IN THE HOURS after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Abe Mitsuo was struck by how beautiful the sky was. Abe and his wife had fled their home in Ishinomaki to higher ground. “About one hour [after the earthquake] it was very beautiful with many stars, as there was a blackout for the entire city,” he recalls. At that moment—shivering on the mountainside among those who had escaped—he could appreciate the scene. Back then, he still believed his daughter was alive.
Abe came down from the mountain to find that his house had been washed away and his daughter and her two small children were missing. Three days later he found their dead bodies.
In the cataclysmic chaos that followed, Abe queued for more than 24 hours for fuel; transporting the bodies of his daughter and grandchildren by car became paramount. But supplies ran out before he reached the front. After hearing his story, others in the line pooled their meagre resources to share with him.