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Meet the Japanese Man Who Keeps Diving to Look For His Wife Who Went Missing After a Tsunami in 2011

Yasuo Takamatsu has not given up on trying to find his wife Yuko who was lost in the sea after Japan was hit by a devastating tsunami in 2011.
PUBLISHED MAY 22, 2024
Cover Image Source: YouTube | AFP
Cover Image Source: YouTube | AFP

The Tsunami that hit Honshuin Japan in 2011 is remembered as one of the worst natural calamities in recent history, which also caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster. That day, a series of gigantic waves swept away the lives of more than 20,000 people, while more than 2,500 are missing to this date. Yuko, the wife of a 66-year-old Japanese man Yasuo Takamatsu, was one of those who were never found. But even though other families grieved and moved on, Yasuo refused to give up and dedicated his life to the search for his wife ever since.

Representative Image SourcE: Pexels | Maël BALLAND
Representative Image SourcE: Pexels | Maël BALLAND

According to The New York Times Magazine, Yasuo started his search from the land where his wife was last seen and then moved onto the beaches of Onagawa. He also ventured into the forest and mountains, but after failing to find her on land for two years, Yasuo decided to dive underwater in September 2013. He started taking diving lessons from an instructor named Masayoshi Takahashi, who was also leading a small team that volunteered to clean up tsunami debris along the coastline and retrieve bodies that were locked inside submerged vehicles.

Image Source:
Image Source: KESENNUMA, JAPAN-MARCH 18: Toyoki Sugawara looks out from his destroyed liquor shop where he is collecting the items he can salvage on March 18, 2011 in Kesennuma, Miyagi, Japan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images) 

Masayoshi helped Yasuo so that he could use proper methods to look for his wife, and they maintained maps and records of Yasuo's underwater search ops. Due to the continuous flow of currents, the debris below the ocean would shift from time to time, making Yasuo search the same regions repeatedly. Masayoshi also aided Yasuo in accessing some restricted areas like fishing routes with dangerous currents where they had to coordinate with the coast guard and fishermen after each dive.

Image Source:
Image Source: The quake struck offshore at 2:46 pm local time on March 11, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 meters which engulfed large parts of northeastern Japan. The death toll is still yet to be fully known, with fears that the numbers could run into the tens of thousands. (Photo by U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)
 

Overcoming his fears, Yasuo made his first dive and reached a depth of 16 feet but his attempt wasn't successful. He did not give up hope and kept going even though he still hasn't found any clues about his wife. "It's like going to see her when I think my wife is in the sea. When searching or during regular practices, it feels like she's nearby," Yasuo told Bloomberg Quicktake. "So I think it's important to continue the search without giving up. The last message she sent me, read, 'I want to go home'. I'm sure she wants to come home and I will bring her home. I will go for my wife as long as my body moves." Yuko was working at the Onagawa branch of 77 Bank in Sendai when an earthquake hit the region.



 

Yasuo had driven his wife to her workplace that morning before taking his mother-in-law to a hospital in Ishinomaki. When the disaster struck, Yasuo was making his way out of the hospital. He thankfully got news from his son's university that he was alive but he couldn't get a hold of his daughter and his wife. After receiving a final text from Yuko, Yasuo believed that she might have been evacuated to a hospital on Mount Horikiri about 800 feet from the coast. He couldn't reach the spot and ended up returning home with the hope that Yuko would return eventually. Yasuo searched for Yuko throughout all the designated evacuation points and discovered that his daughter was safe, but there was no sign of his wife

Image Source:
Image Source: An earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale has hit the northeast coast of Japan causing tsunami alerts throughout countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
 

According to Milwaukee Independent, Yasuo met Yuko in 1988, when Yuko was 25 and an employee at the same 77 Bank from where she was swept into the sea. Yasuo was a soldier in Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force. “The recovery of people’s hearts will take time,” he once said, and acknowledged the community's collective journey through grief and recovery. As mentioned by Aeon, Yasuo's story was also documented by director Anderson Wright in "The Diver." As of now, Yasuo has dived more than 600 times in his relentless attempt to find his missing wife.



 

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