(LinkAsia: March 9, 2012)
Last March, a terrible earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale hit Japan, triggering a massive tsunami and leading to a disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant. More than 15,000 people died, and about 3,300 other people are still missing. As part of our series on the fallout from the Fukushima disaster, we bring you this story from Miyagi prefecture, where more than 300 people are still unaccounted for. NHK follows the story of one man who struggled with a difficult decision after the disappearance of his son.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: March 5, 2012
On a cold day in February, Shun Makino shows us where he once lived.
Shun Makino, Noritaka's Father:
There was a bathroom here. And my son's house was over there.
A house that sheltered generations of his family. Now, just a foundation. But, Makino lost much more on that day. His son, Noritaka, who was a town official in Minamisanriku. The March 11th tsunami swept Minamisanriku. Noritaka was a man with the officials at the local government disaster control center, helping with rescue operations. The water started to flood the three-story building. The officials ran to the roof, but the tsunami swallowed the structure whole. It swept away Noritaka and about 30 others.
Masami Chiba, Neighbor:
Noritaka was honest, sincere and modest.
He could be called courageous as well. Noritaka wasn't even supposed to be at the disaster center. He'd been in the hills around Minamisanriku conducting a forest survey when the quake hit. He descended immediately and went straight to the disaster control center. He wanted to help any way he could.
He probably felt responsible as a town official. But I believe he shouldn't have run toward the tsunami.
Makino, along with other families, searched daily for any information on the whereabouts of the missing after March 11th.
I read the inquiries of about 5,000 people. Soon I was overwhelmed. I felt helpless and finally gave up.
He gave up, but he still hoped that authorities would find his son's body. However, days and months passed without any news. So in February, Makino made the difficult decision to hold a funeral. He wanted to honor his son ahead of the first anniversary of his disappearance. Noritaka's wife put songs and letters written to him by his children into an urn in place of his ashes.
How depressing, to honor my son, I have to hold a funeral without his ashes. But if I don't, I feel my son cannot rest in peace.
And so, reluctantly, Makino said goodbye to his son, but he's still waiting for closure.
I am hoping DNA tests identify my son soon. I'm expecting that will happen. I cannot bear to think my son's body is lying somewhere unattended.
Makino, like many others in the northeast, will continue to do what they've done for months now. Wait. And perhaps reflect on all that they lost one year ago. Daisuke Azuma, NHK World, Minamisanriku.