11 Mars 2016
March 11, 2016
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
A red school backpack is Futaba Omori’s most treasured possession, which survived the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami along with its owner.
Futuba’s elementary school in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, burned to the ground in the fires that broke out in the aftermath of the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami.
Her family's home was also flattened. All the little girl had known was in ruins.
When she and her mother returned to the ruins of their home after the disaster, they managed to retrieve one of Futaba’s notebooks, some stationery and game software.
Sifting through the ashes of her school, an old friend and reminder of happier days was also discovered: her school backpack, which had miraculously survived unscathed.
When she graduated from the school, her classmates wrote messages of hope for Futaba on it. Her backpack is a symbol of the days before the disaster and her continuing friendships with her classmates.
Futaba and her family had to stay in temporary housing for more than three years. But she began a new chapter in her life in late 2014 when her family finally moved into a newly constructed house. She has her own room there.
Now a first-year junior high school student, Futaba loves basketball.
Futaba is just one of hundreds of children who were forced to adapt to a difficult life after the disaster. Many kids lost a mother or father or both when the tsunami claimed thousands of victims.
Sora Sasaki, 11, from Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, lost his mother, Kanako, who died in the disaster at age 33.
In August 2011, his home was visited by many of his mother’s friends who stopped by to pay their respects to Kanako.
A photo taken in a room that summer shows Kanako’s portrait and flowers and Sora lying with his eyes closed.
“I do not like to see my mom’s picture because it saddens me,” he said.
But he often talked about his mother, according to his 64-year-old grandmother, Estuko.
Five years after the loss of his mother, Sora loves playing outdoors and chases a soccer ball with his friends until dusk.
At home, he often jokes and makes Estuko laugh.
She said although he does not talk about his mother as often as he used to, he still misses her.
“He occasionally looks at her pictures in a photo album alone,” Etsuko says.
(This article was written by Shinichi Iizuka and Shingo Kuzutani.)