Man Grieves for Wife, Son Lost in Noto Peninsula Earthquake; Holiday Celebration with Grandparents Destroyed by Disaster

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takahito Kadota looks at his parents’ destroyed home in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Sunday.

Monday marked one week since the massive earthquake that hit the Noto region of Ishikawa Prefecture, destroying the New Year’s celebrations of many people who were visiting their hometowns. Among the grief-stricken survivors is a man who was unable to save his wife and son as they called for help from underneath the rubble.

“My son was knocking, desperately trying to let me know where he and his mother were,” said Takahito Kadota, a 47-year old company worker in Kanazawa. Kadota was overwhelmed Sunday at the destroyed home of his parents in the Otanimachi district of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture — this is where his wife Hiromi, 43, and his son Akinori, a 9-year-old third grader, lost their lives.

At least once every two months, the Kadota family visited his father, 81, and mother, 77, in Takahito’s hometown.

“I can see my favorite grandpa and grandma again,” Akinori had said, looking forward to visiting his grandparents for New Year’s. The family arrived on Dec. 31, and on New Year’s Day, they were smiling and laughing as they played a game using Hyakunin Isshu poetry cards and ate typical Japanese New Year dishes, including zoni soup.

Just after 4:00 p.m., as they were preparing to return home to Kanazawa, the one-story wooden house rattled and shook violently, both up and down and from side to side. Takahito and his parents, who were in the hallway, stepped over pieces of shattered glass and ran outside. Immediately afterward, the ceiling collapsed with a crushing sound and Hiromi and Akinori, who were in the living room, were trapped.

“Hiromi, Akinori,” Takahito kept shouting at the house. As he called Akinori’s name, he heard a banging sound from the living room area, knocking against the debris. Peering through a small opening, he saw Hiromi and Akinori under a table that had been crushed by a fallen beam.

Takahito tried to cut the beam with a saw, but it was no use. By the time he borrowed a chainsaw from a neighbor and rescued them, they had already lost consciousness. Takahito spread out a futon mattress in a nearby vacant lot and laid his wife and son on it quietly. He does not know how much time passed.

Fun time at Kyoto

Courtesy of Takahito Kadota
Hiromi and Akinori during a trip to Kyoto last month

Last month, the family of three took a trip to Kyoto on the Thunderbird express train. Takahito vividly remembers the excitement of Akinori, who loved vehicles and trains, as he experienced a train simulator at the Kyoto Railway Museum in Kyoto.

That was the first and last trip that the family took outside Ishikawa Prefecture.

Hiromi loved to cook and did not hesitate to go the extra mile. For example, Hiromi used flour to make stew from scratch and put a twist on store-bought yakisoba noodles by adding extra seasonings.

“Her homemade dishes with a little extra effort were really delicious, Takahito said.

All three of their birthdays were in autumn, and they looked forward to celebrating them all at once every year.

Father-son bonds

Takahito always taught Akinori, “Do what you should do.” He is proud that Akinori apparently did what he had learned from school disaster drills — fleeing under the table and letting his father know where he and his mother were — in a desperate attempt to survive.

Takahito is staying at an evacuation shelter near his parents’ home. “I want to send them off in a normal manner as soon as possible,” Takahito said. “That is my last duty as a husband and father.”

“I have spent casual time with my family as precious time. I’m sorry I couldn’t save them,” Takahito said tearfully.