Man still goes diving every week looking for his wife’s body after heartbreaking tragedy

By Alma Fabiani

Published Oct 6, 2022 at 11:53 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Ever since his wife disappeared in Japan back in 2011, Yasuo Takamatsu, now 65, has kept on searching for her—or for her body, at least—every single week.

Yuko Takamatsu was 47 when she disappeared in Onagawa, one of the areas worst affected by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on 11 March 2011.

It all started with the earthquake, which was the strongest in Japan’s recorded history. According to National Geographic, “the earthquake struck below the North Pacific Ocean, 130 kilometres (81 miles) east of Sendai, the largest city in the Tōhoku region, a northern part of the island of Honshu,” in turn causing a tsunami.

The Tōhoku tsunami produced waves up to 40 metres (132 feet) high and resulted in more than 450,000 people becoming homeless as a result of the havoc caused. In addition to the thousands of destroyed homes, businesses, roads, and railways, the tsunami also caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The nuclear disaster released toxic, radioactive materials into the environment and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes and businesses. Although the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami are believed to have caused the death of around 15,500 individuals, Fukushima-related deaths have not been added to the number of casualties that resulted from the natural disaster.

Despite so much time having passed, Yasuo has kept on looking for his beloved wife’s body. Talking to the Associated Press (AP) in 2021, the man explained how, during the first two years of Yuko’s disappearance, he looked for her on land.

Yasuo then had to obtain his diving licence in order to try and find Yuko’s remains—and ever since, has gone on weekly dives. “I’m always thinking that she may be somewhere nearby,” he told the AP at the time.

Yasuo added that he will keep on looking for his wife “as long as my body moves.” Talking about the last text he received from Yuko, he shared, “She said, ‘Are you okay? I want to go home.’ I’m sure she still wants to come home.”

Besides his weekly solo dives, once a month, Yasuo also joins local authorities as they conduct underwater searches for some 2,500 people whose remains are still unaccounted for across the region.

Though Yuko’s mobile phone was recovered months after the disaster, to Yasuo’s dismay, her body is yet to be found. Discovered in her phone was one last message Yuko had written down but was unable to send in time, which read “The tsunami is disastrous.”

There’s actually quite a bit of information on the whereabouts of Yuko before her disappearance. Yasuo’s wife was at the bank where she used to work when the earthquake—which struck before the tsunami—hit the region.

Having survived the first event, Yuko was reportedly one among a group of workers trying to help clear up some of the damage done by the earthquake of magnitude 9.0-9.1, which lasted for approximately six minutes.

After someone warned them that a tsunami was coming their way, Yuko and her group decided to find shelter on the roof of the bank’s building. Having been told that the wave was expected to be six metres tall, and because they didn’t have enough time to move to a nearby hospital’s roof, which was known to be taller, they decided to stay where they were.

Tragically, the tsunami was three times bigger than expected, and witnesses took to social media afterwards to recall seeing the bankers trying to escape. One Facebook post read, “We get a lump in our throats every time we think about the female bankers who, wearing skirts, had to climb the ladder with unimaginable fear, and male bankers who threw off their coats at the last minute regardless of the cold weather, their fear, despair and regret.”

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