“I ran away …,” Shinkawa told Jiji Press, “but I turned back to get something at home and was washed away.”
The waves that hit Minamisoma reached as high as 61 feet that day and moved swiftly through the town, tearing down the walls of houses and swallowing Shinkawa and his wife along with thousands of others.
At one point, Shinkawa managed to lift his head from the swirling, suffocating water and spied a piece of roof — his roof, corrugated metal nailed to wood beams. He pulled himself toward it, hoisted himself up, and rode out to sea.
For two days, Shinkawa stayed afloat on his makeshift raft, bobbing almost ten miles off the coast in the Pacific Ocean. From the wreckage, he was able to scoop up a white helmet, which protected his head from debris still being tossed around by the waves. He covered himself with a light mattress and a blanket that he found in the water. “No helicopters or boats that came nearby noticed me,” Shinkawa later told authorities.
On the third day, at around 11 a.m., an officer on a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel spotted Shinkawa through binoculars about nine miles away, waving a piece of red cloth. The boat turned on its searchlight, and within 17 minutes, the crew had lowered a lifeboat into the water to save Shinkawa. “I thought that today would be my last day,” he told his rescuers.
It was incredible, they said, that he was alive and able to walk. Still, when Shinkawa was given a sports drink in the boat, “he drank it in one gulp and broke down in tears,” a rescuer said.
“There were so many things floating around at sea, it is a miracle that we found him,” another rescuer said.
Shinkawa, mourning his lost wife, was airlifted to a hospital. Soon after, he moved to a suburb outside Tokyo to be near his daughter and grandson.
Once, last June, he visited his parents, who had returned to the devastated village and moved into temporary housing. His house was a pile of rubble. “I was too scared to look at the ocean,” he told GQ magazine. “I looked at the mountain.”
Later, in remembrance of Yuko, he wrote a poem: “Missing:/How many days later/Will you appear in my dream/My beloved/Wife?”
Some people like to travel by train because it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of an airplane.
I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”
“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” —Everyone following you on Instagram
A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.
Comedian Greg Davies
Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.
Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.
My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me everything you know.”
“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” —Alcohol
@yoyoha (Josh Hara)
My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.
Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?
A: A mechanic.
More About Survival Stories
What You’re Sharing
- “Never Run, Because Then You’re Prey”: How I Walked Away from an Assault Unharmed
- This Military Mom Was Murdered in Afghanistan. But the Final Gift She Left Her Daughter Will Last Forever.
- The Secret to Finding True Joy Is Simpler Than You’d Think
- I Was Seconds Away from Drowning in My Own Car—Until I Did This to Survive
- The Dramatic Moment a Man Saved a Stranger from Plummeting Down a Cliff