Tohoku cat, missing since 2011 disaster, reunited with owners

May 11, 2014

By KAZUMASA SUGIMURA/ Staff Writer

OFUNATO, Iwate Prefecture--A cat was reunited with its owners on May 9, more than three years after the pet disappeared and was presumed killed by the 2011 tsunami that devastated this northeastern city.

“Where have you been?” Kazuko Yamagishi, 64, asked her long-lost pet, Suika, during the reunion at the Ofunato Health Center. “It’s just like a dream.”

Kazuko and her husband, Takeo, 67, were living peacefully with their black domestic short-haired cat at their house in Ofunato when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.

Unlike much of Ofunato, their house escaped damage in the disaster, but the couple could not find Suika.

They searched for three months before finally giving up hope that Suika survived.

On April 10 this year, a couple spotted a black cat curled up in a cedar forest in Rikuzentakata, another disaster-hit municipality in the prefecture. They took in the cat, which wore a collar and was friendly, and reported the animal to the Ofunato Health Center.

Days went by with no one showing up to claim the cat. So the center decided to print the cat’s picture in a local newspaper.

When an employee was taking the cat’s photo on the morning of May 9, he noticed faded letters and numbers on the collar. He deciphered the name as “Yamagishi” and made out the numbers. They turned out to be the cellphone number of Takeo Yamagishi.

It is unclear how Suika survived the ordeal and how long he had stayed in Rikuzentakata, which is 15 kilometers from Ofunato.

But a bell on his collar indicated that someone had taken care of him.

Suika looked content with his eyes closed and back in the arms of Takeshi and Kazuko.

Kazuko relayed the news about their pet of 12 years to the couple’s 36-year-old daughter in Tokyo. The daughter cried with joy during the phone call, Kazuko said.

By KAZUMASA SUGIMURA/ Staff Writer
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Suika returns to his owners' home in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, after disappearing in March 2011. (Wataru Sekita)

Suika returns to his owners' home in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, after disappearing in March 2011. (Wataru Sekita)

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  • Suika returns to his owners' home in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, after disappearing in March 2011. (Wataru Sekita)
  • Kazuko and Takeo Yamagishi get to hold their pet cat, Suika, for the first time in three years and two months in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. (Wataru Sekita)
  • A cat's collar with the letters "Yamagishi" and a cellphone number led to its owner, Takeo Yamagishi, in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. (Wataru Sekita)

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