Makoto Endo - Tsunami Survivor

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Makoto Endo - Tsunami Survivor

Photographer: Kimimasa Mayama


Makoto Endo, 69, is a scallop and silver salmon fisherman in the town of Ishinomaki, about 350km north of Tokyo. With his friends Hiroshi Sasaki, 61, a shijimi (common fresh water clam) fisherman and Hiroshi Watanabe, 62, a former contractor, Endo was preparing to work when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit on 11 March 2011. The men climbed to safety as the tsunami flooded the harbor below, sweeping away houses and cars. Endo was joined by his wife Junko, 59, several hours later, but his house, his four fishing boats, his cars and his fishery had been all swept away by the waves.

The following day, Endo, Junko, Sasaki and Watanabe walked eight kilometers, traversing mountains to reach Sasaki's house located near the mouth of Kitakami River. Though the house remained, the ground floor was destroyed by the tsunami. Endo and his wife were later reunited with their son Yu, who was not in town the day of the tsunami. He was planning to begin work in April as a subcontractor at a nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

This group of friends shares a tragic history of disasters. They first gained a fear of tsunamis when waves swept Japan in 1960 as the result of an earthquake in Chile. Endo's most tragic encounters with the huge storms, however, came with the damages and loss caused by a series of tsunamis in just the last year. The first was caused by an earthquake in Chile on 27 February 2010, destroying much of Endo's farm. A smaller tsunami hit on 09 March 2011, tangling the ropes of his scallop seabeds. Endo and his friends were setting out to untangle the ropes when the third and most disastrous waves hit, only two days later.

Despite each man's loss, they all agree on the importance of supporting friends.