Japanese Tsunami Survivors: Then and Now

PHOTO: A young Japanese woman searches for her 4 year old son in Ishinomaki, Japan on March 13, 2011.
Tadashi Okubo/The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Photo

On March 11, 2011, the world stood still as the people of Japan were pummeled by natural disaster -- an 8.9 magnitude earthquake followed by a massive tsunami. Together they killed over 15,000 people and triggered a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

A year later, ABC News caught up with seven men and women who survived the crisis. These are their stories.

PHOTO: Diane Sawyer interviews Katsuhiko Asano, an insurance salesman, outside his home and office in the Sendai area on March 14, 2011.
Jake Whitman/ABC News
Diane Sawyer interviews Katsuhiko Asano, an insurance salesman, outside his home and office in the Sendai area on March 14, 2011.
Katsuhiko Asano, Insurance Salesman

Diane Sawyer interviewed Katsuhiko Asano, an insurance salesman, outside his home in the Sendai area of Japan on March 14, 2011, just days after the earthquake and tsunami. At the time, he wasn't sure if his family was alive.

One year later, Asano stood outside his home and business, and told ABC News that the days after the disaster were still a blur. He said his family had survived.

PHOTO: A young Japanese woman searches for her 4 year old son in Ishinomaki, Japan on March 13, 2011.
Tadashi Okubo/The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Photo
Yuko Sugimoto, Determined Mother

Twenty-eight year old Yuko Sugimoto was photographed two days after the earthquake, wrapped in a blanket, searching for her 4-year-old son in Ishinomaki, Japan. This iconic photo was featured in dozens of newspapers around the world and became a symbol of the tragedy in Japan.

A year later, Sugimoto was photographed on the same bridge. Her son, Raito, was safe. "Now, every single day is precious to me," she says.

PHOTO: Diane Sawyer interviews Teppei Kajika.
Francois Bisson/ABC News
Teppei Kajika, Japanese Metal Band Leader

Diane Sawyer interviewed Teppei Kajika, the 21-year-old leader of a Japanese metal band, as he road his bike around the Sendai area, helping survivors of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

One year later, Kajika is back in the recording studio in Sendai. Kajika's latest music includes a song protesting the actions of Tepco, the owner of the Fukushima nuclear plant. Kajika says the disaster taught him not always to trust what his government tells him.

PHOTO: 72-year-old Saki Hoshi describes the height of the tsunami waters, to ABC's Diane Sawyer on March 14, 2011.
Jake Whitman/ABC News
Saki Hoshi, Hotel Owner

Seventy-two year-old Saki Hoshi described the height of the tsunami waters to Diane Sawyer on March 14, 2011. Hoshi's small hotel outside Sendai was heavily damaged by the tsunami.

A year later, Hoshi stands outside her hotel. She says that while the dirt and mud have been removed, the area is still not back to normal. She is still waiting to hire carpenters to repair the downstairs of her business. Mud still marks the walls inside, showing the tsunami waters that reached five feet.

PHOTO: Yukie Kanno holds her newborn son, six days after Japan's March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
NHK
Yukie Kanno

Yukie Kanno held her newborn son Rei, six days after the earthquake and tsunami. Kanno's husband Takeshi, a doctor, was trapped for days in a destroyed hospital in Minamisanriku, Japan, but made it to Sendai in time to witness his son's birth.

One year later, Kanno holds Rei for the camera. His name means "wisdom" in Japanese. He is now learning to walk.

PHOTO: Minamisoma, Japan mayor Katsunobu Sakurai makes a desperate plea for help on YouTube, in the days after Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
YouTube
Katsunobu Sakurai, Mayor of Minamisoma, Japan

Minamisoma mayor Katsunobu Sakurai made a desperate plea for help on YouTube in the days after the 2011 disaster. Sakurai's 11-minute video blasted the government for abanonding the residents of the town, which is just 15 miles from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

A year later, a third of the town is still off-limits, located inside the nuclear exclusion zone. Sakurai tells ABC News he is still filled with rage.

"We can't just give up," he says. "We need to continue speaking out, and continue to try and influence the government's decision making."

PHOTO: American Marty Kuehnert and his wife Kyoko and daughter Vivian, documented their escape from Sendai, Japan for Nightline, in the days after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
ABC News
The Kuehnert Family

American Marty Kuehnert, his wife Kyoko and their daughter Vivian documented their escape from Sendai for "Nightline" in the days after the earthquake. The family fled Sendai after fears of a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

The Kuehnerts have since returned to Sendai. Marty, who is an executive for the Rocks & Eagles Baseball Team and a vice president at the University of Sendai, says he can't imagine life in another place.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...