About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
GOOD Worldwide Inc. publishing
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Man continues to dive into the ocean to search for wife missing since the 2011 tsunami

At first he looked for her at the bank where she went missing then, he learned how to dive.

Man continues to dive into the ocean to search for wife missing since the 2011 tsunami
Cover Image Source: Vimeo | The Diver

Losing a partner in a tragedy is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences imaginable. One moment, they dreamt of a lifetime together; the next, they are left with only memories. Despite this, one man has never stopped searching for his wife, who went missing 13 years ago. Yasuo Takamatsu lost his wife during the 2011 tsunami and has since dived hundreds of times to find her, according to the documentary "The Diver."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | MaeI Balland
Representative Image Source: Pexels | MaeI Balland

For the first two and a half years, he searched for her at the bank where she went missing, on the beaches of Onagawa, and in the surrounding forests and mountains. When those efforts proved fruitless, he turned to the sea, according to The New York Times. Takamatsu contacted a local dive shop for lessons. The instructor, Masayoshi Takahashi, took volunteers on dives to clean up tsunami debris along the coastline.

The instructor kept maps and records of Takamatsu's searches, recording which shore and what depth. He had some intuitions that his wife would be in this part or another of the sea. Takahashi tried to help him out, but unfortunately, there were many restricted areas, like the fishing routes and areas with dangerous currents, and coordinated each dive with the coast guard and fishermen. 


Takamatsu and his wife Yuko met in 1988. She was working at the 77 Bank in Onagawa and Takamatsu was a soldier in Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force when his boss introduced them. They fell in love instantly. He loved her smile and modesty. On March 11, 2011, the day the tsunami hit Onagawa, Takamatsu dropped his wife to the bank as it was on the waterfront at Onagawa's main port. Later, he went to drop his mother-in-law at the hospital in Ishinomaki. He was near the entranceway of the hospital when the earthquake hit and it lasted for six minutes. He rushed back to Onagawa and checked the radio for news of a tsunami. He got a message from his son that he was fine, but didn't get any information about his wife and daughter.


The man received a message from his wife at 3:21 checking if he was fine and said, "I want to go home." He thought Yuko might have been evacuated to a hospital on Mount Horikiri but couldn't get there as it was a designated evacuation point for the town. So, he returned to the hospital the next day morning but couldn't find her or any details related to her. A woman finally told him that she heard that some of the bank employees were wiped off the roof. Takamatsu didn't think that his wife died and kept looking for her - on every hospital floor, gymnasium, elementary school and hotel - which were all evacuation points. He kept looking for her day and night. He was supposed to join work as a bus driver in June, so he continued his search during weekends. A month after the tsunami, someone found Yuko's phone, and a text that he didn't receive read, "Too much tsunami."

In his quest to find her, he took his diving lessons at the age of 56. He first trained for three days with Takahashi and got his beginner's license. Later, he kept going with Takahashi's regular dive customers, but no one knew that he was there to find his wife's body. He was always accompanied by a diver. In 2013, he decided to pass the national diving certification to be able to move debris and look for bodies. Takamatsu passed the exam in 2014 and for months, he volunteered to remove debris.


By January 2016, he completed 110 dives, each about 40 to 50 minutes. He wanted to find anything related to his wife - wallet, clothes, or jewelry. "I expected it to be difficult," Takamatsu said and added, "And I've found it quite difficult, but it is the only thing I can do. I have no choice but to keep looking for her. I feel closest to her in the ocean." When asked what is it to love? "In other countries, people might say 'I love you,' but Japanese people know without saying, I think it's more implied and understood among each other without having to say words. That's how I at least felt for us."

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 29, 2024. It has since been updated.

More Stories on Scoop