On the banks of the River Kwai, below the famous bridge built by slaves and POWs, a former Japanese Army interpreter apologized Friday to the former British prisoner he helped interrogate 50 years ago.
Nagase Takashi and Eric Lomax, two graying 75-year-olds, shook hands and wept in the courtyard of a museum dedicated to the "Death Railway," whose construction cost the lives of 116,000 Asian and Allied prisoners.
The slight Japanese veteran bowed his head as he spoke softly to Lomax of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England.
Dressed in sandals, a straw hat and traditional Japanese clothing, Nagase occasionally wiped his eyes with a handkerchief and tightly held the British veteran's hands as they talked.
Nagase, a longtime activist for reconciliation among Pacific war veterans, said the 30-minute meeting freed him of 50 years of guilt and shame.
"These are the happiest moments of my life," he said tearfully.
"I apologized to him for what we did during the war," said Nagase, of Kurashiki, Japan. "For me it is a very great sin and a crime against humanity."
The former British signals officer accepted the apology and was warmly sympathetic, Nagase said. Lomax declined to be interviewed.