By Toru Hanai
Choufuku Ishisone of Miyako, Iwate prefecture, owns a convenience store.
On March 11, 2011, Ishisone was driving to see his store after checking on his house following the earthquake and saw a black tsunami wave roar over a seawall. He made a U-turn, but the tsunami struck him from multiple directions, sending his car afloat. The engine stopped. He jumped out of the car in a hurry but lost his footing in the tsunami and was swallowed up in the thick, black water.
He managed to avoid cars, ships and other debris carried by the tsunami but the water level continued to rise steadily. Grabbing onto a power line pole as he was swept past, he scrambled up so desperately that he was about five meters high before he knew it.
“I want to be saved! That one feeling kept me climbing,” he said. “Then I thought I had to get off the pole somehow, but the water didn’t go down, which was very irritating.”
It began to snow, chilling Ishisone, whose clothes were wet. As some three hours passed and it grew dark with no signs of rescue, Ishisone climbed down the pole and swam to a city office annex building. Finally he thought, “I’m safe.”
“The real lesson is that if there is an earthquake, you must head for high ground without hesitation,” he concluded.