KESENNUMA, Miyagi Prefecture – Seietsu Sato, after spending hours rescuing residents as a firefighter after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, collapsed when he learned that his beloved wife was among those carried disappeared.
Long overwhelmed with grief, Sato wrote a book, which has been translated into English, to share her memories with readers around the world and offer lessons in how to take precautions against natural disasters.
Titled “Gone with the Tsunami: A Love Letter to My Wife”, the book centers on his wife, Atsuko, who perished at the age of 58 in the gigantic tsunami generated by the Great Eastern Earthquake. of Japan which claimed the lives of nearly 16,000 people.
Sato, 69, found writing the book helped him recover mentally.
“Although memories fade with time, records will not be lost,” he said. “I hope my book will help readers learn how to protect their lives and the lives of those who are dear to them by recounting my feelings, as natural disasters occur frequently in the world.”
Detailing her own footsteps and meeting Atsuko, the book was released on March 11, 2021, the 10th anniversary of the disaster. The English electronic edition was released on March 11 this year.
Sato visited the site where Atsuko’s body was discovered to deliver a silent message on the English version that day.
Sato was the head of the Kesennuma Fire Command Headquarters when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the northeast Tohoku region.
With the cityscape obliterated by the tsunami and the fires that had broken out, Sato threw himself into the rescue operation.
The day after the disaster, Sato learned that Atsuko, who worked at an aged care facility, was among those missing. His body was discovered on the coast of Koizumi in the southern part of the city five days after the tsunami.
Sato was devastated that he had been unable to save the life of the person he loved the most, a bitter pill to swallow given how hard he had trained to protect the residents. Filled with remorse, Sato began lecturing on disaster preparedness in Japan and overseas after his retirement.
“A Love Letter to My Wife” was translated by Noricco (Noriko) Toyoda, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Niigata Health and Welfare University.
“I wanted readers around the world to recount his thoughts and emotions,” said Toyoda, who also performed when Sato gave talks.
The first of the two-volume titles centers on the day the earthquake struck, how he discovered his wife’s body, and why Sato began speaking in public about his experiences.
Scheduled for release this winter, the second volume will focus on Sato’s trip to Hawaii in commemoration of Atsuko because the pair had sworn to travel there together. A speech delivered at an American university will also be presented.