Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sad reunion of a couple a month after the Great East Japan Earthquake

Mr. and Mrs. Sato, smiling together. Their house was washed away by the tsunami and this is the only photo of the couple left.
An elderly couple has reunited finally in earthquake-devastated Ishimaki City of Miyagi Prefecture on April 11, however, their wish did not come true. Both are dead.
They were known as a happily married couple. Right after the earthquake, the husband went to help his wife who had been recuperating at home after cancer surgery and tragically they were swept up in the tsunami. The couple’s eldest daughter who had been searching for her parents for the past month said in tears to her parents who became dead and cold, “You are finally reunited once again.”
The couple is Mr. Osamu Sato (80), a retiree, and his wife, Mrs. Eiko Sato (78). Ms. Kumiko Fukui (53), their eldest daughter, identified her mother's body on April 10 that had been recovered off the coast of Ishimaki City right after the earthquake. On April 11, the body that had been recovered from the rubble near the couple’s home on April 10 was identified as Mr. Sato.
The couple married in 1956. Mr. Sato was a local government employee and Mrs. Sato was the daughter of the president of a whaling company. He was deeply in love with her who was a good cook. They still called each other “Osamu chan (‘chan’ is a Japanese diminutive honorific for a person)” and “Eiko.” (Many old Japanese couples, especially husbands, do not call each other by first name.) The happily-married couple was the envy of all others.
On the afternoon of March 11, Mr. Sato was at a bathing facility which was a few hundred meters away from his oceanfront home. When the earthquake struck, those around him said that a tsunami was coming and tried to stop him, but he resisted the advice and got in a car to go pick up his wife who was resting at home after surgery. The couple’s neighbor saw Mr. Sato coming home and it is presumed that both had been swept away by the tsunami while they were in the house.
From way before, the two had made a promise to come help each other if a tsunami should come when they were in a different place. In fact, before Mrs. Sato underwent a surgery, Mr. Sato begged her not to make him survive her even by five minutes. “I think my father wanted to keep his word,” said feelingly Ms. Fukui.
Ms. Fukui who lives in Tomitani-machi of Miyagi Prefecture had been searching for her parents in every make-shift mortuary around her parents’ house and other local areas since the earthquake happened.  She had prepared herself for the worst since it has been a month.
“My father was found the day after my mother was found… She might have led us to find him. Finally we can hold a funeral for them.”

The Sankei Shimbun, April 11, 2011
Translated by Mikiko Yamashita

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