Where EAST meets the Northwest
Misaki Murakami: (AP Photo/Yoko Watanabe, Sankei Shimbun)
David and Yumi Baxter: (AP Photo/The Baxters via Kyodo News)
OVERSEAS TREK. Misaki Murakami (top photo) stands where his home, which was
washed away by the March 11, 2011 tsunami, once stood, while talking on a mobile
phone with Alaska residents David and Yumi Baxter (bottom photo), in
Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, northern Japan. David Baxter found Murakamiís
soccer ball, which was lost in last yearís tsunami, on a remote Alaskan island.
From The Asian Reporter, V22, #09 (May 7, 2012), page 8.
Boy glad soccer ball lost in tsunami found in Alaska
By Malcolm Foster
The Associated Press
TOKYO ó A teenager who lost his home in Japanís devastating tsunami now knows
that one prized possession survived: a soccer ball that drifted all the way to
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say
the ball with the youngsterís name inscribed on it is one of the first pieces of
debris from last yearís tsunami to wash up on the other side of the Pacific.
A man found the ball while beachcombing on an Alaskan island, and his wife,
who is Japanese, talked with its owner, 16-year-old Misaki Murakami, by phone.
The ball is on its way back to Japan.
Murakami, from the town of Rikuzentakata, was surprised and thankful the
soccer ball has been found more than 3,000 miles away.
"It was a big surprise. Iíve never imagined that my ball has reached Alaska,"
Murakami told public broadcaster NHK. "Iíve lost everything in the tsunami. So
Iím delighted," he said. "I really want to say thank you for finding the ball."
He was particularly glad because all furniture and sentimental items in his
home had been washed away in the March 11, 2011, tsunami, which devastated a
long stretch of Japanís northeastern coast and killed about 19,000 people.
The ball, which also had messages of encouragement written on it, was given
to him in 2005, when Murakami was in third grade, as a goodbye gift when he
transferred to another school.
Debris from the tsunami initially formed a thick mass in the ocean off
Japanís northeastern coast and has since spread out across the Pacific. In
February, NOAA said currents would carry much of the debris to the coasts of
Alaska, Canada, Washington, and Oregon between March 2013 and 2014, though they
noted that some of it could arrive this year.
Last month, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the Ryou-Un Maru, fired on and
sank a fishing boat in the Gulf of Alaska that had drifted from Japan after the
tsunami. Authorities had deemed the ship a hazard to shipping and to the
David Baxter, a radar technician from Kasilof, Alaska, found Murakamiís ball
while beachcombing in March on Middleton Island, 70 miles south of the Alaskan
"When I first saw the soccer ball I was excited to see it and I thought it
was possible it came from the tsunami zone," Baxter told The Associated Press by
Baxterís wife, Yumi, reached Murakami with help from a Japanese reporter.
Murakami expressed his gratitude to the couple "for wanting to take the time to
even try to find him," David Baxter said.
The couple plans to visit Japan in May, but do not plan to deliver the ball
directly to Murakami. They are somewhat reluctant to visit him because they
donít want to create too much of a commotion, Baxter said.
Baxter also found a volleyball with Japanese writing on it a couple of weeks
later, and NHK reported that its owner was also found ó Shiori Sato, 19, from
Iwate prefecture (state), which was hit by the tsunami.
The ball had her first name on it, and a viewer called in to the broadcaster
to suggest contacting Sato.
"Good heavens!" she told NHK. "I want to say (to the ball) ĎWelcome back!í I
think itís a miracle."
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this