On our visit to Fukushima it was poignant to see household objects in the mud, a piece of pottery here, a kitchen knife there. What we didn’t realise when we were there is that the mud also contains human remains. In fact, the bodies of 8,000 of the 26,000 victims have yet to be recovered. This is one family’s story.
When the earthquake struck Mamoru Oikawa, a firman, was relieved to receive a text from his wife Emi telling him that she and their baby daughter were safe at an evacuation centre. But there was no chance for him to go to them as he had to work flat out responding to the crisis. When, four days later, he was able to snatch an hour to drive to the centre he found that it was no longer there: it had been washed away. Oikawa sat in his car, dumbfounded. “I knew they were gone”, he said, “I was dead inside. There was no crying or anger, only emptiness”. Since then he has devoted every spare minute to finding their bodies. Within days, he discovered the family’s black car, its windows shattered. Inside he found the baby’s car seat and a single tiny shoe. Later, he located what he’s sure is the baby’s pink-and-white-striped baby towel. His expeditions sometimes last 10 hours or more. With patient precision he plots the ground already covered on his map, gradually moving away from the evacuation centre in concentric circles, following the paths the waves might have taken.Weeks ago he thought he had found Emi. He and other searchers spotted the body of a woman lying face-down in the mud, as if some-one had pushed her there. Coming closer Oikawa realised it wasn’t her. Her hair was too white, the frame too small. (This story, courtesy of John M. Glionna, The Yomiuri Shimbun)
The slide-show and video are of pictures taken during our visit to the fishing village of Schinchi.