yoshio Imanishi, 70, who headed Kawagoe’s Junior Chamber at the time, recalled that the chamber organized the time capsule event to “cooperate with the development of the city and allow children to participate.”

In 2011, however, the city removed the plaque facilities due to work to build a pedestrian zone in the square. As a result, the junior chamber hastily attempted to return the plates to their owners in September advancing the timetable, but only 225 of them were returned.

Children pose with plate-shaped time capsules set up in a plaza near the west exit of Kawagoe Station in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, in this photo provided by the Kawagoe Municipal Government.

The remaining plates were then turned over to the Municipal Education Center, which took over the plate return project. While the center called on the parties concerned via its website to come and collect the plates, only around sixty additional plates were reunited with their owners. While some elementary schools still keep lists of event attendees, many could not be reached due to unclear contact information or relocation outside of Kawagoe.

A representative from the city’s development promotion office at the west exit of Kawagoe Station said, “Children’s memories of the time are packed in these capsules, so we cannot carelessly treat them.” Yet, with the year-end deadline looming, the fate of the plates remains up in the air thereafter.

“I hope the city will not give up on the return even after the deadline and continue to search for their owners,” Imanishi commented. For inquiries, call the Kawagoe Municipal Education Center at: 049-235-7591.

(Japanese original by Takashi Nakamura, Saitama Nishi Office)

About the author