Man Prays to Shiretoko Sea for Return of Missing Loved Ones

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A man who lost two aboard the Kazu I sightseeing boat that sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido a year ago looks out at the sea around Shiretoko on Sunday.
“Time has stood still for me since that day,” the man said.

SHARI, Hokkaido — “The two have yet to be found and no one has taken responsibility for the accident,” said a 50-year-old man from Obihiro, Hokkaido, referring to his missing 8-year-old son and the boy’s 43-year-old mother. He was visiting the Utoro fishing port in Shari, Hokkaido, for the first time in almost a year.

The two went missing aboard the Kazu I sightseeing boat when it sunk off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido a year ago.

“Nothing has changed over the last year,” the man said. “It’s heart-wrenching to look at the sea around Shiretoko.”

The man skipped a memorial service held on Sunday, preferring to keep waiting for his loved ones’ return. Instead, he thanked private volunteers who had been searching for persons still missing from the accident and met other family members of the victims.

It was two days before the accident when the man saw his son and the mother off on their trip to Shiretoko. The man remembers the last words he said to them were, “Have a safe trip.”

The man had promised his train-loving son that they would visit a railroad car exhibit in Hokkaido after he returned from Shiretoko. The boy was also fond of the popular online game Fortnite, and he used to say he would be a programmer when he grew up.

The boy’s mother was working for a photo studio and was always carrying a camera with her, as though she were making a record of her son’s growth. The man said she would stay at the office even after her working hours and diligently study camera technique.

After the accident, the man was so distressed that he could not eat. At some point he had lost about five kilograms of weight and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which forced him to take leave from work and spend most of his days sleeping at home.

Since summer of last year, the man has been recording any dreams about his son and the mother in a diary.

On Sept. 23, he wrote, “I dreamed of my son. He was cheerful, riding something like a bicycle on the sidewalk around the house.”

His diary entry on Jan. 29 reads, “I made my son sit on my lap, hugged him from behind and grasped his hand firmly. I felt the weight of my son and the softness of his hand.”

In the man’s dreams, his son is carefree and plays games; they take baths together, and it seems that nothing has changed from a year ago. “Even if it’s only in my dreams, I love my time with the two of them,” he said. He added that he often hugs them because he knows that he will not be able to see them when he wakes up.

His son remains registered at his primary school and entered the third grade in April.

“I think the chances they survived are slim, but I hope that they are still alive somewhere far away,” the man said.