Yasuo Takamatsu lost his wife, Yuko, in the 2011 Japanese tsunami, but 11 years on he still goes diving to find her every week.
Mr Takamatsu took up scuba diving in 2013 in a desperate attempt to find his wife’s body after she went missing in Onagawa, one of the country’s worst hit regions.
An underwater earthquake off the east coast of Japan caused the devastating Tōhoku tsunami on March 11, 2011, leaving nearly half a million homeless and killing nearly 20,000 people.
The loving husband said he will carry on searching on land and sea ‘as long as [his body] moves.’
More than 2,500 people are still reported as missing from the tsunami.
Mr Takamatsu speaks with The AP at Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan in 2021
Yuko Takamatsu was at work clearing debris from the initial earthquake when the tsunami hit
Yasuo Takamatsu prepares to take a diving lesson at Takenoura bay, northern Japan, in 2014
Mr Takamatsu pictured after taking up diving in 2013 to extend the search for his lost wife
Mr Takamatsu recovered his wife’s phone in the parking lot of the bank where she worked months after the disaster, but has not found anything since.
He said the idea of surviving and not looking for his wife was ‘depressing’.
After searching on land for two and a half years, the then-56-year-old started taking diving lessons in September 2013.
Mr Takamatsu’s wife was at work when the tsunami hit the mainland.
Yoku Takamatsu was clearing debris from the initial earthquake devastation when the tsunami swept through.
In her last text message to her husband, Yuko wrote ‘Are you okay? I want to go home.’
Months later, her phone was recovered with an unsent message: ‘The tsunami is disastrous.’
Mr Takamatsu, who discovered his wife’s phone following the tsunami, still dives weekly
Takamatsu, now 65, got his diving license in 2013 and has been searching weekly ever since
Tsunami waves hitting the Minamisoma coast in Fukushima prefecture on 11 March 2011
Mr Takamatsu, a bus driver, previously said he did not take to diving naturally – but that thinking about his wife had ‘driven’ him into the water.
‘I do want to find her, but I also feel that she may never be discovered as the ocean is way too vast – but I have to keep looking.’
During each dive, Mr Takamatsu hoists a scuba diving tank on his back, wears a rubber dry-suit and steps into the freezing ocean with the aid of diving instructor, Masayoshi Takahashi.
Mr Takahashi, who leads volunteer dives to look for missing tsunami victims, said he thought it was important to help Mr Takamatsu find his wife.
The remote area north of Onagawa, Japan, near where Yuko Takamatsu was last sighted
138,000 buildings were destroyed between the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown
The outbreak of the unprecedented Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011
Mr Takamatsu, who had been with his mother-in-law at a hospital in the next town at the time, was not allowed to return the wrecked town, which was by then a seething, bobbing mass of buildings, fishing boats and cars.
However, when the barriers were lifted the next day, he went to Onagawa’s hospital, which sits on a hilltop, as the designated evacuation site where hundreds had fled soon after the huge quake.
It was there that he learned the bank employees, including his wife, had been swept away.
‘I felt my knees buckling. I felt nothing in my body,’ he said.
The catastrophe, with a magnitude of 9.1, was the worst to ever hit Japan and the fourth most devastating in human history.