Yasuo Takamatsu lost his wife, Yuko, in the 2011 Japanese tsunami, but 11 years later he continues to dive to find her every week.
Mr Takamatsu started scuba diving in 2013 in a desperate bid to find his wife’s body after she disappeared in Onagawa, one of the country’s worst-hit areas.
An undersea 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 would continue to search on land and sea “as long as [his body] moves.’
More than 2,500 people are still missing following the tsunami.
Mr. Takamatsu speaks with the AP in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan in 2021
Yuko Takamatsu was at work cleaning up debris from the initial earthquake when the tsunami hit
Yasuo Takamatsu prepares for a diving course in Takenoura Bay, northern Japan, in 2014
Mr Takamatsu pictured after he started diving in 2013 to extend the search for his lost wife
Mr Takamatsu recovered his wife’s phone from the parking lot of the bank where she worked months after the disaster, but has found nothing since.
He said the thought of surviving and not looking for his wife was “depressing”.
After searching on land for two and a half years, the 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 cleaning up debris from the initial earthquake devastation when the tsunami swept through.
In her last text message to her husband, Yuko wrote, ‘How are you? I want to go home.’
Months later, his phone was recovered with an unsent message: “The tsunami is disastrous”.
Mr Takamatsu, who discovered his wife’s phone after the tsunami, still dives weekly
Takamatsu, now 65, got his diving license in 2013 and has been researching weekly ever since.
Tsunami waves hit the coast of Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture on March 11, 2011
Mr Takamatsu, a bus driver, has previously said he didn’t come into the habit of diving naturally – but that thinking about his wife had ‘pushed’ him into the water.
“I want to find it, but I also have a feeling it may never be discovered because the ocean is far too wide – but I have to keep looking.”
During each dive, Mr. Takamatsu hoists a scuba tank on his back, wears a rubber drysuit and enters the freezing ocean with the help of scuba instructor, Masayoshi Takahashi.
Mr Takahashi, who leads volunteer dives to search 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 seen
138,000 buildings were destroyed between the earthquake, the tsunami and the collapse of Fukushima
The outbreak of the unprecedented Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011
Mr Takamatsu, who was with his mother-in-law in a hospital in the nearby town at the time, was not allowed to return to the destroyed town, which was then a seething mass of buildings, fishing boats and cars.
However, when the barriers were lifted the following day, he went to Onagawa Hospital, which sits atop a hill, as a designated evacuation site where hundreds of people had fled shortly after the huge earthquake.
It was there that he learned that the bank employees, including his wife, had been taken away.
“I felt my knees give out. I didn’t feel anything in my body,” he said.
The 9.1 magnitude disaster was the worst to ever hit Japan and the fourth most devastating in human history.