TOKYO — Tokuji Sugaya, who translated love letters for the Japanese sweethearts of GIs after World War II to help atone for war's ravages, died Sunday of a heart condition.
During the war, Sugaya, 80, had been an army staff officer stationed in Tokyo. He said later that writing and translating those letters for Japanese women was his way of atoning for the suffering caused by the war.
Sugaya opened a tiny shop near Tokyo's Shibuya Station in 1947 that he called Koibumi no Mise, or "Love Letter Shop." In the first years after the war, Japanese women, primarily those who had lived or worked near U.S. bases, could be seen lined outside his shop seeking help in writing letters to the United States.
Sugaya, who had studied English and French before the war at the Tokyo University of Foreign Languages, translated tens of thousands of letters and also served as a go-between for about 300 marriages.
His shop became famous and the street it was on was named Koibumi Yokocho (Love Letter Street) while Sugaya himself became the inspiration for the Japanese novel "Koibumi" ("Love Letter") by author Fumio Niwa.
Love Letter Street was torn up in 1977 and replaced by a department store. But a commemorative plaque was put at the site with the simple inscription, "Love Letter Street Was Located Here."